Love is… Well, it all depends on the individuals involved, doesn’t it? Today the hunk and I are married sixty-nine years. Yep. Next year will be the big five-oh. It always amuses me when journalists ask what the secret to a long marriage is because for every couple the answer is different.
So, what is love?
Well, it’s not passion or sex. Those are manifestations of love, but they’re not love. And it’s a good thing, isn’t it, because every long term relationship has periods when sex isn’t even on the table—or bed—or anywhere else! Illness, separation, childbirth, medication…all interfere at one time or another. So, while passionate sex is a nice benefit, it isn’t love.
And love isn’t never arguing or having differences. We are human with a host of personal wants and needs. Often those wants/needs are in direct conflict with what our partner wants/needs. Inevitably, there are differences and those differences just might be expressed loudly. Very loudly. Possibly even loud enough for the neighbors to hear. And perhaps those differences might not be settled in a timely fashion. They might even require a mediator. But that doesn’t mean love is lost. It just…hides out for a while.
Love isn’t being the boss. Now every marriage is a partnership of sorts, but it works best if each partner is clear about what responsibilities they are willing to take on. For many years, I was the one that dealt with the money issues in our marriage. I was abysmal at it, but kept soldiering on until I reached a point one day (after the hunk pointed out what a failure I was—again) where I handed him the stack of bills, the checkbook, and a calendar and said, “It’s all yours.” He was not amused.
It was the best thing I ever did.
He discovered how hard it is to deal with bill collectors, balancing the household budget, and balancing the checkbook when there is no income. And thirty years later, he still handles the finances. I could if I had to, but I’m not in any hurry.
Love isn’t sticking to gender roles. It’s okay if that’s what makes both partners happy, but it isn’t necessary. When we married, gender roles were pretty hard and fast. Men worked, then came home and sat in front of the TV. Women did everything else.
Except…he was a student and I worked full time. Right off the bat, we had to make adjustments. For the best part of our marriage, he did work—forty years with one company—and spent time away from home on temporary transfers or on long commutes to work (one nineteen year stretch required a two hour commute each way every day). When necessary I did everything else. We shared childcare. We took turns cooking. Doing laundry. Doing house repairs. That’s the way it works. In the last year, he’s done all the housework and grocery shopping because I’m no longer able to do so.
So I can hear you saying what IS love, then? Well, to paraphrase the marriage vows, it’s sticking together through thick or thin, wealthy or poor, healthy or sick. It’s not giving up when the going gets tough—and it will, over and over. It’s celebrating the victories, great and small. It’s comforting and understanding when disappointments and grief bowl us over. It’s seeking out ways to lift our partner up, not put them down. It’s finding a shared interest, whatever that might be, and spending time together working on it. In our forty-nine years we’ve raised fancy fish, researched our family trees, made candles, baked bread, made jam, researched all sorts of things for my writing, knitted, crocheted, did calligraphy, and did all sorts of woodworking projects and repaired numerous vehicles. Time shared is work. It takes a certain selflessness. It takes perseverance. It takes love.
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