Photo Credit: Jasmine Waheed, Unsplash.com

I re-connected with a friend from my early twenties last week. Talk about modern love stories! History. Memories. Trauma. Drama. Resignation. Beauty. He moved me with personal and familial tales of love, loss, anger, and acceptance. Plus, plenty of mystery.

Truth is, there’s little that’s more interesting to me than these kinds of conversations. I’ve been reflecting for years on how we love, here and now, in the 21st Century. And what have we learned from everything we’ve experienced? Especially those of us who were post-World War II babies, with more time to live and reflect so far than our youngers.

‘Boomers to Millennials and Beyond

By the way, the Baby Boomer label used to annoy me. It felt reductive. I didn’t want to be in such a big statistical bundle. Gen-Xers and Millennials can no doubt relate. But these days I don’t mind it. The ‘Boomers are one of my tribes.

Once, when I mentioned my issue with the ‘Boomer label to my husband Kevin, he offered a different one: the magical generation. So I’ve been thinking about that. It certainly fits the way I shot out of the cannon of my middle-class Southern upbringing into life like it’s never been done before. And it fits the way I parented and loved for years: all vision and possibility, authenticity and passion. High highs and low lows. Nothing “ordinary.”

This New Frontier’s Real

My friend’s call last week left me pondering again the relationship between modern love and long-term commitment. Between compatibility and individual identity. I’m reflecting again on the truth that many of our intensely personal life choices shaped and are shaping our and our children’s–and grandchildren’s–lives in profound ways.

And of course, this was always the case. Relationships ended. Divorce was a thing. But we ‘Boomers blew the lid off of couples staying together just because of whatever taboos once kept family and community life stable. The end of World War II changed everything. And then the Sixties rocked to the core what was once predictable domestic and family life.

Did we invent a deep need for authenticity in loving and the expectation that intense intimacy should last over the long haul of a committed relationship? Evidently, these big ideas were rolling in like slow-growing waves from a far shore as some of us were being born. As the Sixties gave way to the Seventies, psychedelic new atmospheric conditions settled in that still affect the emotional weather of our lives five decades later. “Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you” gave way to “It Ain’t Me” and “Love the One You’re With.”

We’re Growing as We Go

Now that many survival-based, institutional reasons for long-term commitment have fizzled, our ways of being in relationships are evolving anew, from scratch, necessarily. We’re in R & D, exploration and growth mode. We’re experiencing and managing emotional, ethical, and logistical conundrums that are expanding our consciousness of what it means to be human.

Maybe modern love’s more courageous than ever in the face of evolutionary arcs that take at least decades if not half-centuries, with spectacular odds for failure in the meantime. Though a bit of good news is that the moorings we lost were mainly masculine. Maybe feminine values, wisdom, energy, and empowerment are finally settling in. Not to replace the masculine, but rather to dance with it in new ways, toward fresh language, images, and models for enjoying one another—and raising children in hybrid forms of family—ever more deliciously. (And no, I don’t think that’s magical thinking.)

It’s Complicated. But the Kids are Alright.

But how does any of this aid us in the trenches, now, with our complex commitments and histories? Well, I say an evolutionary context helps us proceed with empathy and tenderness no matter what. We’re all learning and growing. And any good work that we do in the realm of relationships aids us, everyone around us, and those who come after us. We’re discovering and modeling what’s possible.

In this context, the quality of our consciousness aids us in handling the complications of modern life. We can bring our most gentle best to our personal choices. Ultimately, reflecting on and taking real responsibility for our choices are gifts that keep on giving, helping us to learn from our experiences, make sense of our lives, and make peace with everything, everybody, and ourselves.

So here’s to the nobility of modern love on this evolutionary frontier, including heartbreaking seasons, turning points with lifelong ramifications, and family lore more poignant than any Oscar-worthy screenplay. And are roses still red? I say yes. We’re loving, always, still, in ways that ring true, and in forms that feel real today.

xo,
Teresa

Photo Credit: Jasmine Waheed, Unsplash.com