It’s Valentine’s Day. For some, it brings the hope and promise of romance, or perhaps the predictable symbolic gesture of ardor in a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Others endure the holiday much like an undesired task, such as scrubbing the soap scum off the grout in the shower, holding their breath so the fumes don’t spread into their lungs.
It depends where you are on the love continuum: married, divorced, single, freshly heartbroken, widowed or engaged — or perhaps jaded, infatuated, satisfied or on the warpath.
My husband contends, “Every day is Valentine’s Day around here, honey.” It may smack of a way to get around roses and a fancy candlelit dinner on the town, but he’s actually telling the truth. He declares his undying love for me daily and considers himself “the luckiest man on the planet” when I’m still there every morning.
Does that mean we are living the dream on our little slice of paradise?
Many days, yes. All days? No. Or, as it’s popular to say now: it’s complicated.
All couples experience the yin and yang of love. It’s not hearts and flowers every day. Sometimes it’s arguments and vexation. I wonder if that is precisely what makes love worthwhile — experiencing both sides of the coin, the highs and lows, the jubilations and aches, the delights and exasperations.
Far too many people compare their relationships to the saccharine public version of whatever is being served up by the couples they know. From there, it’s easy to make erroneous judgments, usually not in their own favor.
When couples we know divorce, how often is there an outcry of surprise? We can’t believe it. They were so good together! Much like that serial killer down the street we thought was “so nice.”
My point is we often don’t really know what’s going on with the man behind the curtain. We’ve been conditioned not to air our dirty laundry in public. Not that I condone bashing one’s mate to the masses. Private matters are best kept private, worked out amongst the two people in question. I simply wish we could be a tad more realistic and honest with each other. It might help more couples stay together to know their reality is normal.
I asked friends and family to weigh in on the love equation, hoping they’d be brave enough to answer honestly about the plusses and minuses.
One friend wrote, “Love. The longer you keep it, the more you see the value. I read once that in every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find and continue to find grounds for marriage. I can’t say ours is perfect. We are opposites in many ways, but we find at times, it’s a perfect recipe. He likes air conditioning. I like fresh air and the windows open. He likes the TV on all day. I never watch! But somehow, we still find plenty we like to do together and value the moments we match. Anyhow, 25 years later, I guess it’s working.”
One wife (and mother) confided she envies couples that truly love to be with one another, sharing their lives and letting the other in close. “If you have these blessings, count them as such because it doesn’t happen to everyone. It’s easy to blame your significant other for your relationship’s shortcomings. You need to be open to the very real possibility that it is you who cannot be entirely and wholly available to your partner for whatever reasons define your reality. It’s nothing to dwell on; there’s no point to that. Give what you can. Love how you can. And stay positive — or have your partner killed.”
Another friend said the secret to the success in her current relationship is being good friends, respecting each other and having a big sense of humor. “We keep each other laughing — sometimes surprisingly and sometimes on purpose, to get us through the hard times and even hard battles. Love highs happen all the time — there’s a look, a gesture, something said or just an observation that makes you fall in love all over again.” She added that “love lows” are typically a result of “life happening” around them.
Many said love is about the little things, the niceties — having the coffee ready in the morning for each other, building a fire to cozy by, making sure clean socks are available. One said, “You have to realize it’s not always going to be perfect or bliss. It’s work, patience, understanding and remembering, when he drives me crazy, those times when he did something nice.”
Sage words, and perhaps my husband’s attitude is best: act like every day is Valentine’s Day. But don’t throw out the box because of one spoiled chocolate.
This column appeared in The Journal on Sunday, February 14, 2016.
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