Lately, I’ve been thinking about the question, “How do you know you love me?” This has been preceded by the fact that two of my very close friends (who married each other…) are divorcing—his choice, not hers. I’m baffled by this. After fifteen years and five children together, he decided he didn’t love her any more. She had no idea he wanted to leave. I’ve only talked to her about this and heard her side. Apparently, he’s shedding all trappings of his old life, and that may include me. I still don’t get it. How do you decide you don’t love someone, when you have so much history together and five very good reasons for making your marriage work?
I’ve often felt that staying in love is a choice. We have the responsibility to our partners to find reasons to stay in love. Many of us who have been with the same person for a long time know that the exciting rush of first love doesn’t last. It’s either replaced by something finer and more solid or it’s replaced with nothing. On the other side of the story, we have a responsibility to stay attractive to our mates. Now, before you get your dander up, you should know that I’m not talking about hours on a treadmill or starving to stay a size 6 and so on. There are other ways besides the physical to stay attractive.
Learn to compromise. Watch your tone of voice when speaking to your partner. Don’t pick fights just because you are feeling a bit peckish. Realize that sometimes it is okay to serve your partner and receive service in return (you make him a sandwich one day, he puts gas in your car the next, etc.) Make sure you are treating this most important person in your life with the same courtesy you would give strangers on the street. Be sure you aren’t asking more of your mate than you are giving. With that said, (and hopefully understood), I would like to say a few words about physical attractiveness. Bathe. Wear clean clothes. Wear clothes that fit well. Do care about your appearance in general. Do these things also for yourself as well as your mate. Spend time together. Talk to each other about more than just your agenda and the mundane details that make up the business of life. Take the time to remember why you fell in love with that person in the first place. Realize that the very thing that’s driving you crazy for the moment might in fact be one of the reasons you love that person. For instance, it might make me a little crazy when my husband spends his free time helping friends or other members of his family with their computer problems instead of spending that precious free time with me and our family. But, one of the reasons I love him is his generous heart. And I love that he can solve mysterious computer problems easily. And I love his family. So I have to figure out a compromise. Anyway, I think you get it.
So back to the question “How do you know you love me?” I asked my husband this, and he answered. “I just know.” So much for great words of wisdom and clear understanding there! But then I thought about it a bit more. Sometimes the answers to the complicated questions in life are simple. A big part of love is trust. A big part of trust is hope. For me to feel secure in my relationship, I have to trust that I’m doing my part to make that relationship work. I have to hope that my partner and I have laid the foundation for communication so well that if someone else starts looking better to him, we can at least talk about it before he decides to leave. I don’t know how to help my friend, other than to be the best support to her a friend can be. I do hope to learn from her trials ways to better my own relationship with my husband. And I choose to stay in love with my mate every single day.
And that’s the other side.