Music Love Week: An Enduring Love Is The Greatest

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!



  1. Aw, so true. The kind of love that has suffered together, that has stayed together through the hard times, that has experienced life's ups and downs is a beautiful thing.

  2. This is awesome E.J. I almost cried. I'm going to share this with my friend who writes divorce columns for the Huffington Post and she's also an advocate for divorce reform in America.

  3. No, I don't think it's old fashioned. And you hit it on the head - love is work. It takes effort. Love isn't a feeling, it's an action.

  4. This is a really great post. So impressive that your parents have been married for so long. Those cliff moments are so important to get through together. I've had a a couple good friends end marriages recently and it's been hard to see them struggle.

  5. Great post and beautifully said! My family are big time 'committers' too. So far there's never been a divorce in my family. My husband's family is another story entirely. ;-)

  6. You're definitely right about commitment. I think that's one reason a lot of marriages fail; they think that being in love is enough. But I think that the phrase "love is all we need" is misleading because it doesn't take into account all the things that can get in the way of love, and what people should do to resolve those issues.

  7. "What is love? Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt more..."

    Okay enough singing. E.J., this is a great essay on love. I "love" how you examine it from relationships, through song, and through family. it's a word that gets bantered around a lot but it isn't defined all that well.

    Oh and I "love" the new blog design. It's very hip.

  8. Anything worth having is worth fighting for. Love isn't always easy.

  9. Another great post, E.J. I loe it when you write personal stuff. Sooo romantic.

  10. Terrific post, EJ!

    My parents have stayed together, their parents before them. My brothers are happily married with good wives, and my eldest brother was happily married until he passed away.

    Of my sisters, whom I'm no longer on speaking terms with, one is on her second marriage, and the other finished off her first marriage.

    I'm the last of the pack to still be single.

  11. You're right, a lasting marriage takes a lot of hard work. My husband and I have been married for almost 22 years. We have always talked over things in our lives a lot. I've been known to use pie charts a few times. It goes something like this: See this little slice right here? That's me and the other little slice is our kids. The large slice is your job. We'd like to have a larger slice. Yes, pie charts are great.

  12. I like what you said here. I agree for the most part. On my second marriage now...but staying in an abusive marriage was not an option (with the first). All relationships are work. Sometimes, they're a lot of work. But what I think is that this person, who may be annoying the hell out of me at one moment, is my world, my other half, my SIGNIFICANT other and deserves patience and understanding to get through those times. Because when things are good, they're outstanding. He's my best friend and I think that's important.

    1. This was more of a 'devotion' thought process than any kind of relationship advice. In my small hometown I can remember my sis being treated like an outcast when she divorced her first husband. (To be clear, this was in the 2000s, not 1800s.) He had major issues with drugs among other things. Still, she struggled with making the decision because of social pressure.

      In short, I absolutely think divorce is the right answer sometimes. There are such things as irreconcilable differences. Verbal, mental and physical abuse happens. Bad relationships can turn your life into misery. No one deserves to go through life miserable. We all deserve to be happy most of the time.

      I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, "Sometimes, they're a lot of work. But what I think is that this person, who may be annoying the hell out of me at one moment, is my world, my other half, my SIGNIFICANT other and deserves patience and understanding to get through those times."

      Lots of people aren't willing to fight through the general disagreements and the average stuff that happens in a long-term relationship. You won't be happy ALL of the time. You're going to fight. You're going to yell on occasion. You can't be entirely individualistic in a relationship, so you might have to give on some things that are important to you to keep it going. That's all okay, because the payoff of having a partner is worth it. I think that's the message I was shooting for. No it's an old post, but I really appreciate you taking the time comment.

  13. Wow. Isn't that the truth! I will unfortunately have to jump off the cliff and start over. Sometimes it's the best option though.

  14. This is so true! Love takes work and there are moments when things could go either way. Congrats to your parents and grandparents for making it work. My parents are divorced and I am someone who likes to keep the lines of communication open and not pretend certain possibilites couldn't happen. I think it helps. By the way- I love Ben Folds! Great video clip. :)

  15. Dude, The Luckiest is what my hubby and I danced to on our wedding day. ;0) And yes, I agree with what love is.


“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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