How to Wildly Flirt & Stay Deeply in Love: A Guide for all the Old Lovers (& for all who want to someday be the Old Lovers)

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When the teenagers here say he and I flirt too much, I love the way he throws his head back and laughs, like even now, he knows how to win me to him. 

“Are you guys saying you’d actually like us not to?” I’m asking the kids in the kitchen, but I’m slipping into his lap, there in his chair at the end of the table, his arms wrapping around my waist, his laughter lingering there at my ear as he pulls me close. He smells like sandalwood and leather and us. 

And I turn in his lap to smile into those twinkling eyes of his. And I linger. He knows. 

He knows the edges of my story that bruise when touched, the places that are fractured and fraught, the spaces within me that ache tender with emptiness. He knows what shames me. He has seen all of me. And I don’t just mean the sagging and the flabby and the cellulite — I mean my ugliness that’s spewed words that can’t be stuffed back into any bottle, and the sins that have marred and scarred long stretches of my soul. I mean, he’s bore witness to my selfishness, and he can testify to where pride still rears its twisted head.  

Looking into his eyes, I know that he knows, and he knows that he knows, and this is what it means to be naked and unashamed.  

Old love is the most suggestive love of all because it suggests that the whole of us is actually known and we are still wholeheartedly loved. It is only in being really known, in ways that we wish nobody ever knew, that we can ever really know love. 

What could be more risqué than risking aging with someone and being worn down to just to your bare souls?

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I lay my hand on his weathered cheek, rough with a week’s worth of well-earned stubble. His eyes, like fine art framed with decades of wrinkles, they don’t leave mine, and this is something that the young kids know nothing about:

Old love sees with a kind of holy double vision — seeing your aged lover in all their humanity, and remembering them as a  young lover in all their infallibility. To see, and be seen, with a holy double vision is to know what love really is.

Old love is the most sensual of all because it’s moved beyond the sense to hold the soul. 

His dark blue eyes are still smiling into mine —and then he winks. And I lean forward to gently brush those lines of his forehead with a kiss, he and I writing another line in our love story that I never want to end. 

Though, to be honest, there have been days and how do you tell this bunch of fresh-behind-the-ears-kids in the kitchen:  

You only really know how to wildly flirt, when you’ve flirted dangerously close more than once to the idea of throwing in the towel and walking out.

I know it: Keep walking along any fence, thinking the grass is greener on some other side, and you’ll wear down one long rut that’s something mighty hard to get out of.

Sure, all the fake love gurus may tell you that if you imagine something better, it means you’re meant for something better. And while all our sacred stories have tender turns, and only us and God know what we each need to be safe, I am not afraid to show you my very real life-scars and say it aloud:

The root of all kinds of evil is entitlement. 

Wherever you’re entitled, you’re going to find yourself holding title to a whole world — or eternity — of pain. Ask me how I know. 

And if you think that imagining more and better means that you’re meant for more, you’d do better by your soul to realize that the more you’re endlessly looking for in this world, ultimately means that you’re made for the more of the world that never ends — and that’s the world you’re best to be living for.  

My man’s hand gently turns my chin back to face him, and his lips softly brush mine. I’ll be his and he’ll be mine, till time winds down and we inhale the rarified air of forever. 

I may not know what all the cool kids want, but I know what I want to tell our kids in the kitchen, what I want to tell him:

Flirt with your own man, instead of flirting with the novelties of all kinds of other possibilities — or you risk wrecking your own house — and all of eternity. 

This is one of the truest things I know: Addiction to novelty is making this age and all our souls sick.

Always looking for the next hit of the newest novelty — the novelty of the new order in the mail, the new item in the closet, the new post in the feed, the new notification on the screen, the new glittery thing somewhere — makes our souls too sick to see the beauty in the old things, the familiar things, the worn things, the tried and true things.

It’s true: old love can make a wide-awake heart race right here. 

It’s familiarity that incubates the kind of real love novelty can only dream of. 

Can he read my eyes?

You always grin and know that when I say that I am not going to say something, that I always actually will. And I always half smile and wait for it, knowing that when the alarm goes off first thing, you’ll reach for it first, and then for me.

You always leave your socks on the floor by your bedside chair and you like your pillow cold and your feet warm, and your large coffee with an extra dollop of cream, and the vows were, in sickness and in health, so we keep turning to stay in each other’s eyes, because this is how to stay in love. 

If our addiction to falling in love with novelties is making us soul sick, then this is the truest too:  

Wholeness is falling in love with the same rhythms, the same place, the same miraculous people every day all over again. Wholeness is loving the oldness of here. 

This is the way of Love Himself. The One who is Love can’t stop loving the same sun dancing across these same skies, day after day, can’t stop wooing this same world around in the same spinning choreography of moon and stars and space and infinite grace. 

It never grows old for Love Himself to keep falling in love with the same old loves. 

“You be mine?” His smile is slow and easy —  familiar. “Valentine?” 

The kids in the kitchen groan. And I laugh and lean into him and don’t really care what the kids think because, contrary to their own popular opinions, they don’t know: 

Passionate love is far more than falling in love. Passion literally means to suffer —which means the old lovers are the most passionate of all.

It’s the old lovers who have suffered tenderly through crisis and kids and the countless blur of days and untold heartaches who live a the most genuine non-stop passion. 

It’s the old lovers whose willingness to suffer for each other that’s made all their other suffering bearable.

It’s the old lovers who have passionately suffered long for each other, with each other, who have grown the most passionate companionate love of all. And it’s the suffering passionate, companionate lovethe easy laughter and sure reliability and steadiness of companionship and friendshipthat makes for the happiest love of all. 

And after more than three decades of waking up beside each other, and stumbling through and still somehow finding each other’s hand, I can testify:

It is not the absence of infatuation that makes a marriage unhappy, but the absence of deep attachment. I wish I had learned it a few decades sooner: Make your spouse your person and you make your marriage happy. What turns a marriage around is choosing in a million small moments, that instead of turning toward some distraction, some screen, someone else, to turn toward each other.

My eyes don’t leave his and his don’t leave mine and we don’t ever want to stop seeing each other with this kind of holy double vision.

The art of marital bliss isn’t falling in love, but the staying in love. The passion of the Christ is the ultimate passionate love; Stay in Christ, so it’s possible to stay in love. 

Falling in love is only the wild rush before landing in a deep canyon of companionship that leads the way into real bliss. 

Joy Prouty

I find his hand, lace my fingers through his, grin like we are young kids all over again. 

A kid in the kitchen, who shall remain nameless, gives me these rolling eyes — and just to tease said nameless kid, I cup my husband’s face and give him a long kiss worthy of decades of covenanted vows. 

Give me flirting till we fade away, give me old love that tastes like fine wine, give me old love that’s weathered howling winds that about drove us apart, give me a passion that’s persisted and persevered until we’ve fused, one heart. 

Give me a man who’s a puzzle piece different than me but gently fits me, because two sames never made a complete. Because: Who needs a man who fits some Hollywood mold — when you  can have a man who fits the curves of your own soul? Why want a man quick with all the smooth lines, when there’s a man whose soul aligns with yours, becoming one with God?

Yeah, yeah — can he please read my eyes:  

Give me the darkest part of your soul, dear, and let me give you all the love you need there. Let me cherish you especially there. 

How could I want anyone but you, because who could have  made me who I am now but you? 

Our clothes tangle in the dryer.  Our feet catch in twisted cotton sheets. I am yours and you are mine, time melding us and Divine Love into a holy three.