BGIM muses on love, loving and partnerships

A day for love and romance or a day to hide under the comforters with a Whitman sampler and a gallon of ice cream…welcome to Valentine’s Day.  The jackpot day for florists, chocolate makers and a host of businesses that thrive on the business of love. Make no mistake, love is a business, even during the economic downturn, wedding planners and others involved in the industrial love complex still did rather well.

In our culture we are socialized to pair up, our crowning achievement is hitching our wagon to someone else’s wagon. It starts early and builds and by the time we hit our 30’s or so, society has socialized us to believe something is wrong with us if we are not paired up like the creatures boarding Noah’s Ark.

Yet in a society that places such an emphasis on coupledom, we rarely ever talk about what happily ever after looks like as the years pass by. This past fall, the Man Unit and I celebrated 16 years of marriage, having been together as a couple 18 years. But what few knew until recently is that our marriage for several years has fluctuated between critical but stable condition and critical condition. A lack of love has never been our issue but it turns out that living happily ever after and growing old together requires a lot more than love. It requires realistic expectations about what loving and living together really looks like and understanding that while pop culture and singers like Beyoncé love to sell us on the idea of a “Drunk in Love” style of love which is hot, sweaty and passionate, most of us live lives of love that don’t involve all night love making and waking up on the kitchen floor.

In my own journey of marital woes, I have discovered that for far too many of us the lens of what love “should” be is limited to ideas heavily influenced by the lives of others. (Note: Never compare your own partnership to that of another; it’s a great recipe to feel like shit) When that love falls short of what it seems love is, we often move on. I suspect this is why the divorce rate in the US is as high as it is with many divorces happening before couples hit the 10 year mark. 

Last weekend’s NY Times Magazine ran an article “ Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?” and it ended with this quote “It’s a tall order for one person to be your partner in Management Inc., your best friend and passionate lover. There’s a certain part of you that with this partner will not be fulfilled. You deal with that loss. It’s a paradox to be lived with, not solved.” In many ways this quote gets to the heart of all that I believe makes modern day love so damn hard to navigate and in many ways sets us up for failure.  We want to lean in to love and partnership and we want it all. Yet very few of us have it all and the refusal to accept that keeps us on the hamster wheel of love and desire.  Hence why as soon as we break up, we start thinking about eventually having a new partner.

I do know a few people who claim to still have that perfect for them love which includes the daily sex, passion and drunk in love vibe. I don’t doubt it either but for many of us the passion years give way to the simmer years of life. The simmer years are deceptive because they feel wrong; they are the years where life happens, where kids are raised, parents grow old and die, our own health scares start happening and shit…life happens. It is also the time in life when modern expectations say that our partners are supposed to be our sun, moon, stars and universe and when these human partners fall short…well, hell breaks loose. Never mind that while we are in the midst of living, loving and simmering life that we ourselves are evolving as individuals. Few of us stay the same, I met the Man Unit when I was 22 and he was 27 and in our case, we are not those people anymore. We don’t even look like those people anymore!

Love is not a one size fits all thing; it is multi-layered and filled with depth. The most basic and necessary of all love is to love and celebrate our individual selves and know that from a healthy sense of personal love, all other love grows and forms in healthy soil. Love is fluid; it too evolves and shifts and sometimes ends in one form but continues on in another form.  

So on this day of love whether you have a sweet honey or not, remember that you are your first lover and partner.

 

Musings on Love

My six year old daughter is enamored by all things princess, thanks to the peer pressure from her comrades at the educational institution as well as the general marketing that seems to think girls 4-whatever age should be in love with princesses. I admit this love of being a princess is a hard one for me to swallow, I have thought long and hard on my own childhood and I barely recall a desire to be a princess, nor do I care for the sickly saccharine pinks that are peddled to girls today. I was more of a let’s be an explorer type, going so far as to fashion my own detective agency when I was a kid and searching for clues at the abandoned house across the street from where I lived. I imagine if a parent let their child walk around an empty house today, they’d be strung up by the mommy brigade.

In addition to the love for all things princess, my girl has been asking more and more about love and the idea of falling in love and all that romantic junk. Which having sat and watched a few shows that are marketed to kids today, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Needless to say, I am once again back to the delicious to me idea of just pulling the plug on the TV, but that’s a story for another time.

Love… from the time we are little kids we hear about this concept, this thing, this emotion.  We spend so much of our resources seeking it, but what does it really mean? Love has so many faces that it reveals to us, it’s the pure love a mother has when meeting her baby for the first time after giving birth. Love is what allows us to tell adult kids we will help them financially when we really want to tell them, screw you! Love is what makes you throw all caution to the wind and start planning a wedding to someone you have only been dating two months. Love is what keeps a couple together when the unthinkable happens.

In our culture we love the concept of love; half the songs ever written seem to be about love. We are told all we need is love, hell if you are a rap mogul named Jay-Z, mere hours after your wife gives birth to your firstborn you pen a song proclaiming your love to your child for all to hear. Love when it works is amazing but frankly what about when love no longer works?

Love sometimes simply stops, sometimes love becomes distorted and becomes a passionate hate that can destroy all. Sometimes love simply is not enough and when love ceases to fill our cup to the top, that is the hardest of all in a society that indoctrinates us from an early age that love is what we need.

I am convinced that we have it half right, love is important, we do need love but the most important love will not and cannot come from a charming Prince or Princess. The love we need most is love of self and that is the type of love I would like to see peddled, a love that keeps us happy and content with ourselves no matter what. When you have love of self and are confident and secure in that love, you can face down anything and anyone and emerge intact unlike this sappy sweet love the media sells us that says we are not complete unless we have a partner.

 

 

Musings on Love

Its Valentine’s Day, a day when flower shops, candy stores and Victoria’s Secret all probably do a brisk business. A day when expectations often exceed our reality and leave us feeling let down. Regular readers know I have been married a while, its been 11 years to be exact, 13 years total that we have been together.

In light of the day, I feel like sharing a few thoughts on this love thang….for starters I am convinced that the reason divorce rates are so high these days in the US is because most of us are walking around approaching the business of love like a bunch of teenage girls.

See, falling in love feels good, when boy meets girl and a connection is made, it feels great. In the early days of most courtships, we are on our good behavior, even at the point we realize the relationship is serious, we are still walking around not truly revealing ourselves in many cases.

I just shared some of this with the Spousal Unit yesterday so now I will share it with you. The past few years of our marriage have been less than perfect, truthfully at times the idea of bailing has sometimes crossed my mind. Why you ask? Well as we settled down, meaning we bought the house and added our own child to the mix, life started to get heavy. In the past 3-4 years, there hasn’t been much time for all the sweet shit that made me marry Mister Spousal Unit, but after closer examination I realized that the problem is not that we have fallen out of love, its just that I was still operating with a teenagers view of love.

I realized when I thought about my parents own marriage, 31 years and it was one of those to death did they part affairs and I know first hand it was not all roses, in fact there was about 10 years that were less than ideal, yet my folks were old school so they realized it wasn’t going to be all good. The saddest tragedy with my Mom’s early death is that right before she took ill, they actually were falling back into that teenage love and it was obvious to all around. In fact they finally had the house to themselves since their entire marriage had been spent raising kids, since I was born 6 weeks after they married. Yet no matter how rough the road got they were there for each other.

Today as I sit back and look at the examples of love they showed, I know now what they had was real despite the fact it was messy as hell at times. Yet when my Mom was sick, too sick to even cook, I watched my Dad, a man whose cooking skills are greatly lacking attempting to prepare the same homecooked meals my Mom had lovingly prepared for 30 years…yeah the food sucked but she knew he did it out of love.

No, real love often involves that mundane non-glamourous shit…around here the hubby shows his love by driving my no driving self around when he really would prefer not too. Its love shown by allowing me my time in the morning to drink coffee and veg out on the computer while he plays with our daughter. Every night he makes me a glass of ice water and carries its up to my nightstand so that I have cold water in the middle of the night.

I remind myself of these tender moments and actions when ever I start to feel pissed that he doesn’t earn much cash, granted he earns enough to still be considered the breadwinner but its less than he used to and as a middle aged man in a dying career, I know it fucks with his pride. Sometimes he gets sad that no longer can we afford the weekend getaways that marked the early years of our relationship, gone are the special Vicky’s Secrets for no reason.

Yet these things are not love, shit the fact that when I was almost 50 lbs overweight he still loved and desired me and never once made negative comments about the weight remind me that his love is real. I will admit sometimes I fall short in the reciprocation department, after all I know I should stop bitching about his missing hair, its been years since he cut it off since the receding hair line wasn’t working.

Sometimes love doesn’t feel like what we think it should, its not always butterflies in the stomach, sometimes its just a feeling of contentment knowing that your partner has your back.

Anyway happy Valentine’s Day, if you are not partnered its still as day to share love, the love of family and friends is just as special as the love of a partner.