My personal romantic hero (PRH) and I used to co-ordinate marriage preparation classes for our diocese, and were also hosts for one of the five evening sessions — the one on intimacy.
We spoke of the triangular theory of intimacy, and how most relationships started with passion and liking, and developed as the couple moved into commitment.
We also talked about levels of within each of the types. For full consummate love, the couple must be fully into friendship, passion, and commitment.
The science of love
We romantic novelists tend to write about the movement from the second stage of romantic love to the beginning of the third. Stage one is the initial physical response to the person — lust, usually. Attraction, the step after that initial physical response, comes next. Attraction is that heady feeling when passion and liking combine like sparkling wine as the hormones dopamine, norepinephrine and phenylethylamine light up the brain, producing elation, intense energy, sleeplessness, craving, loss of appetite and focused attention.
The science says it isn’t a permanent thing. On average it lasts two to three years. At some point during this period, attachment, the third stage, comes into play as we get to know the person, faults and all. Our chemical helpers here are the hormones produced during sex and during moments of affection and commitment (oxytocin, vasopressin and endorphins, if you want to be technical).
We used to tell the couples on the course about the research that suggests most people fall in love (that second, attraction, stage) multiple times in their lives — an average of seven relationships that moved from attraction to the beginnings of attachment. The trick of a permanent marriage is to fall in love with the same person over and over again.
Just after Christmas, PRH and I celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary. We are currently deliriously, utterly, and blissfully in love, and have been for several years. Maybe the fizz lasts longer as you age and slow? We must be up to around eight or nine times through the cycle by now, and it deepens.
I had lunch with another romance writer today, my friend Rue Allyn, who is visiting from America. She suggests that listening is key to a long-term marriage is to listen. Just to really, really listen. I agree, and would add commitment. It takes two, but if both parties are committed to permanence, and truly listen to one another, all they have to do then is keep breathing.
Just before Christmas, I released the novella Paradise Regained. The hero and heroine are married and have eight children. But the magic of attraction has faded. Can they get it back?
It is set in 1794, in Central Asia, and is the prequel to The Children of the Mountain King, a series that begins in 1812, when the hero of Paradise Regained returns to England to inherit a dukedom.
One of the reviews says:
This may be Jude Knight’s finest work—and considering her other wonderful stories, that is saying something. This story of love gone cold, love under attack, and love rediscovered touched me profoundly. Here careful research is only exceeded by the depth of her characterization and the beauty of her prose.
James yearns to end a long journey in the arms of his loving family. But his father’s agents offer the exiled prodigal forgiveness and a place in Society — if he abandons his foreign-born wife and children to return to England.
With her husband away, Mahzad faces revolt, invasion and betrayal in the mountain kingdom they built together. A queen without her king, she will not allow their dream and their family to be destroyed.
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James sent Peter with a message to Mahzad, inviting her to join him for a private dinner. The message didn’t need to say “and bed after.” Mahzad would guess.
Peter returned with a note and a glum face.
“Your humble servant begs leave to be excused, most excellent lord,” James read. “Your obedient wife, Mahzad.”
Like hell! He brushed Peter aside and strode through the halls, the people he passed taking one look at his face and getting out of his way.
The guards on the door to the zenana stepped aside and let him through without a challenge. Mahzad wasn’t in the central room. She wasn’t in her chambers, either. He emerged back into the great room, casting an eye around the ladies who were there. Cecily, who was sitting with Mahroch, made as if to get up.
Mahroch put out a hand to stop her. “Sit. You have caused enough trouble.”
James directed his glare at Mahroch, but the old woman was not discomposed in the slightest. She needed the help of a maid to rise, but she waved the girl off and walked with much of her old grace toward Mahzad’s chambers.
“Come, Lord James. You and I need to talk.”
“I need to see my wife.” He snarled.
“Not before we have talked.”
He followed her, of course, but his irritation was rising by the minute.
She deflated him by rounding on him as soon as they were in private. “James, I always thought you to be an intelligent man and one with enough sense to see what was in front of his nose, but I am disappointed in you.”
Attack being the best form of defence, he answered hotly, “Don’t tell me that you believe these scurrilous rumours about Mrs. McInnes. She is not my mistress. Not that I owe you or anyone else an explanation.”
Mahroch lifted an elegantly plucked eyebrow. “Not even my granddaughter?”
“Mahzad should know I would never dishonour her.” James relieved some of his tension by striding swiftly across the room and then back again. “Yes, and the rest of the citadel, too. It is a ridiculous conclusion to jump to. Insulting to me and to Mrs. McInnes. I can understand the Qajar commander but my own people?” His temper, barely in check when he’d arrived, was now at boiling point.
Mahroch was neither intimidated nor impressed. “Your own people, including your wife, would have been less inclined to make assumptions about your relationship with Cecily McInnes had she not been at pains to give the impression that you and she are lovers.”
“No.” That couldn’t be true. “She didn’t, did she? But why?”
The old woman dismissed his question with an elegant wave of one hand. “She had her reasons, and I am somewhat in sympathy with her, though I have put a stop to her mischief.” She bent forward, meeting his glare with her own. “But it remains for you to undo the damage that she—and you, I might add—have done.”
“What have I done?” James protested. “I have done nothing!”
“You will have to discuss that with my granddaughter, James,” Mahroch replied sharply. Her voice dried as she continued. “I suggest you spend at least part of the time listening. You will find her at the archery butts, I imagine. When she left here, she felt like killing something. Oh, and just a small hint. It would not harm your masculine essence to tell her how you feel about her.”
What was that supposed to mean? As James stalked through the citadel and down into the cellars, he tried to think about Mahroch’s last remark, but the injustice of the accusations against him kept shouldering out other considerations. Not least because, for a fraction of a moment back at the caravanserai when Cecily had offered herself, temptation had reared its serpently head. Only physically and he dismissed it, of course. He should be receiving credit for that, not suspicion and a cold shoulder for thoughts he’d never had and actions he’d not taken.
Cecily’s treachery didn’t bother him as much as Mahzad’s willingness to believe the lying woman. Felt like killing something, did she? James felt like spanking someone, and he blamed Mahzad for that entirely. He’d never raised his hand in anger to a woman in his life, especially not Mahzad, who had been his equal and his partner since the day they had escaped her father’s caravan.
Mahzad had posted a man at the doors to the range to prevent anyone else entering.
“Try to stop me,” James invited, and the guard wisely stepped to one side.
Inside, every lamp was lighted, but even so, the butts wavered in and out of shadows. Not that Mahzad was fooled for a moment. Arrow after arrow slammed into the centre of each target as she drew and shot, drew and shot, drew and shot, a dozen arrows at a time and then only seconds to reach for the next dozen and begin again.
For more about the hormones that support love: How love works