70 Years Of Love
“Couple married during war and never stopped being in love”
This is the kind of magazine headline and teaser that drives me crazy. Never stopped being in love? I don’t buy it. If they’ve been together for 70 years, I know there were times when they weren’t “in love” with each other. I know there were times when they doubted the love that existed between them. If you read the article, you find out this is true. They stuck it out, but were they “in love” the entire time? No.
What is “in love” anyway? What does that mean? The first person who can give me a satisfactory answer to this question wins a prize.
I think “in love” is that initial crush phase of a relationship where you think s/he’s wonderful. You get that pitter-patter, heart-racing feeling every time you see him/her. You can’t wait to be with him and you’re crushed every moment you’re not. “In love” eventually wears off. If it hasn’t by the time of the wedding, it will by the first anniversary. How could you sustain it? It’d be exhausting.
Yes, you might think he’s still wonderful, but by now you’ve also realized he’s a human being and not an angel sent down from heaven to make your life perfect. He has flaws and annoying habits (as do you) just like anyone else. He’s loveable at times and drives you nuts at others. You might even have been mad at him a time or two. He might have been annoyed with you as well. Are you still “in love?” Maybe not. But you still love him.
Why doesn’t anyone tell us how hard marriage is before we get married? (They do but we don’t listen and we think our marriage will be different.) A spouse’s purpose on earth is not to make you happy 24/7 and life isn’t going to be butterflies and rainbows from the altar forward. Mostly what it will be is joy and pain and tears and heartache and laughter and if you’re lucky, someone who always has your back.
I don’t think anyone who’s been long-married gets there by not contemplating divorce at some point in time. Sometimes we just want out. We think we made the wrong choice and can’t see how we can go on for one more day, let alone 40 or 50 more years like this.
A divorced friend once told me, “Don’t get a divorce. You do not want to be divorced.”
My father always said, “You put in your nickel and you take your chances.”
I’ve often wondered why people congratulate me when they find out how long I’ve been married (33 years). It might be because they are children of divorce or divorced themselves. A long marriage doesn’t mean “we’re happy.” It doesn’t mean we’re still “in love.” It doesn’t mean our lives or marriages are ideal or that we found our soulmates. It means we stuck it out and honored our commitment, so if you want to congratulate a long-married couple for that, by all means, please do. In this world of “who needs marriage?” and “I’m tired of you; here’s your divorce papers,” having honor and being a person of your word is so rare congratulations are probably in order.
“I’m not happy” is the reason for a lot of splitting up. I know. At times I’ve been unhappily married. But if you stick it out, you do adjust. You will or can be happy again. You’ll probably be sad and disappointed again, too. That’s the way life is. That’s the way marriage is.
Here’s my two cents for what it’s worth if you want to stay married: He is who he is and you are who you are. Accept it. Learn not to need what you can’t have and aren’t going to get from him or her. Your happiness is not dependent on your spouse. (Your happiness is YOUR responsibility, no one else’s.) Maybe in 70 years or so your headline will read, “They weren’t always in love (and they weren’t always happy together) but they stuck it out with each other.”