What is Love? Let me tell you a story about two friends of mine. They are married, with three children under ten. The have the usual financial pressures many young families face as they grow both their families and their businesses. Sometimes there is alot of work around, other times cash is harder to come by but time is more plentiful. They know how to laugh. They are both firmly committed to raising happy, amazing children. It's a juggling act. Sometimes they get very tired and bored of the routine, even each other. They try to make time to be a couple, not just parents, but it doesn't always work out that way. Their work committments see them travelling separately, away from home at times for a week, two weeks, at a stretch. Of course, there are temptations. They choose to trust each other, even though sorely tested occasionally.
The other night I called to say hi and had a great long chat with the husband. She was out and he felt he could speak freely. I am a very long-standing friend - safe to confide in. He obviously needed a willing ear. He was having doubts. He didn't think she found him attractive anymore, they weren't being intimate as often as he would like, he was tired of the constant demands of the children, he didn't feel free. He wanted to cut loose and party and drink and stay out late and not call home and wear the same shirt for a week and eat ice cream three times a day and play computer games till dawn and go on a cruise and meet hot younger women. Okay. Thanks for trusting me with that...
"Do you love her?" I asked.
"Yes. Yes, I do," he said. "But I am not IN love with her, anymore, you know?"
Yes, I hear you. Those glorious, hormonal highs of being "in love", the rush, the heart pounding, the desperate need to just be where they are, touching their arm, knee, back, anything, whenever you walk past each other. The excitement of waiting for them to come home, to spend the day together, to have another adventure side by side.
"What does that mean to you?" I asked.
He couldn't really say. "I just don't feel connected, anymore. She's too busy. She's not interested in me. She's way more interested in her work than she is in me. She takes me for granted. She never even cooks dinner for us. I'm the Mr Mom. I'm sick of it".
"But you love her..."
Hollywood has done us a massive disservice. Life is not like the stories we see on the big screen. Not every day is a music video clip or a rom-com with a happy ending and a poignant moral lesson. Our expectations of life - ourselves and our partners - are coloured by mythology. When the everyday wears us down we rail against the machine, which can sometimes feel like our spouse (except we forget that they are probably feeling trapped, and are not the captor but the captured also).
When we are in the grind we can look at our lives and measure ourselves harshly against the dream, the story we have in our heads of how things should be. As we get older, we berate ourselves for falling short or not being "there" yet or having made bad choices or... just get scared that this is all there is. Under pressure, we feel a need to squirm free, jump sideways, or just plain run... away.
But what if love is not a feeling, not chemicals running through our brain, not Hollywood movies, starlit nights and clandestine meetings and sexy knickers.
What if being "in love" is getting up everyday at the same time, making a cup of tea, driving the kids to school and, after a long day, collapsing into bed beside your equally exhausted partner and falling instantly to sleep, day after day, after day. In it. Totally consumed by the life you have created with your partner. Right in the thick of it.
Or what if love is a verb, a "doing" word... and the act of simply sticking it out IS the love story? It may lack some of the highs (and lows) of the Hollywood drama but it's way more substantial than 100 minutes of celluloid. It's painfully real, at times. And beautifully real at others.
"So what are you going to do?" I said.
"I dunno," he said. "Hey, I'd better go. It's my turn to cook tonight. Thanks for the chat."
"No problem. Anytime."
I'm not sure what his choice will be... but I have my suspicions.
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