Sustaining Love

 

In a recent essay by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, he quoted David Brooks (yes, that David Brooks as far as I can tell) on the way a person maintains his or her love for another. Brooks said:

My favourite definition of commitment is falling in love with something and then building a structure of behavior around it for the moment when love falters. [Italics by R. Sacks]

I was moved by this practical and profound observation. It reminds me of those times when young people ask me when they’ll be able to stop working so hard at the relationship with a significant other, and I answer, “Never.” Personally, I would not use the word “work,” because that commitment comes out of devotion and dedication, not out of obligation. But in life, love can falter or be challenged, and we must decide whether or not we are in for the long haul.

Some of the commitment can be demanding. My husband has a condition that requires him to cough. As his condition worsens, his coughing is more frequent. The common area in our home is tile and we have twelve-foot ceilings. I flat out told him one day that if he was worried about my tolerating his cough, he needed to know he wasn’t getting rid of me that easily. I was there for the duration. He also tells me he will outlive me; knowing how stubborn he can be, he might very well do that! (For those of you who love to help, his condition is bronchiectasis, is not treatable and its cause is uncertain.)

But love does not rest on one vow or statement of commitment. It is sustained by our behavior in our everyday lives. Both of us do many things every day to re-commit to our love, in addition to saying thank you for small acts, and stating our love for each other.

Jerry has decided he loves to cook, so he usually makes dinner. He says I’m no longer trustworthy (not true!) in sorting and doing the laundry, so he’s now doing that.(It’s hard to argue since his folding is a work of art.)

I plan the menu for the week so we generally know what items to shop for, and I will often be his sous chef (when he lets me in the kitchen). We both set up for dinner and breakfast, and we fight over who will turn down the bedcovers for that evening; we finally agreed that they couldn’t be turned down before 5pm. Otherwise, in trying to beat the other one to the task, they might be turned down after lunch!

There are many other caring things we do. We respect each other’s time; we keep our agreements with each other; we accommodate each other.

We behave as if we love each other.

Because we do.

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  1. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Wonderfully stated, Susan.  This is the sagest of advice.

    And it’s something that experience should teach us.  A major difference between the first years of my first marriage (age 23, widowed after 25 years and 4 kids) and my second (age 58, 3 years so far and 1 cat) is our mutual recognition of the need to support one another and hence our marriage in this way.  Observing how our parents did it in their 60s / our 30s was very instructive.

    • #1
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I think this is all true. My wife and I make it work. The thing is, we both feel we are the luckiest person in the world that the other said “yes”. We have lately been working on not stressing so much on our care-taking of the other, and actually believing the other person is OK. 

    We will be married 24 years this year, and have been a couple 28. 

    • #2
  3. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll
    @DavidCarroll

    Susan Quinn:

     

    We behave as if we love each other.

    Because we do.

    It is also true that behaving as if you love one another will help maintain the feeling.  

    I read much on the science of persuasion.  The science tells us that emotion follow actions, more than the other way around.  If you behave with love, you will feel the love.

    If one is having one other those times (and we all get them) that one is not feeling the love, just saying, “I love you,” to one’s spouse goes a long way to restoring and retaining that feeling. 

    • #3
  4. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Contempt is the killer. Gottman Institute has the research. 

    And the relationship is work, and what wonderful work it is. 

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):
    is our mutual recognition of the need to support one another and hence our marriage in this way.

    Beautifully said, @doctorrobert. It is never 50/50, but to be successful, it must be reciprocal and loving. Thanks.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I think this is all true. My wife and I make it work. The thing is, we both feel we are the luckiest person in the world that the other said “yes”. We have lately been working on not stressing so much on our care-taking of the other, and actually believing the other person is OK. 

    We will be married 24 years this year, and have been a couple 28. 

    Lovely, <span class="atwho-inserted" contenteditable="false" data-atwho-at-query="@bryang“>@bryangstephens. I so identify with the feeling that you are the luckiest person in the world! It’s clear you are a blessing to each other. Thank you for sharing.

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    David Carroll (View Comment):
    I read much on the science of persuasion. The science tells us that emotion follow actions, more than the other way around. If you behave with love, you will feel the love.

    So many people do the opposite–waiting until they feel like doing something! Yes, when we act loving, we nurture that feeling and do more of the same. Thanks, @davidcarroll.

    • #7
  8. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    My husband insists on a kiss when leaving and one on returning to the house, even if only going to the mail box. Also a kiss after dinner, no matter who has prepared it. It seems like a little thing but it is a constant reminder to stay close. 27 years now and second marriage for both.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I love it; that is so sweet. I am usually the first one to leave the table at breakfast and lunch, and give him a kiss when I do. He’s a good kisser, too!

    • #9
  10. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Susan Quinn:

    We behave as if we love each other.

    Because we do.

    Actions speak louder than words though words are important too. We make it a point to do little things for each other regularly. I find that it is the spontaneous things that get noticed but everyday regular actions that make things easier for a spouse are important. I make breakfast each day, just because that’s something I can do and it relieves Mrs. OS of one task. She loves to garden (flowers) so I build and maintain raised beds for her. I don’t weed or otherwise maintain the beds but I also don’t complain about the time it takes me to edge around the beds because I know how much fulfillment she gets out of planting, propagating and caring for her beds. I also get to enjoy the beauty of them with her. She’s really into flowers that attract hummingbirds so we also get to enjoy watching them fight over the feeders and flowers, something we like to do together. We both like to take country drives, enjoying the scenery of the countryside where we can watch the planting, development and harvesting of various crops. We try not to get in the way.
    We will celebrate 50 years of marriage next Saturday and will enjoy an Alaskan cruise later this month as our present to each other. That longevity is too much of a rarity these days we think. So the question comes up, how have we managed to stay together that long? My answer: We made vows and meant the vows we made. We set out to make it work. We worked on making it work. We don’t avoid the word work, we embrace it. When we have conflicts, and everyone does, we don’t think things are not working, we work at making things work. We find ways to rebuild trust and affection. 
    The big things are important; fidelity, common goals and aspirations, religion. But they often seem to be not enough as marriages with all these and more sometimes fail. I think attention to everyday things, intentionally finding ways to make a spouse notice that one notices them and their needs goes a long way. 

    BTW, I like to tell friends, “We’ve been married 100 years. 50 years for me and 50 for her. That’s 100 years by my reckoning.” Mrs. OS seems to think that’s just silly. But you can’t argue with math ;>)

    • #10
  11. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I think this is all true. My wife and I make it work. The thing is, we both feel we are the luckiest person in the world that the other said “yes”. We have lately been working on not stressing so much on our care-taking of the other, and actually believing the other person is OK.

    We will be married 24 years this year, and have been a couple 28.

    I like your clothes – off to WalMart, I presume?

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    OkieSailor (View Comment):
    I think attention to everyday things, intentionally finding ways to make a spouse notice that one notices them and their needs goes a long way.

    Ah, @okiesailor, you’re such a good guy! So many things I love about your comment!!

    OkieSailor (View Comment):
    BTW, I like to tell friends, “We’ve been married 100 years. 50 years for me and 50 for her. That’s 100 years by my reckoning.” Mrs. OS seems to think that’s just silly. But you can’t argue with math ;>)

    And this cracked me up! Makes sense to me!! Thanks so much and congratulations on 50 years. That’s awesome. We hit 44 years this year.

    BTW, I love your avatar. You two make an adorable couple.

    • #12
  13. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):
    is our mutual recognition of the need to support one another and hence our marriage in this way.

    Beautifully said, @doctorrobert. It is never 50/50, but to be successful, it must be reciprocal and loving. Thanks.

    My wife’s grandmother, always said that marriage is not 50/50, but 100/100. Thanks for reminding me of her.

    • #13
  14. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    BTW, I love your avatar. You two make an adorable couple

    It’s a little dated, our daughter took us to a park and did some high quality pictures about 10 years ago when she was doing professional photography. But I have no plans to change it or use an updated photo, I’d rather continue to think of myself as I was then, as they say you are only as old as you feel. 

    • #14
  15. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Words to live by! My parents were the love of each other’s lives. Since I was little, I remember they always seemed to be in a contest to see who could do the sweetest thing for the other every day. They left each other little notes etc. My dad was an alpha male all the way, but where Mom was concerned he was a pile of mush.

    I don’t have as much hope for our later generations who have grown up accustomed to instant gratification and the attention span of a music video. I’ve told this story before, but it fits here. I was on an escalator one day in an upscale mall, and there were two 20-somethings on the step behind me. I overheard one of them say, “Well it’s not like I’m gettin’ married forever or anything.”

    • #15
  16. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    “Well it’s not like I’m gettin’ married forever or anything.”

    For about the last 20 years I’ve noticed that young people looked at me like I was from Mars (Jupiter?, Men ARE from Mars) when they first learned how long we had been married. They sometimes even voiced the belief that they couldn’t even imagine wanting to be ‘with’ one person for life! It does help a lot to be with the one you love.

    The other aspect of our lives that evoked either sympathy for our insaneness or even outright condemnation was the craziness that we raised FOUR kids. Even though we adopted one, that was just too much. 
    Fortunately, for our sanity, we never much cared what other people thought. We thought it was our business, just like choices for them were none of our business. We don’t offer advice unless it is asked for, then Watch Out, you might hear more than you bargained for. 

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    I don’t have as much hope for our later generations who have grown up accustomed to instant gratification and the attention span of a music video. I’ve told this story before, but it fits here. I was on an escalator one day in an upscale mall, and there were two 20-somethings on the step behind me. I overheard one of them say, “Well it’s not like I’m gettin’ married forever or anything.”

    I love your stories about your family, @rightangles. And the “girls” you refer to (I assume they’re female) don’t understand the meaning of commitment and devotion. Their loss, and society’s loss, as well. Thanks.

    • #17
  18. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    OkieSailor (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    “Well it’s not like I’m gettin’ married forever or anything.”

    For about the last 20 years I’ve noticed that young people looked at me like I was from Mars (Jupiter?, Men ARE from Mars) when they first learned how long we had been married. They sometimes even voiced the belief that they couldn’t even imagine wanting to be ‘with’ one person for life! It does help a lot to be with the one you love.

    The other aspect of our lives that evoked either sympathy for our insaneness or even outright condemnation was the craziness that we raised FOUR kids. Even though we adopted one, that was just too much.
    Fortunately, for our sanity, we never much cared what other people thought. We thought it was our business, just like choices for them were none of our business. We don’t offer advice unless it is asked for, then Watch Out, you might hear more than you bargained for.

    And the internet has not helped matters. Everyone has emails, DMs, and Facebook “friends” flirting with them, and there’s less pressure to stay and work things out. Why bother, when there’s a stable of untapped bodies out there.

    • #18
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    OkieSailor (View Comment):
    Fortunately, for our sanity, we never much cared what other people thought. We thought it was our business, just like choices for them were none of our business. We don’t offer advice unless it is asked for, then Watch Out, you might hear more than you bargained for. 

    No kidding! I think “fitting in” has become a disease, well beyond adolescence. And that requires caring what other people say. Maturity allows us to say we will live as we wish, not as you expect. Period!

    • #19
  20. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    OkieSailor (View Comment):
    Fortunately, for our sanity, we never much cared what other people thought. We thought it was our business, just like choices for them were none of our business. We don’t offer advice unless it is asked for, then Watch Out, you might hear more than you bargained for.

    No kidding! I think “fitting in” has become a disease, well beyond adolescence. And that requires caring what other people say. Maturity allows us to say we will live as we wish, not as you expect. Period!

    I want to be different, just like everybody else!

    • #20
  21. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Susan, I like your post a lot.  It should generate a lot of interesting responses.  

    I’ve always been leery of the word “love.”  It’s been so cheapened and distorted by T.V. and films that I’m leery about using it too much.  I probably should use it more.  I think that Marie would like that.  But the word makes me a little uncomfortable. 

    Let me say that I “like” my wife a lot. And I hope that she likes me. We’re careful to never use words or actions that denigrate—in any way—the other. In our 55 years of marriage, I have never touched Marie in anger.  Nor have I ever used a denigrating word.  Those things are never forgotten, so I keep that in mind.

    We’re mild-mannered Likers.   No one will ever write a love story about our lives unless his aim is to bore his readers.  We’re certainly not Troilus and Cressida, but we do all right. (That sounded smug, but I’m feeling smug this morning.)

    • #21
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    We’re careful to never use words or actions that denigrate—in any way—the other.

    This is so very important. So many times I see couples humiliating each other in front of others. It’s painful to watch.

    In reading your comment, @kentforrester, sounds like love to me.

    • #22
  23. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    We’re careful to never use words or actions that denigrate—in any way—the other.

    This is so very important. So many times I see couples humiliating each other in front of others. It’s painful to watch.

    In reading your comment, @kentforrester, sounds like love to me.

    Susan, you always say the right thing.  You should have been a mediator. 

    • #23
  24. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Susan, what a beautiful post! And it generated lots of wonderful love stories, also. Thank you.

    • #24
  25. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    I think this is all true. My wife and I make it work. The thing is, we both feel we are the luckiest person in the world that the other said “yes”. We have lately been working on not stressing so much on our care-taking of the other, and actually believing the other person is OK.

    We will be married 24 years this year, and have been a couple 28.

    I like your clothes – off to WalMart, I presume?

    Cobb Chamber Dinner. She created the Stick Pin for my puff tie. I started one year with the Top Hat, and then got out of control. 

    https://www.historicalemporium.com/

     

    • #25
  26. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    I want to be different, just like everybody else!

    Yup! But I’m uniquer than most anyone else, just ask Mrs. OS!

    • #26
  27. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    I want to be different, just like everybody else!

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    We’re careful to never use words or actions that denigrate—in any way—the other.

    This is so very important. So many times I see couples humiliating each other in front of others. It’s painful to watch.

    In reading your comment, @kentforrester, sounds like love to me.

    Susan, you always say the right thing. You should have been a mediator.

    Blessed are the Peacemakers. Matthew 5:9 
    Susan is the premiere Peacemaker on Ricochet.  

    • #27
  28. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    I didn’t care for Sacks’ piece. I don’t understand why everyone assumes love falters or fades.

    I am, as you probably already know, totally bat-guano nuts about Mrs. iWe. And for reasons that continue to elude me, she quite likes me, too.

    The point on rituals is well enough made – but I see them more as providing the guardrails for life than the inspiration for it.

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    iWe (View Comment):

    I didn’t care for Sacks’ piece. I don’t understand why everyone assumes love falters or fades.

    I am, as you probably already know, totally bat-guano nuts about Mrs. iWe. And for reasons that continue to elude me, she quite likes me, too.

    The point on rituals is well enough made – but I see them more as providing the guardrails for life than the inspiration for it.

    Did he say the rites were the inspiration for life? I didn’t come away with that impression. My husband and I came naturally to demonstrating our love for each other. I don’t think that’s true for a lot of people; they’re too self-centered and demanding to think about reaching out for the other. You and Mrs. @iwe do that, too. But I think a lot of people are not that loving.

    • #29
  30. George Townsend Inactive
    George Townsend
    @GeorgeTownsend

    Beautiful piece, Susan. I wish I had a story like that. But I enjoyed reading yours. Congratulations and God Bless you and Hubby!

    Some of the younger folk will never understand. That is the pity of of our overindulgent, fast-paced life today!

    • #30

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