The Practice of Love-It takes work to build a strong relationship

The Practice of Love-It takes work to build a strong relationship

 

love, relationshipsIt’s not enough to be in love, we have to practice love.

 

Paraphrasing Brene Brown—Yes! That’s what a strong relationship looks like–practicing love. Because the myth of Happily Ever After really is just a myth. Everything in life takes a little work. The more important it is, the more we work at making it work. Love should be like that. An effort. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve done a poor job in some of my relationships. Maybe I’ve even bailed a few times. The next time I am sure it’ll be easier…and if I find that right guy I know there will be hard times. In a partnership where we’re both practicing love, I’m prepared to do my share of the work.

Like many other women, divorced or widowed, I think about relationships, trying to figure out if I would remarry, co-habitate, or simply share time together. Frankly I wonder how easy it will be to get along after so many years alone. We get awfully set in our ways as we age. How do we figure out what to let go of and where to stand our ground? 

This floats through my mind often, particularly during these recent snowy, cold days and long nights. And, when I found this article by writer Caitlin Kelly, I felt like I’d happened upon a piece of the answer. Kelly’s piece, It’s V-Day! 14 Years In! 14 reasons my marriage still thrives (whew!), captures her relationship with her husband. I asked permission to quote her and we got into a conversation about gender roles, feminism and the challenges of relationships. 

There’s been much written about the independent woman, equality and feminism over the years. I don’t want to take on feminism as my own personal definition is just that and I don’t do scholarly very well. But as a woman who feels she can do almost anything (body strength being a limiting factor) and has been able to function alone capably, I pause at the thought of explaining how I view practicing love in a relationship. This is where Ms. Kelly and I see it the same way: 

We take care of one another

After my left hip replacement, in February 2012, Jose took three weeks’ vacation time to stay home and nurse me. He made an enormous list of all my pills and exercise schedule and stuck it on the wall. He cleaned my wound, all 12 staples of it. I make our home as clean and attractive as possible: candles, fresh flowers, pretty linens, a beautiful table for mealtimes. I make us delicious meals, when I can muster the energy. I even brush and polish his shoes, much to his embarrassment. It’s just care. It’s what a good marriage is about.

I believe that in strong relationship two people want to take care of each other. It may mean taking on a ‘traditional’ role like cooking, doing laundry and the such, out of love for our partner. It’s not an expectation—it is a gift of love. I’ve talked about this before in the sexual arena, the pleasure we receive when we do something to please a partner. We give out of love and sometimes we give because it’s the right thing to do in our relationship–the practice of love.  Why did we ever think that a strong relationship could thrive without the need to practice? 

Ms. Kelly’s 14 reasons include all the minor irritants (my words) and differences that exist between two people. The practice of love invites us to embrace all of our partner, to accept that person in totality without trying to remake them or shape them to our liking. It’s a risky proposition this falling, and staying, in love business. 

I started back with an online dating site this week and I’m working hard to be more open about the men I choose to talk with. No rigid rules or ‘this _______ never works for me’. I’m even open to talking to someone 500 hundred miles away because life can be fluid. And, I know that profound differences can work, flourish even,  if we’re willing to dedicate ourselves to the practice of love.  

 Relationships aren’t always easy.  There will be arguments. There will be acknowledgment of different wants and needs. Irritations, vast differences that seem to question what you’re doing together.  But in the end, it’s the coming together out of love and concern for each other that makes it all worth the work.  

 Thoughts? 

photo credit: Lel4nd via photopin cc

24 Comments
  • KIM
    Posted at 10:56h, 24 February Reply

    No they are not. I struggle with it every day with my husband. We both are so independent it’s scary. But we have Brody now and things seem to be getting better all the time. We try to take trips together just us two and with Brody. Working on it daily over here!

    • Walker
      Posted at 11:16h, 24 February Reply

      Kim, I guess the blessing is that we do get the chance to work on maintaining a relationship? I’ve always been fairly independent, as a single woman that seems to intimidate some men. Go figure. Thanks for stopping in to read and comment.

  • Marie Franklin
    Posted at 12:08h, 24 February Reply

    Great articles, both yours and Ms. Kelly’s. My experience is definitely like how she talks about hers in the article…including fighting like idiots but then figuring out how to get it reeled in.

    My H and I pour the love on thick, every day. Never miss a chance to be loving on each other in some way. We make constant effort and reap constant rewards.

    • Walker
      Posted at 12:48h, 24 February Reply

      That’s fabulous Marie! Effort=reward. It is so true.

  • Lori Lavender Luz
    Posted at 13:19h, 24 February Reply

    Now you’ve made me think 🙂

    Two becoming one is problematic, isn’t it? And also at the crux of the human condition — being an individual and simultaneously being a member of a group (of 2 or more). How do we DO that, navigate that??

    I think you hit it when you talked about sometimes acting from love and sometimes acting from duty. Also, the clearer you can be in yourself and the healthier your boundaries are, the clearer you can be with another, and the more you can patrol your boundaries like a border collie rather than a pit bull.

    Lots to think about in this post. Wishing you well as you resume dating.

    • Walker
      Posted at 14:43h, 24 February Reply

      Lori,
      I like the point about boundaries, it does help to have a clear sense of self. I’m glad you’re thinking on this..highest compliment you could give me. And, thanks for the dating good wishes… I’ll need it.

  • Carol Cassara
    Posted at 13:30h, 24 February Reply

    so–can we really expect to live with someone for our entire long lives? It’s not that I want to leave my fabulous husband, not at all. It’s a philosophical question and I’m not sure why I’m raising it on this post except that relationships ARE hard and we all continue to try to define and redefine. Things were much simpler when everyone was concerned about survival and did things for that reason. I’m not sure why my brain went here, but…there you have it

    • Walker
      Posted at 14:45h, 24 February Reply

      I think the best way to define a relationship is to go off with your partner and have that conversation privately. It’s these mandates or societal expectations that get in the way. What you bring up is something that is getting more and more attention in the media as people try to explain why marriages are failing…it’s just not that simple is it?

  • Kathy Radigan
    Posted at 14:26h, 24 February Reply

    I have been married for almost 21 years to my best friend, which can be a blessing and curse. We have learned how to live with each other and laugh a lot. But that’s not to say we don’t ever have times where we drive each other crazy. It is hard, but I think any relationship can be. Sharing a life is complicated. loving each other and being kind can go a long way in making it easier. As always I love to come here. You always get me thinking.

    • Walker
      Posted at 14:46h, 24 February Reply

      Oh, thank you Kathy. “Sharing a life is complicated.” Yes, indeed.

  • Haralee
    Posted at 16:24h, 24 February Reply

    I think it is the little things that matter that show love. Living with anyone over time takes effort too.

  • Helene Cohen Bludman
    Posted at 19:56h, 24 February Reply

    I think in addition to love and caring, there is a comfort level in long-term relationships that helps sustain them as years go by. I.e., the “comfortable old shoe” factor. Which doesn’t take away the need for sexual compatibility, but adds a new dimension that is equally valuable. Great post, Walker.

    • Walker
      Posted at 20:55h, 24 February Reply

      Well put Helene, a good relationship can be both comfortable and secure AND have a strong sexual component. Thank you for adding to the conversation.

  • Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com
    Posted at 20:58h, 24 February Reply

    Hi Walker! You ask some great questions here that i think are very important for anyone who wants to either start a relationship or keep one going long and happy. My husband will be celebrating 37 years together and as I’ve said, and blogged about, not all of them were easy–especially in the beginning. But a few things that have helped to make our relationship better than anyone else i’ve ever met are: 1) we really, really like and respect each other better than anyone else we know; 2) while I have lots of other friends I would rather talk and be with him than anyone I know; 3) No secrets (well almost none!) We talk about EVERYTHING together. 4) we are headed in the same direction in life in just about everything we do. 5) He has my back and I have his. There’s more I’m sure but I just see so many women and men who sorta kinda like their spouse and stay together for lots of reasons…but that wasn’t the kind of relationship either my husband and I wanted and I’m very happy to say we’ve gone beyond the norm. Is it work? It’s more like constant care and attention. Thanks for the opportunity to remember all the ways he is important to me. Good luck to you as you venture forth! ~Kathy

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:15h, 25 February Reply

      Kathy, I think the key is that 2 people have to want to make it work as you’ve said. I know lots of couples who are unhappy but stay together for reasons they have concocted. You have the good fortune to have found a man you share values and interest with, and a determination to makes things work. So wonderful to hear that!

  • Christine
    Posted at 01:06h, 25 February Reply

    Great writing, both yours Walker and Ms Kelly’s. I have sent Ms Kelly’s to my daughter, 24, in a steady relationship. Oh how I wish someone older and wiser had talked to me like this before I married. (I haven’t had the courage to share your blog with her Walker! I think she might just do that sign with the fingers in the throat at the idea of her mother reading about sex!)

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:21h, 25 February Reply

      Christine,
      Oh my, a 24 year old. How time flies and yes I suspect she’d be gagging over the idea of you reading about sex. I know mine do! Hopefully at some older age they’ll appreciate our openness.
      Like you I wish I’d had this kind of advice much earlier in life. I married for all the wrong reasons and stayed too long for all the wrong reasons. But, I can’t really regret things when the benefits are the wonderful adult children I have. Right?

  • Mindy
    Posted at 05:49h, 25 February Reply

    Excellent article, Walker! Much to ponder. I was single for a very long time prior to meeting someone on line at the age of 59. Being open to possibilities is important (mine is a long distance relationship – not ideal…or maybe it is). I don’t ‘need’ someone to make me feel complete or take care of me but I do enjoy having a trustworthy man in my life. And I also like my alone time. It is a conundrum that I have noticed in looking back at my other relationships. I seem to want someone but on my terms. I want someone in my life but not every day. My partner and I have been in a monogamous relationship for almost 3 years. It works for me, for now. He wishes we could be together 24/7. We see each other 1-2 weekends per month. Who knows where it will lead? It has been a new adventure in many ways, as every relationship should be. I am learning to be better, clearer about my expectations and listening, considering his, as well.
    Mindy
    lubeoflife.com

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:22h, 25 February Reply

      Thanks Mindy. Much to ponder indeed and I’m thinking about it myself as I begin to date again. I’ll be interested in hearing more about how your relationship with Ed is working.

  • Lynne
    Posted at 13:06h, 26 February Reply

    Wonderful article, Walker. We will be celebrating 31 of marriage this years this August. I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather spend my time – or my life – with. I am sure the years of time away due to military life helped seal our bond, as we learned quickly that time can’t be replaced. We make the most of the time we have together, because one never knows when a set of orders could drop. Now, off to read Ms. Kelly’s post!

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:47h, 01 March Reply

      Lynne, always wonderful to hear stories of strong marriages. My son is in the military so I have some sense of what that does to refocus a relationship. Thank you for sharing your story. Hope you enjoyed Caitlin Kelly’s article as well.

  • Laura
    Posted at 00:26h, 02 March Reply

    Who knows how long this relationship will last but one lesson we’ve learned from each already on this new journey is the act of taking care of one another is the most important aspect of a relationship between two people. It’s the foundation: this desire to care for one another. This desire to be cared for has been out of necessity in my case. It’s been a huge and hard lesson for me, allowing someone to care for me.

    • Walker
      Posted at 08:16h, 02 March Reply

      “This desire to care for one another” I think sums up the essence of a good solid relationship. Glad you’ve had someone around when you needed it.

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