Linda: Enlarging our comfort zone is good for us as individuals and terrific for us as a couple. Our life becomes more interesting and creative. New people enter our sphere. Exploration, stimulation and novelty bring richness. Learning new things is exciting. For all these benefits there is a price to pay. The price for enhanced life satisfaction is going through the stretching period where we feel awkward, clumsy, uncertain, and confused.
There are times when we don’t freely choose to expand our comfort zone. Life hands us a shock like a serious illness, accident, financial or professional crisis, divorce, or death of a loved one. A life crisis will drag us into expanding our comfort zone. And we find ourselves jettisoned into a new world to explore. But there is another form, the carefully constructed life of security and predictability that was once so reassuring suddenly feels cramped. And the discomfort that comes from sheer boredom prompts our expansion. Such a vague uneasiness, and a sense that there is more available for us, encourages a longing to experience it. I call it “healthy greed”. We are in touch with wanting to step outside of our routines to experience more of life. In order to do so requires contacting our inner commitment to go after it, whatever the “it” is for us.
If boredom and healthy greed aren’t our easily accessed motivators to expand, there is an option to reach down deep inside to find our courage, commitment, and determination. Because moving outside our “tried and true” zone is scary, we need deliberate persistence to keep on pressing that edge by putting ourselves in new situations and taking on challenges. Psychologists have a phrase that they use, “openness to experience.” Such an attitude is a sign of well-being. Those who adopt curiosity as a way of life tend to hit the higher ranges of happiness. The Buddhist have a phrase “beginner’s mind” which refers to cultivating an open mind like that of a child which allows us to have the ability to continually start afresh.
Karl Pillemer set out to collect advice about that deepest of human emotions, he consulted the country’s elders. Pillemer, a gerontologist and professor of human development at Cornell University, and his team interviewed more than 700 married Americans, ranging in age from 63 to 108, about their views on love. They weighed in on everything from how to find the right person to what keeps the spark alive. Their answers are published in his book, “30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage.” In his study couples he found that it is possible to maintain a strong desire and enthusiasm for each other for a lifetime. These couples, married for an average of 43 years, reported that they were still deeply in love. In fact there were couples that tested higher on romantic passion for each other than those who were married for five years.
Some couples are managing to accomplish the challenging task of keeping love passionate, but many more do not. When the romantic passion diminishes, the obsessive thinking and wild, ecstatic feelings give way to tamer feelings of safety, secure peace and contentment, and that’s a good thing. But it is not necessary to cross over the line to the boredom and discontent that so many couples experience. We all have a choice. Which group will you be in?
Stay tune for Part 2…
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