Monday, June 7, 2010

Love that Lasts

I spent a quiet Monday morning with the Sunday N.Y. Times!
by Charlie Leck

My first attack on the Sunday N.Y. Times amounts to a separation of it into sections. I make a small pile of the sections to which I intend to give attention. The Week in Review section goes on the top of that small pile and under it are heaped things like (1) Arts & Leisure, (2) Sunday Business, (3) Book Review, (4) The New York Times Magazine, and, of course, (5) the main News Section. I usually send sections like (1) Sports, (2) Travel and certainly (3) Sunday Styles right into the recycling bin.

However, something caught my eye this morning on the front page of the Styles section. At the top of the page was a strikingly beautiful woman – the 58 year old, former model, named Iman. I’d never heard of her, though I learned she was famous the world over in her day. Wow! I read the story about her. There was a lot of fluff and junk I don’t care about, but my eyes kept going back to the photos of her in youth and now. Wow!

She appears to be happily married to David Bowie (someone famous about whom I’ll need to ask the kids) and the article intimates that it’s been a good marriage that has lasted now for 18 years. Good!

Just below that lead story in the Styles section was a photo of Al and Tipper Gore in year 2000. It was an illustration for the story’s theme: What makes some marriages remain romantic for years and years and love last through all the stages of age? Now this is a subject that interests me, so I turned willingly and enthusiastically to it.

No one has ever been able to explain romantic love to my liking or satisfaction. It appears to be an impossible term, or concept, to define. Give, for instance, a try and see how they define the term. I was tempted to play around here with entry number 13: “Chiefly Tennis: a score of zero; nothing!”

I’m in my second marriage. It’s lasted now for well over 30 years and I believe, and hope to goodness, it is solid and will last throughout my life. I love this woman, my wife, as much as when I first realized I was in love with her – even more. As I once said to her in a poem I presented to her as a gift: “I love you more today than then, when I did not think I could love you more!”

It didn’t take Al and Tipper’s break-up to demonstrate to me that you cannot tell, from the outside, what is going on on the inside of a marriage. We’ve seen marriages around us, which we thought were idyllic, romantic and solid, decompose and break apart on life’s gentlest breezes. Others that I thought were tenuous and ill-composed have lasted through many of life’s most raging storms.

Here’s what I know about my own marriage!
If I need to turn to someone for advice, upon almost any matter, it would be to my wife. (Forget, of course, questions about baseball, football, golf, sports in general, or gambling!) I still adore the sound of her voice and the soundness of her thinking. I like her kindness, generosity and gentleness. I’ve seen her genuinely angry at and distrustful of another person only a couple of times in all these years. There is no one with whom I’d rather spend time. I still relish her touch and am excited by it. I enjoy sleeping next to her and listening to the soft sound of her breathing as she sleeps. I wish age was not robbing me of some of my physical abilities because she has retained all of her vigor and strength. She is a deeply patient and loyal person. To her, a commitment to someone, in friendship or love, is a matter of the highest priority in life. I don’t ever let a day go by without thanking those lucky stars that brought me to her and gave me the chance to know her.

Tipper and Al?
Who knows! One of the psychologists interviewed for the story, and who looked at hundreds of successful marriages, seems to think that one of the keys is to “stay active in each other’s lives” and to “pay attention to the marriage itself” and that “you’re never done working on it.”

“It’s not that you have to be constantly scared about your relationship, but you do have to renew it,” said Stephanie Coontz, a marriage historian at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. “I think the warning we should take from this (Al and Tipper) is that you can’t skate indefinitely and be doing different things and not really be paying attention to the marriage itself.”

I’m skeptical about some of the studies around the nation – studies about what makes a marriage last and remain romantic in nature. My dubiety comes because I (we) don’t fit most of the profiles about what we should be doing.

Is your marriage in a rut?
That’s one of the questions a New York study suggests we should be asking. If one or both of you think it is, then your marriage is likely at risk. But what, I wonder, if you like the rut you’re in? What if you both like the comfort and pleasantness of that rut? I suppose, not even one of us can tell – can truly know – that the other is happy in their current circumstance. For instance, I worry often about how hard my wife constantly works and about how much she has to do every, single day; but I let her know how worried I am about it and how I wish she didn’t have so much to do. I think she appreciates my worries and she gathers some strength from those worries.

I’m convinced that the rut you’re in gets easier to enjoy the older one gets. I don’t get excited about the Stony Brook University study that suggests we probably need to test ourselves out with challenging experiences like new video adventure games. No, I find myself enjoying it when she tells me about a new book she’s read or about an article from her favorite magazines (Scientific American or the Christian Science Monitor Magazine) or even from her Sheep Magazine.

Who knows what brought Tipper and Al Gore down? We’ll likely never know the exact answer to that question and I don’t particularly care. Instead, I wish great happiness for both of them in the new adventures they’ll have.

As for me, I don’t want any new adventures. I want to enjoy this partner of mine each and every moment of my remaining life and to let her know as often as I can just how much I love her. I want to spend as many years with her as I possibly can.

Note: Another interesting story, or essay, by Connie May Fowler appears in that Style section of the Sunday Times, called Affirmation, Etched in Vinyl. It’s Ms. Fowler’s story of a father she lost when she was only 6 years old. I may have to glance through the Style section more often.

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