“I will be here, you can cry on my shoulder,
When the mirror tells us we’re older,
I will hold you.”
(Steven Curtis Chapman)
I’ve always had a thing for those older couples you see walking down the way together, hand in hand. It’s a beautiful vision: Relationships that go the distance through whatever curveballs and fast balls come.
I posted the picture above on social media and explained that this is a couple I see leaving the gym together more days than not. I stated that I choose not to ask the million dollar question, (“How did you make it to this age apparently still so in love?”) because I don’t want to intrude or make things weird. No less than 20 people wanted me to ask them anyway.
Apparently it’s not just me.
From the Source
I had a colleague some years ago who was in that kind of marriage just as I was getting to know my current husband. I remember asking him one day, “When do those awful conflicts that go all wrong and hurt so much stop happening?” He replied, “You mean like the one my wife and I had yesterday?”
That put it in perspective for me. Mature love isn’t some prosaic bliss we one day achieve; It’s a daily choice to grow together and keep re-aligning with and maturing our dream for our life together. It’s only possible if both people have the same vision, stage after stage, relationship iteration after relationship iteration, year after year.
“I Will Be Here”
The lyrics above come from a song that was popular in my social circle during the years in my life when every summer brought multiple weddings, (30+ years ago.) We all wanted to be that couple. We wanted to go the distance, hand in hand with this person we married.
Some of those couples are still together. Some are stronger than ever, usually after going through major challenges together. Some are still physically together, but have lost one another’s intimate company, or never really had it. Some of us went our separate ways.
We wanted a magic formula that would assure that we would become one of those inspiring and inspired older couples walking hand in hand in their latter life, together.
To Watch You Grow in Beauty
What is it with those couples that roll with all of the changes life brings? Bodies get seriously ill, stress beats up on our resiliency, age and gravity take their toll. Sometimes we wear out psychologically or go through major spiritual changes. Stress on stress can make it hard to stay connected at times, and then sometimes the distance becomes permanent.
Some couples seem to graciously accept these changes, together, even when they are brutal. The common thread I’ve seen in couples like this is a genuine esteem and continued fascination with one another through it all.
Fred and Ginger
My mother and stepfather had been together, lovingly connected, for 38 years when my mother died of cancer. They had both changed so much in those years, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
He had kidney cancer and then back surgery. He was painfully laid off in his 50’s. She was diagnosed with a breast cancer that a previous doctor had ignored. She had a mastectomy and chemo. She fought her way back with radiation and rehab, only to be laid flat by that same cancer later on. She was slowly debilitated over years and years, wearing them both out before she finally got relief through dying.
Going the Distance
Through all of that, they still held hands, still loved one another, supported one another, laughed and joked, shared their experiences and perspectives, living in all of the messiness, together. He took care of her, tenderly caring for her bloated, dying body, stroking her thin hair and papery skin. She still looked at him with that sparkle that belonged only to him. They cried together as they contemplated an unfathomable good bye.
It wasn’t perfect. Their nerves frayed and they occasionally lost their patience. One partner’s way of coping did not always sit well with the other. They were just as human as the rest of us.
However, they continued to hold one another with profound, intimate respect. They stayed curious about one another. She didn’t stop noticing his kindness, his gentleness, his sense of humor. He didn’t stop admiring her intelligence, her creativity and her generous compassion. They saw one another, and they let each other know it.
For the record, I do not recommend reading a parent’s journal after they die? But I did, so I can share some things from my mother’s perspective with confidence: She lived in the emotional attraction that came from watching and admiring his unique effect on the world, on her, and on our family. He held her in the same regard.
That esteem can feed an attraction – a desire to be as close to this person as you possibly can, regardless of how their “wrapper” changes over time. Bodies fade, beliefs change, people grow, but love and attraction don’t have to die in a relationship.
Mutuality & Respect
It would be lovely if each person who wants to, would find someone who receives this kind of love from them and gives it back in kind. For a million different reasons, many of us won’t. Everybody’s life story is unique.
Whether your story plays out like this or not, it remains a beautiful way for human beings to treat one another, regardless of the kind of relationship they’re in. I’ll keep striving for it. I hope you will too.
Do you ever feel tangled up in relationships? Contact Tiffany today. Let’s unwork some of the knots together.