Today I watched a Ted Talk entitled: This is what enduring love looks like. It inspired me to write about love and made me think about all aspects of enduring love. I was thinking about many questions that I know people ask about love and a relationship. Such as, what is enduring love? How do we maintain love? How can and do we stay connected, especially in a long-term relationship. One of the things that I worry about in our culture is how quick we are to tell someone to leave their marriage. I am not referring to extreme situations, such as abuse. And just to be clear, some people are clearly very unhappy in their marriage, and I have witnessed how much happier they become when they end that partnership. I too am divorced and have now been married for 23 years.
But what I am referring to is couples who work hard to stay in their marriage for a variety of reasons. And the relationship is not always easy, especially when it is a long-term marriage. It is inevitable that there will be times when you question whether you should, or even want, to stay in your marriage. No one tells you this when you get married. When you marry, you know one thing (well probably more) and that is that you are in love. You probably have hopes and dreams of a life together. Maybe you want children, maybe not. But somehow you imagine a life with this person, and you never imagine the challenging times that you will inevitably go through together. You will get to know each other probably better than any other person. This thought is both wonderful and horrifying!
When I met my husband, I was divorced with two children; he was divorced with two children as well. I imagine that as we fell in love with one another we also imagined a new beginning. We were young; I was in my late twenties, and he was in his early thirties. Never did we talk about, or even imagine that we would experience, the challenges of a blended family among the many other challenges we have faced together. And never did we imagine or talk about how we would cope with what life would throw our way.
When I think of enduring love, I ask myself the question “how does one attain enduring love?” I think the answer is in the question. Meaning that you endure as you continue to love. There have been times when I loved my husband even when I did not like him. I have loved my husband even when I wished that I did not. I have loved my husband when I wasn’t sure if he continued to love me (I now know he did). And I have loved my husband during times when I wasn’t sure if he deserved my love (he did). And in those challenging times (that we all have) I always reflected back on the history we have built together. I looked back on the times that I treasure, the times that still make me chuckle, the stories that only he and I share. The moments when I say, “do you remember where we bought that?” Of course, he says “no” and I remind him that it was on a trip that we enjoyed together. In that moment, only the two of us can relive that memory. We have thousands of memories that only the two of us share, everything from remembering what we felt when we first learned about the internet (Yikes, we remember that!), to the years of politics, the celebrations of our personal milestones, tragedies both personal and worldwide. And those little tiny things like remembering an old sweater that only the two of us know that we’ve had forever, watching the evolution of a hobby, and growing together in shared interests. All of this took time and investment in each other and our life together.
As you read this, please don’t idealize our love. It has been hard, and there have been times that I’ve wanted to quit. But I did not quit and my husband did not quit. I would say that we stayed together even in the hard times because of enduring love. And because both of us worked at staying in love. Yes, you have to work at it and it needs to be a mutual effort.
I don’t know if life will throw something our way that will challenge our love. However, I do know that we have a history of a life that we have built together. And in so many ways the bad is just as helpful as the good to remember. The bad times are what made us stronger together. The bad times were when we experienced personal growth within ourselves and as a couple. I wish I could say that I treasured the bad times. I don’t. But I can say that without them, I would not have learned as much as I have about our relationship, as well as the self-awareness that I have gained through it all.
So enduring love, in my opinion is just that, if you can hold on to love as you endure a life together, that is “enduring love”.
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Photo Credit: Darin Kim at flicker.comShare