As we grow and mature through the years, we learn about different kinds of love.  As children, we received love from our parents and learned about the love we felt for our friends and peers.

Our 20s was an important time. We learned to love ourselves. Loving who we are prepared us to love others. It was an exciting time, followed by intimate relationships, having children or pets and, later in life, connecting with the community and the world by traveling or volunteering.

Dr. John Gray, author of Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus, has written that full, adult maturity happens around age 56. As humans,
we have so many stages of life to experience that it takes us a long time to master the many varieties of love. By the time we are in our 50s, we have developed a greater capacity. Often, the quality of our relationships improves when we have developed the understanding, acceptance and compassion for the people we share our lives with. We realize how precious love is.

Let me share an example of how we can live a love-filled life. Sheila came to see me because her husband had died from cancer right after her second daughter got married. Sheila had planned to travel and retire with her husband, but now she was left alone. She had friends, but she didn’t want to bother them with her sadness. Her daughters were busy with their careers and husbands. She wanted to date, but she wasn’t attracted to the men that she met. She thought they all seemed “too old” for her even though they were around her age.

Everything in her life was a problem. She continually focused on what she didn’t have. As we worked on her “Circle of Life” (from my book), she realized that her life was really good. She had her health. She could still play tennis and loved mahjong, so she called up some friends to play. Her daughters both had babies. She would babysit for them and feel the closeness of their families. She didn’t sleep well, so she’d listen to podcasts so she wouldn’t be so lonely at night.

Slowly over time, she began to feel more hopeful. Friends invited her for dinner, and she had things to talk about. She began to feel like she could go on in her life. She has been able to build her life in a direction that feels hopeful for her. Her life is an example of how maturity allowed her to shift her love from the loss of her husband to the other people that were in her life.

Love changes throughout our life span. If we  allow ourselves to love and be loved, we will have love through all the stages of our lives.