02/12/2011 12:22 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Turn Romance Into Lifelong Love

The intoxication of romance may bring a sense of the certainty that your loved one will be with you for eternity. Divorce statistics show otherwise. Romance does not guarantee longevity of partnership.

In fact, I have noticed that the more intense an attraction, the more likely it fades. Intensity can lead to valuable life lessons -- or why would you be so attracted? When the lessons have been learned, the relationship might be over and done.

Many of the couples whose ceremonies I officiate as a wedding celebrant impress me as being emotionally mature. That is to say, they seem to have an understanding, acceptance and appreciation of each other, their strengths, their weaknesses, their personal aspirations and vision for the marriage. They communicate well with each other.

What is emotional maturity? I find that it is the willingness to assume personal responsibility for your fulfilment and joy, such that your communications are expressed openly, honestly and with trust and confidence. You are more able to give and receive love, without blame or fear. What is more, you are not overly dependent upon the approval of your loved one for your well-being and happiness. As Khalil Gibran wrote in "The Prophet," "Let there be spaces in your togetherness."

The vows a couple expresses during their ceremony form the foundation for the devotion they have for each other in their marriage. When a couple asks for assistance in choosing their vows, I suggest they consider the promises they make for not only when times are good but also when life throws its curve balls at them, as life will do. How will they cope with challenges, between themselves or in the world around them, such as finances, career changes and raising children? Which strengths and qualities will they need to overcome the hurdles and to deepen their love for each other?

So is lifelong love a possibility? Or should we more realistically consider "serial monogamy" as a workable option? Is the payoff of an enduring partnership worth the price necessary to pay for achieving it?

At this time, we have the luxury of choice which was less available 100 or even 50 years ago. Women, even in the developed world, did not have the freedom we do now for safe sexual expression and the choice of bearing children. We also have a wealth of information about first choosing the right mate, and then enjoying a loving partnership in the longer term. We are creating new role models for happy, healthy intimate relationships.

Increasingly, I am finding that couples seek to renew their vows, say, every seven or 10 years. This makes sense. Individuals learn, grow and develop. Marriages present new demands and opportunities for an expansion and growth of the love that supports them.

A renewal of vows ceremony can, in my experience, breathe new life into a marriage in which there have been hurts or disappointment. The genuine expression of forgiveness, and a willingness to heal, can open another level of loving to be shared and lives to be enriched. Love has many facets during a lifetime partnership. The ceremony extends a blessing and offers a gateway for a fresh relationship to unfold.

The Marriage Course, available on dvd, offers couples a opportunity to understand and appreciate each other more effectively. Presented in seven sessions with an accompanying workbook, the course addresses the topics of Building Strong Foundations, The Art of Communication, Resolving Conflict, The Power of Forgiveness, Parents and In-laws, Good Sex and Love in Action.

In our fast paced lives, do we really have time for marriage, for keeping alive the spark of romance in the longer term? Is it worth it? For sure, lifelong love takes our time and attention. Like a plant that is neglected, a marriage will die for lack of the equivalent of fresh air, light and water.

In laying down a solid foundation, The Marriage Course offers these four building blocks. None of them is finite. Each invites regular attention and care.

Building Friendship

When asked the question, "What do you most love in your partner?" many couples will say, "He/she is my best friend." Bonds of friendship are enduring. Friendship offers one with whom to play with and have fun, and also, importantly, to offer the comfort and protection we all need from time to time.

My bounty is as deep as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.

-- William Shakespeare

Building Communication

For communication to work well, each must feel safe in the company of the other. Heartfelt listening opens the way for clear communications to take place. For more on communication, you might like to read the article I wrote a few months ago: "The ABC's of Good Communication."

They do not love that do not show their love.
-- William Shakespeare

Building Physical Relationship

Knowing and fulfilling your desires for sex are important parts of a happy marriage, but then so is also non-sexual touching in communicating your affection and love.

When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.
-- William Shakespeare

Building a Future Together

Deep love is less the looking at each other, and more looking in the same direction. Shared values allow you to prepare a clear vision for the years ahead.

My heart is ever at your service.
-- William Shakespeare

I awake at dawn with a winged heart, and give thanks for another day of Loving.
-- Khalil Gibran

As a romantic, seasoned by life experience with a generous measure of reality, I wish you a very happy Valentine's Day, whether you are single, with a partner or open to meet the mate of your dreams. Lifelong loving starts in the relationship with yourself.

What do you think makes for a fulfilling marriage? What is the most important ingredient for enduring love? What would you like to receive this Valentine's Day? I would love to hear from you.


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To know more about the wedding ceremonies I design and officiate, go to: Ceremonies Of The Heart.