(Disclaimer : I do not condone violence or aggression in relationships. No one has the right to intimidate, coerce or violate another human being’s personal space no matter how intimate their relationship. No person should have to live with anyone who violates this space. This article is reflective of my personal experiences and is no way intended to belittle or take away from the horrendous trauma that many people in terrible relationship circumstances may be going through.)
Several years ago, at a wedding reception, I spotted an old couple. The man was rather frail, bent over and appeared to be partially blind. From his interactions with his older female companion who walked with him, I could tell that he was quite hard of hearing. He shuffled his feet and seemed to be in pain as he walked in short staccato steps. His right hand held a firm grip on his companion’s arm and with his other he used a walking stick. I watched as she patiently helped him navigate the rows of chairs and tables. The layout must have seemed like an obstacle course for the old man. On the way, several new acquaintances greeted the two of them. Each time they were stopped by a relative or a friend, the woman took the trouble of explaining to the old man who they were and what they had said. Finally, when the food was served, she brought some up to him and fed it to him with a spoon. I assumed that the two of them were partners.
I looked at them and wondered if my husband and I would ever survive our daily quota of squabbles, tears, kiss-and-makeups to such a ripe old age. And even if we did, would we still love each other enough? How did one measure this elusive word – “enough” ?
I often think about what keeps 40-year-old marriages ticking like clock-work. We have just hit our 18th year of “wedded bliss” and our 21st of being together. We have had our share of ups and downs. A family to care for, bills to pay, and dwindling finances are the tip of a rather large yet well- cloaked iceberg of everyday living.
He and I are diametrical opposites and yet we often do the strangest things that go against the very grain of our very natures, just to make each other happy. Its not always done with a cheerful smile. There’s often a lot of grumbling and whining. And in the end there’s often a lot of alcohol. Our relationship has been hard work filled with uncertainty and contradictions. Yet there is a sense of rest and contentment that is hard to describe.
Commitment to keep working at a relationship, is a rare commodity in the era of use and throw and instant coffee. After the “I do’s” couples no longer are in love. I’ve been there – felt those moments – of wanting to stop and get off the relationship train and walk away on my own. I know for a fact that he has felt it too. Those moments when we’ve both felt like we’ve lost ‘the loving feeling’. Hasty and harsh words are exchanged, and what took years to nurture, seems so easy to tear apart in a few minutes of anger, disgust and most often just plain pride. In those moments. family members seem easy to discard like non-performing employees and children left to put up with the consequences of adult tantrums and heart breaks.
Life would be too simple if I were to love my partner, only in the moments that he/she loved me in return. The hard parts for me are in being able to remember my decision to be with him rather than giving in to a momentary feeling of wanting to give up. Being a warm lover instead of a merely dutiful spouse is a deliberate and hard choice. It would be easier to just slink into mundane everyday living. Being rude, unforgiving, entitled and impatient comes very easy to me. The bits that are difficult are holding back my need to cut my partner down to size or criticize him for his decisions, his silliness or forgetfulness. Its hard to swallow my pride and say I’m sorry. Its hard to keep my peace, even when I know that I can slice his argument to shreds with my eloquent words. I fear seeing my ego crash land at supersonic speed.
And then I take myself back to the days of our early love – the long bike rides, our stolen kisses in the rain, our stoic stance against our very traditional families that finally allowed us to be together. Thoughts of all we have been through, brings a sense of warmth and compassion for this man who, I know, loves me with every fiber of his being and I know will move mountains for me if needed. We are both flawed mortals who have made a choice to live this life together. Sometimes the feeling of love seems far away, but the decision to love is ever present and unchanging. And that seems to have kept us going on this journey together this far.