"A relationship is like a house. When a lightbulb burns out, you don't go and buy a new house. You fix the lightbulb."
from Pinterest with thanks
The truth is, if we really knew how to keep love alive, we’d all do it all the time. There’d be no discussion of divorce, no drama, no growing apart, no infidelity, no abuse, no looking across the table and thinking, Who is this man and what did he do with the guy I married?
Most of us don’t have to deal with all those things, but I’m fairly sure all of us have to deal with some. In nearly all long marriages, I’m certain there are years that don’t bear repeating (mine are 1982 and 2017.) There are things said that can never be unsaid. Bleak days and nights and weeks that seem to have no end. Long drives home from work when you intend to walk in the door and say it’s over. It’s done. You don’t want to play anymore. But then…
You have to work at it. Not just on the bad days, although especially then. You need to say you love each other every day even if you’re saying it through your teeth. You need to have each other’s backs, to laugh at the same things even if you don’t think they’re funny, to grieve when your partner does if for no other reason than you don’t want him or her to grieve alone.
It’s hard, it’s…yeah, it’s hard.
But then there are the moments.
At a wedding a couple of years ago, we were leaving the reception early. We were halfway to the door of the venue when the DJ started a slow song. Duane turned back and said, “You want to?” and we went back and danced for the first time in years. It was only a moment--or a few of them--but it made me happy all day. It makes me happy to remember it.
The thing with moments is that they attach and melt together, so that they bring ease and cohesion to the hard times and the bad days―even the truly awful ones. Times that originally brought tears and anger are ones you often learn to laugh at and to appreciate for the growth they provided—whether you wanted it or not.
It’s a mistake, though, to think love’s path will ever be without bumps, because human beings are flawed. We hurt each other, and we hurt no one more than the ones we love the most. It’s coming out on the other side, skipping from one moment to another, that allows us to claim endurance.
Every now and then, there are defining moments, signature ones that last forever. It’s up to us to recognize them, to hold them close and keep them safe for when we need them.
I am, at the very best of times, clumsy, so it was no surprise a few months ago when I tripped over a pair of shoes in the kitchen and went down like a tree, falling—for the first time ever—right on my face. I couldn’t seem to move, and I cried from the pain that radiated out from my broken nose. I’m not a weeper, so it was the tears that alarmed me most.
Duane, with his two artificial knees, got down on the floor with me, lying against my back and holding me. Keeping me warm and safe. When the shock wore off enough that I could move and the splinters of pain finally dimmed enough that I stopped crying, he got to his feet and helped me to mine.
It was probably five minutes in all, from the fall to when we got up, but they defined the going-on-47 years we’ve been together. They personified love kept alive.