Love looks less like I thought it did when I was young.
Love is the glue that holds many couples together, the look in your partner’s eyes after a difficult day that says “Thank you for being here, I trust you and couldn’t do it without you.”
This clip from Fiddler on the Roof shows what love is like for many couples who have been through hardship and don’t question what they’re doing together. (The song Do You Love Me? Subtitled in English, 2:51.)
The husband asks his wife of 25 years if she loves him. It’s probably the first time he has raised that question, because their marriage was arranged when they were very young. For some couples with illness or accident in their marriage, it may seem like life together is about service and toil, doing what must be done. Upon reflection, the husband and wife in Fiddler decide their shared journey must be love also, not just the love experienced by their young, hopeful, naïve children. She asks: if that isn’t love, what is?
Especially in the month of February, love is associated with hearts, flowers, poetry, swooning, chocolates (maybe a side of insulin.) This is the flashy love of youth, of charged hormones, of excitation and desire.
Real love isn’t about any of that, although those things can be nice. Real Grownup Love is strong. It’s tough, has sinews and bones and requires guts and nerve. Real love lets us be ourselves, flawed, not knowing the right words to say, trying, feeling gratitude welling up in our throat. Real love is in it for the long haul. It carries us, accompanies us through the difficult times, over the bumps in the road, down roads we may not have chosen for ourselves.
Love can make us want to be our best selves, to show up beside our Beloved.
Love has many expressions. It even has languages! (Thank you, Gary Chapman, author of the 5 Love Languages) The five languages of love are:
You may enjoy all of these or really only look for one. Ironically, most of us like to offer the love language that WE find most important instead of the one(s) our partner prefers. Make a point of offering them what has the most meaning to them.
Ask your partner: which love languages are the most important to you? How can I let you know for sure that I love you?
One last thought: find ways to offer yourself love, whether it is taking a break, having some personal down-time, finding an additional caregiver to allow a minute’s more ease, then forgive yourself for not shouldering 100% of the task of caregiving. As they remind us on airplanes, please adjust your own oxygen mask before attending to the person next to you.
Kelly Rees, Board-Certified Sexologist, ACS, Qualified Mental Health Associate, PhD Human Sexuality, MBA, BA Psychology, Certified Circlework Leader, Institute for Circlework has studied intimacy, sexuality, communication, self-expression, and Tantra since 1997 and assisted Alan Lowen in the Body, Heart & Soul series for years. She began practicing Transcendental Meditation in 1972 and yoga in 1971.
In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rees offers workshops and classes on intimacy, sexuality, communication, boundaries, vulnerability, and presence. She teaches sexual health in a drug and alcohol addiction recovery center.