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