“Thirty-one years,” I replied (I was proud that I could spit it out so quickly).
The young man’s eyes widened. “Wow, that’s a long time,” he said. “Are you still in love?”
I paused for a moment before I replied, “Yes. Yes, I am.”
The reason for the hesitation before I answered? That little phrase, in love. It’s so loaded in our culture, conjuring up images of mooning into each other’s eyes, skipping through fields of daisies and whispering sweet-nothings in front of a roaring fireplace. To be sure, my wife and I have enjoyed romantic moments in our relationship, but we are not the cloying, lovey-dovey types who make people gag with our PDAs. In fact, my daughter once asked us, “Why don’t I ever see you guys kiss and hold hands?” (Naturally, when she does witness us embracing or giving each other a peck on the lips, she grimaces and orders us to stop).
Think about the things that reinforce our notions of the “perfect relationship”–romantic movies, celebrity magazine stories, childhood fairy tales, even couples around us who seem to have it all together. In my single days, my romanticized ideals were so lofty that no woman could have met them. I carried these over into marriage, which made for a few rough years, indeed. As a counselor friend of mine once said, “People make poor gods.”
As I started this blogpost, I thought about sharing “Six Steps to a Successful Relationship” or “Ten Ways to Keep the Spark Going in your Marriage.” But then came the epiphany that there are no easy formulas when you put two human beings together.
Let me share a bite of the reality apple with you: relationships are tough work. Your partner will not meet all your expectations. You will be inconvenienced from time-to-time. You will face situations you don’t want to do, like take in that chick flick with your wife or a comic book convention with your boyfriend. At times you will clash with your partner and both of you will have to figure out how to resolve the conflict without leaving a mountain of rubble and carnage. Oh, and did I mention you will have to practice forgiveness?
I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I have figured this one out: If you expect Cupid to flit around you and your beloved forever, shooting love arrows into your hearts without putting in your own sweat equity, buckle up because a train wreck is on the way.
You want to fall in love? Easy. Pick a person who is attractive and allow your emotions to run wild. Want to stay in love? Not-so-easy.
But after 31 years, I can say it’s been worth all the work.