We all have our definition of love. An idea as to how it SHOULD play out. That definition answers questions about love. What it says. What it means. What it does. It is formed by what we've experienced, what we've seen modeled and what our perceptions are.
Being visual creatures, often a picture forms in our heads to go along with the idea. A sort of rough sketch of love. Perhaps a timid, first sweaty kiss underneath the bleachers. Maybe a person proudly holding your infant child. Two aged people, assured smiles on their faces as they walk hand-in-hand in a forest or down a deserted beach.
Today, I'm going to share my concept of love and, as part of the Music Love week, a couple of songs I think capture that idea perfectly.
I come from a family of hard committers (?). My parents have been married for 47 years. My father's parents were married until they died. My mother's parents were married until they died--with a proviso: my biological grandmother succumbed to cancer at a young age, granddad did eventually remarry, and he stayed married to that woman until his death. So he basically married for life, twice.
I have three aunts and uncles on my dad's side. All have grandchildren (some have great) and all are still married to their first spouses. I have five aunts and uncles on my mother's side. All are still married to their original spouses and have grandchildren (some greats as well).
This isn't to say my family is somehow impervious to marital strife, or that we've somehow hit the relationship lottery. My sister has divorced, cousins have as well. Heck, I have a nephew who has married, had two children and divorced--and he's not even 25! No, it rains on our side of town just as much as yours.
You could certainly make an argument that the older family members still being married is more a sign of changing times than a reflection of couple mastery. No question that, as a society, marriage means something much different then it did 50 years ago. Then, you got married to stay that way. If you didn't, you risked being labeled, or worse, socially outcasted. Nowadays, as is popularly quoted, if you're married you're just as likely to be not-married again as you are to stay that way.
That being said, I think it's safe to say that I have a pattern to follow. That pattern goes something like: Love is commitment, commitment is love, love is commitment...
My parents argue. They've had rough patches. You stay with someone long enough, you're bound to. In fact, I have a theory that every relationship will come to a cliff moment, and it goes like this: There's a fire burning behind you, no way out. Jump or fight it. You walk to that cliff and you say, "I can jump, start over with a new life. Or, I can turn around and face this down with the person standing beside me."
Circumstances will dictate your decision, but you will have to make a choice at some point. For some, that fire will just burn too hot, too out of control. You'll be forced to jump. Sometimes it's not evan a fire of your making, so you wouldn't know how to put it out if you wanted. Others will risk getting burned up.
I'm saying my folks have decided to face the flames, gotten scorched, yet somehow kept it all under control. For 47 years. I like that idea! The idea that, as a couple, we're always fighting a fire. You have to keep it in check. Why? Because staying with someone is work. It's an active process, not passive. It doesn't just happen.
My wife and I have a policy. We talk openly about the possibility of divorce. I know, maybe it's bad ju ju, at least many of our friends seem to think so. They treat divorce like it's a crazed, wild animal that should be locked away and never discussed lest it be allowed to devour us all. I think that's bunk.
Like most wild animals, divorce is only dangerous to the extent you're ignorant of it. Stay vigilant, recognize it has its space and respect it, and you'll be fine. Get crazy, try to pet it or just forget it's there, and you might get bitten. That's our philosophy. So we talk. Lots.
So what is love? To me, it's those old folks walking on a beach. Every wrinkle and spot on their skin is a mark of defiance. An indication that they've endured. Together.
Old fashioned? Maybe, or maybe true love does exist, but you only know it at the end. Not at the beginning. Not at the middle. Not when all the dust of kids, careers and life is swirling around you. Only when that dust settles, when you've endured, do you see it clearly for the first time.
Happy Valentine's Day!