Monday, June 06, 2005

What's Love Got To Do With It?

What does love have to do with it? I guess that depends on what you mean by "love." Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Is that enough? Is love, that kind of love, enough?

I know a couple married nearly ten years. They have been unhappy and mean to each other for years, almost since the very beginning. The stresses pile up, higher than they ever imagined. Money is scarce. Optimism even scarcer. Their two children hear them fight and call each other vulgar names.

I know a financially secure couple married over ten years. She wants a divorce. He works too much. Her emotional needs have grown like weeds, unstoppable, overshadowing the flowers. He keeps calling my husband, hoping for a miracle, begging for advice, a cure, something. They have three children who will soon wonder what happened to their world.

I know a couple newly divorced. They were married only three years, two years and eleven months too long if you ask her. He was cruel in ways no one could see. Their baby will grow up in one house, then another, switching off every week, his life divided into "His" and "Hers." (The first thing the woman got after her separation was a boyfriend. The first thing the man got after the separation was new rims for his Mercedes.)

I just wonder, can't stop wondering . . . what went wrong? Sure, every case is unique, every pain fresh, every circumstance individual. But at some point, shouldn't commitment and love walk hand in hand and bridge the gaps? I hear myself. I know that sounds unbearably sanctimonious and I hear the voices of people saying, "Life is too short to be unhappy."

When I was in college, I copied down the words, "Love is not a feeling to be felt, but an action to be learned." I felt like I had come across the secret of a happy life. Action, not feeling. Doing, not being. I trusted that emotions would follow common sense and good judgment. And I waited for a man who believed that, too.

So far, almost eighteen years of marriage later, my open-eyed, clear-headed approach seems to be working. What's love got to do with it? Well, everything, of course. Love is the heart that pumps life through our marriage. Love is kind. Love is patient. Love is the man who makes the bed in the mornings because he knows that a tidy bed says, "I love you," to me. Love is the invisible hand that claps over my mouth and stops me from criticizing and nagging. Love is sending him on a weekend trip because he needs a break. Love is him overlooking my messy piles of stuff which haven't found a home.

Love is what we do. Love is what we choose to do. Love is everything.


Blogger Cindy said...

Wonderful post. I totally agree!

11:56 PM  
Blogger Kendra said...

You are fortunate, Mel, because you recognize this! Thanks for the insightful post!

4:50 AM  
Blogger Judy said...

Preach it, sister!

5:03 AM  
Blogger Feeble Knees said...

amen, Amen, AMEN

5:26 AM  
Blogger MJ said...

I too am grateful to have a man who recognizes this as well..

I often ask why do you love me ... one of his common answers is cause I choose too.

It is an action, the feelings wan and ebb but the commitment is always there!

5:37 AM  
Blogger Ginger said...

I'm with you all the way on this one. Waiting for one's feelings to lead the way is always disastrous. Contrary to popular cultural opinion, marriage is NOT "all about me!" And that's so much more satisfying than "romance novel love."

Wow. I read back through those sentences and they sound preachy. Not meant to be. Just don't know a better way to express it. It does seem to me that in the failed or unhappy marriages I've known of, the "all about me" approach has been the killer.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

You're right, love is a choice. I remember a few words from a song I knew when I was younger, "love's not a feeling you can lose or throw away. Lord, give us the courage to live it every day." living it means acting it, just like you said.

6:35 AM  
Blogger weorwe said...

One of the reasons "to have no illusions and yet to love" is my favorite quotation, and the book it's from, Howwards End, one of my favorite books.

Much much much much harder to live by than to say... especially if you're as insatiable, strong-willed, and insecure as I am.

7:00 AM  
Blogger Julana said...

Thank you, Tevya. :-)
(Fiddler on the Roof)

7:26 AM  
Blogger Eyes said...

I believe the reason why marriage fails is simple. To be a whole couple, you yourself have to be whole.

Sadly, most people never find themselves, but instead look for someone to do that for them. When you have two halves, you end up with a huge "hole".

That's my take, anyway! The secret to a happy marriage is knowing who you are before you get married.

9:03 AM  
Blogger The Dung Beetle said...

I agree with eyes for lies. I also agree with the overall message of this entire post.

The main problem is that many people just take marriage too lightly, just as I did when I married at age 18. I had no idea who I was, who my partner was, nor did I have any concept of love... at least not a mature concept ("Oh baby! We just had sex! This was my 1st time! this must be love!")

I learned many a lesson the hard way, just as many others have done before and will do again... but I will take these hard-learned lessons, along with the sage advice of this post, to heart when dealing with my Bookie.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Jan said...

I remember hearing that divorced children are more likely to divorce. As a child of divorce, I was always offended by that. Now, of course, I see the logic. I never learned how to be a good wife because I never lived with an example. This has made marriage more difficult for me. But there is something else the divorce did for me that it seems to have done for you, too: it showed me the horrors of a family divided. I do not want my children to experience that kind of life. Divorce is never the easy out people think it is. I am determined to everything in my power to make my marriage work, and you are, too. I'm proud of us. You go girl!

3:17 PM  
Blogger Wash Lady said...

Your marriage works because you AND your hubby make it work - for whatever reason(s).
You have the necessary ingredients that all people are not fortunate to have.
I didn't have those ingredients in my 1st marriage - I have them now & it makes ALL the difference in the world.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Guinevere Meadow said...

What an awesome post. I always thought the same thing, but could not find the words for it. I heard a quote once that briefly sums it up, "Love isn't something that happens-- it's something that grows." And with growth comes growing pains. Isn't it neat when you finally find words for something you have felt for a long time? :)

11:36 AM  
Blogger Catharine said...

What went wrong is what always goes wrong. "I do" suddenly means "I don't have to anymore." I don't have to be kind. I don't have to impress. I don't have to think of the other's needs, wants or aspirations anymore. Because now we're married, which is the end result, right? Game over. He/she's stuck with me, so she/he can just deal with it.

Except the game isn't over. The game is only just starting. And like any other game requiring a certain amount of virtuosity to ensure success, it requires some hard, hard work, most of it really unpleasant. Like delaying your own gratification so the other person (NOT always the man, thank you very much) can achieve their own dreams. Like realizing that, though you've had a hard day at work, the person you're coming home to hasn't exactly been popping bon-bons and watching soap operas all day. Like understanding that a son learns a lot about relationships from his mother, and sometimes you just have to be patient enough to show him there's another way (warning: some men resist this procedure).

Not being cruel in ways that other people can't see. Not fighting in front of the children when for some unknown reason it's all you seem to want to do. Not hitting, not yelling, not belittling or berating, not cheating, not lying...

So many things to remember to do and not do. It's almost insurmountable. And the sad fact is, few people are up to the task.


11:49 AM  

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