I have said a couple times lately that I think the fine institution of marriage needs term limits; like at year 15, you both could yell “SWAP”. Ha! What that vision would include is that somewhere during year 12 when you fantasize about pinching their nose clean off their face because they continue to leave their crap all over the house for you to clean, you could just tell yourself, “don’t do it, just a few more short years”. Ha! (I feel the need to insert “just kidding” right here. Hopefully that wasn’t necessary, but either way, just wanted to be on the safe side. Ha!)
I do have something on my mind though about this very topic. Picture this. You’re sitting at your desk when a new co-worker comes around to meet you. The both of you hit it off nicely and after a week or so of brief office chit chat, you go for a quick lunch one day. After several quick lunch dates that go fairly well, you decide to go out for dinner and a movie one Friday night. It gets to where you start noticing increased heart rate; a little excitement when you see this new interest round the corner to your office or when you see their name pop up on your phone; you feel your cheeks blush with certain eye contact or simple touches and just the thought of a kiss makes you giddy with anticipation. You begin hanging out more and more, determine that you are now going steady and get to the moment of saying those precious three little words, “I love you.” After that, you are attached to the person…feelings of possessiveness come into play, they are yours…your special person. You feel safety when you’re with them and seek them out while in a crowd. You’re just naturally drawn to them.
Typically the next step would include meeting the families, later getting engaged and finally marriage…Lord willing and the Creeks don’t rise. Right? So which part is the love part? All those mushy feelings or the part where you say “I love you”…which to me signifies that you will love them or continue the act of loving them for an undetermined amount of time? With this comes the question of today…is love a noun or a verb?
I’ve come to realize that we have a very skewed view of love when we see love as the noun…those mushy feelings if you will. Let me just tell you, feelings come and go as quick as Aunt Sally’s Homemade Banana Pudding or Uncle Fred’s Scratch and Win Lotto money. (insert eye roll)
Marriages have been thrown away for the sheer fact that one or both spouses don’t feel like they love the other any more. If love is a feeling, then yes, you probably don’t love them anymore. If love is an action (verb), you can choose whether you do or not. I think real change happens in a failing marriage when you come to view love as an action and not a feeling. You can make that choice to “act” all day long, but feelings, you have no control over; they come and go with the wind.
When we vow to love someone for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part, do we really know what we are promising? I’ve posed the question before…if we knew what til death do us part meant for us as a couple, would we still walk that aisle?
As a hospice Social Worker, my eyes are wide open as to what that phrasing means. We are saying that we will love our spouse until they take their final breath; that we will wipe their behind when they are unable to do so themselves; that we will make difficult decisions about nursing home placement; that we will spend some lonely years when the kids move out to live their own dream; that we will possibly lose our ability to help our mate when they experience a decline in health because we ourselves are experiencing a decline in health; we may look at each other from one wheelchair to another and chuckle at the fine situation you both find yourselves in this time.
Of course, all of this time from the aisle of the church to a spouse’s final breath is riddled with bad but also with much good. Funny memories are created from eating Ramen Noodles and dented-can-mystery-meat from the clearance bin because diapers and formula are super expensive; moments spent on the back porch after the babies are down for the night; sweet moments spent on the couch under a cozy blanket while you watch television…or while the television watches you cuddle and smooch; moments of pride as you see your children grow and chase their own dreams; grandbabies being born…just so many good times also.
I find myself back to the difficult question of how can one couple make it to the final breath and some make it only to ten years and a divorce attorney? I’ve decided it’s all in your perspective. You can make that choice to love or you can hit the road the moment the mushy feelings flee the scene. But I can assure you, the next relationship you run to will entail all of those same feelings initially but they too will finally dissipate. How many times do we change partners to chase those feel good mushy lovey dovey feelings that accompany new love? How many is enough?
Sipping some delicious warm soothing “muddy water” as a friend recently called it and thinking to myself that after 26 years of marriage…and no term limits…I might better view love as an action because those mushy feelings have been g-g-g-gone for a minute now. Ha! ~paula