Be honest… Did you wake up to Valentines Day, and wish there was some way you could close your eyes and wish it were already tomorrow. But alas, there is no escape, and all you are left with is your Facebook feed, and with it the inevitable introspection, projection, and self-flagellation that comes with having to measure up to that ever elusive standard of love, forever ingrained on our psyche by the inescapable romantic culture we are immersed in. The writer Alain de Botton has a beautiful, and what some might say—catastrophic, description of marriage to which he contends often “ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.”
My wife and I will be celebrating 30 years of marriage later this summer, and as you can expect, over the years we’ve seen far too many relationships crumble around us. And somewhere along the way, we have become that ‘old married couple’ that many of our friends aspire to be. People often ask me what’s the secret to staying together for such a long time, and more particularly, how can you still be so crazy in love with your wife after all these years?
To be honest, I really struggle with how to answer that question because neither one of us has ever thought of our marriage being predicated on happiness. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “If you’re not happy, why would you stay together?” But here’s the thing, if you’re looking to find your happiness in another person, you’re setting yourself up for constant turmoil, disappointment, and disillusionment. I’ve always seen our marriage as something that transcends the waxing and waning of happiness, and instead, it has more to do with the ephemeral landscape of faith. Even the phrase, ‘falling in love’ denotes a chaotic and unscripted tumble into the abyss. It’s only when we try to script that journey that we interrupt the natural flow that brought us into joyous communion to begin with.
So, I return to my previous statement—Am I happy all the time? No, but I am loved all the time, and therein lies what I believe to be the beautiful mystery of any successful long-term relationship. Even though I’ve been married to the same person for almost three decades now, I would say that we’ve had numerous marriages throughout that time, each delicately demarcated by the undulations of bending and growing as our partner relaxes into, and at times, challenges that space of being loved.
But overall, what I’m most proud of is not that we have remained together for so many years, but that we continually made the decision to love our partner in the darkest and most vulnerable moments. It was in these times of aching uncertainty that we had the greatest faith to fall towards love again, and again. As I close my eyes on yet another Valentines Day, I push against the weight of the current, and once again remind myself that love is not a revolution… It’s an evolution… And so, I will continue to tumble forward with you, my dear.