Intimate relationships are a complicated thing. I often have to remind myself, now 30 years into my relationship, that being in love with my husband is a daily commitment. There are many times in a week where I don't necessarily feel "in love" with him, and I'm confident that he shares these same feelings of not always having butterflies in his stomach when he looks at me. It has, after all, been three decades!
But what we've lost in fireworks and butterflies, we've more than made up in connection, comradery, respect and depth. All those "new love" feelings have been replaced with a soulful and deeply committed love. A love that feels more solid, comforting and trustworthy.
This has not always been the case in our marriage. I don't know where you're at in your partnership: maybe just married, a couple years or thinking of throwing in the towel because you're concerned that the love is dead. But, I can assure you, based on my own experience, that if you hold on tight and fight for the love that got you into the relationship in the first place, the depth of connection you receive on the other side of it is worth its weight in gold.
I say this with utter confidence because I've been that woman, the one who lost faith in her marriage, who believed it was only going to go "downhill," and so I left. In the time we were separated, I wandered around the male horizon, looking for a new soulmate. That person who would get me back to that place of lust, the one who "got me," who desired me and who made life fun, light, exciting and interesting again. I dated many men of all ages, financial brackets and cultural backgrounds. None of them made me feel like my husband did. While I was soul searching, I came to realize that even though our marriage hadn't been perfect, our shared values, passions and interests were something to hold onto.
During our marriage hiatus, there was one comment that kept playing over in my mind. Our marriage therapist had said, "Hate for a partner is not what signifies the end of a relationship. Not at all. Hatred is not the end, in fact hate is the opposite side of the emotion: love. Without love you cannot be angry, hurt or upset by another person. If you didn't still love somebody then their actions would leave you feeling nothing. The way you can tell that a relationship is really truly over is when you feel indifferent toward that person."
At first, it wasn't easy for either of us to go back
I can assure you during our separation I felt anything but "indifferent" toward my estranged husband. What I felt, often while I lay in my bed all alone at night with my eyes closed, was sadness and broken-heartedness. When I imagined my daughters walking down the aisle on their wedding days, I couldn't bear the thought of each of us on either side of the altar, sitting with people who weren't a part of the history that got us there. When I envisioned my life "winding down," and all the epic places I'd yet to go, it was always his face I saw looking at me, his hand in mine. Now that I had discovered this, how would I get back to him?
At first, it wasn't easy for either of us to go back. His heart had been shattered by my abrupt decision to pull the plug on us. But with years of counseling, I was able to convey to him the important lessons that I learned on my soul-searching journey. I had uncovered that love is not a feeling but rather a commitment, and a decision. I learned from being apart from him that he was his own person, with his own thoughts, feelings, dreams, ideals, joys and interests, just like me. I came to realize in that one-year separation that marriage isn't about ownership; it is, and always will be, about partnership.
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It has been 14 years since we separated. It's still a daily commitment to be in love, but the doubts of my youth, of wondering would I, an adult, still pick the man standing beside me that I did at 18, are gone. My answer is a resounding yes.
So, if you're on the fence or worried there's nothing left fighting for in your intimate relationship, stop and ask yourself that same question that I did so many years ago, then close your eyes and try to picture you in your future life. Look inside your heart, see who's standing beside you and then move forward from that place.
I will leave you with this one thought, or mantra if you will: to be in love is grand, but, to be love is better.
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