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How can a couple married for 50-plus years keep romance and intimacy alive? Should they even try?

It is tempting for a long-married couple to think of sexual (romantic) intimacy in isolation from the rest of the relationship. Just as we think of light or sound in terms of both particle and wave at the same time, so romantic intimacy is both a strong drive (like hunger) that “demands” expression and an intricate relationship dance that weaves itself through life over time, much like a wave. If either of these two primary aspects of a loving marriage is not concurrently enjoyed, then the relationship might need some help.

The answer to your question, therefore, is yes, they should try. But the answer is also: It depends. The drive and dance in a relationship may be primary, but secondary factors—the experience of desire (or lack of desire) for one’s spouse, one’s health or illness, or one’s ability to process new information, for example—cannot be ignored. An older couple will inevitably move toward the “in sickness” part of their marriage vows because old age inevitably leads to death. However, if a couple is motivated by love for each other, adaptations to accommodate each other’s weaknesses will match the Holy Spirit’s gifts of kindness, gentleness, and self-control. And the expression of romantic intimacy can vary from little to much without violating some perceived standard.

If a couple experiences love, values companionship, desires to resolve differences with respect, and forgives each other’s shortcomings on a daily basis, then even if romantic intimacy has stopped, for whatever reason, the marriage can still be very much alive.

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