The One I Love
Those of us who have been married for
a very long time (this writer has 45 years and counting) finally come to
realize that being in love with someone long-term like that introduces an
unexpected dynamic that’s difficult to explain because it sounds kind of
bizarre to the uninitiated.
I fell in love with my wife 50
years ago, when we were both still teenagers.
I can’t speak for her on this part, but I can
say with confidence that I was so completely enamored that a kind of veil
fell over my eyes when I looked at her:
I saw this idealized young beauty, with
graceful movements and soft-spoken charm and quiet intelligence, and I would
have been hard-pressed to admit any flaws in her.
Of course, in theory, I knew that nobody’s
in those halcyon days where the air seemed a little clearer and the sun a
little brighter and the future a little rosier, I couldn’t even imagine
wanting her to be any different.
Now fast-forward a few years.
Of course the newness and freshness has worn
off, and we have begun to raise a family (though we’re not really talking
about rearing children here, just the relationships between the adults).
My wife is still gorgeous, and she’s begun to
demonstrate some aspects of her personality that previously had not had an
opportunity to come out:
like a Mom nurturing her babies.
Like a person in charge of running a household,
with all those myriad details to attend.
Yes, she still had her girlhood friends, but we
also now had young couple friends, where the dynamics of interchange were
decidedly different. And
we’d now had the experience of presenting ourselves to others as a married
couple, as a kind of unified partnership, with all the give-and-take that
that implies, particularly when the individuals don’t always agree.
Yes, that can be as trivial as where to set the
thermostat (wait, maybe that’s not so trivial) to so momentous as where we
somehow in the midst of all this busy-ness I’m seeing a different person
in front of me than before, and yet I’m also, simultaneously, seeing the
person she used to be, and always was.
And yes, there are times that I feel like I’m
relating to these different aspects of her, sometimes invoking old patterns
of playfulness, and occasionally there is a certain smile or change of
expression or even physical movement that invokes some of those earlier
eras, as well.
So what I’m trying to say here
is that I’m in love with the girl I first met, and also, simultaneously,
the young woman she became, and also the life-partner, and the Mom, and now
the Grandmom, the regal, genteel woman of a certain measurable maturity, all
wrapped in one. And I’ve now become a part of her family and she’s
become a part of mine, and other people see us as inextricably intertwined,
but we’re not, really.
We’re still two very different people, who
now have a bunch of shared experience. Admittedly, that in itself helps us
with our comfortable familiarity with one another.
Ah, but how does one then inject excitement
back into the relational mix? The thrill of the fresh intimacy?
Is that even possible, or even desirable in a
Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie
(Elisabeth Moss) have been married long enough now that they’ve been
asking themselves those questions, and struggling to find answers.
Their marriage counselor (Ted Danson) suggests
a weekend retreat, and they readily agree, but there they come face-to-face
with their own tendencies to desire an idealized version of their mate,
rather than the “real” one.
Who wouldn’t want to take the charming and
winsome parts of a person and leave behind the less desirable aspects?
But even if you could do that, are you somehow
falling in love with the ideal, rather than the real?
And if so, how long can that last?
Any more about the plot would
give it away. But
those of us in comfortable LTRs will find much food for thought here.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,