[Advisory: May contain sappy emotional content, and an overabundance of metaphors.]
Last night I went on a date with the most wonderful man; exactly my type, and I am fanatically particular about whom I date ;-).
I was heading home from work, thinking of him and all he does for our home, and realized how long it had been, at least a couple weeks since we’d been out on an adult night. With twins this age we’ve been forgetting to get out together, and can become perfectly content staying home in the evenings. But adult time has a purpose to it. It’s one of those things not urgently craved, but I can’t figure out why once we do it.
One call to the grandparents later and we were off to one of our favorite restaurants, one we’ve been going to for many years.
The place was empty through our evening (probably due to the fact that we’ve begun having dinner at 5:30 in our old age ;-)). The food was exceptional, and it was another perfect evening, wholly romantic. Not that there were grandiose words of love, or tears of joy, or jolts of sexual tension. Just R and me, now far from the excesses of young lovers, and yet worlds more intimate. Just us, talking and eating.
I remembered being at that very same table the first time we left our boys, then 2 month-old babies, for a night out. We talked about them the whole time, skipped dessert, and hurried home to pry them out of their grandparent’s arms. Our love for them was absolute, adamant, and manifest long before their first breath.
But our connection, of course, had a different path; it’s something we’ve built together, over many years. To us, it’s a precious work, our work. It’s hard to believe when thinking of him, but at one point, 15 years ago, we were strangers. A delicate fate brought us together, close enough to find that crude slab of attraction between us. Over a decade later, with a good amount of purposeful work, care, time, and sacrifice, we sculpted that into something else altogether.
I was looking at him last night, his face more familiar than any other, more than my own, and in it so much of our history: my teenage love, my twenty something spouse, our children’s father.
Long-lived love is funny; it can be miraculous and routine at once. It becomes like breathing. It sustains a person. It becomes part of who you are, how you do anything. And, like breathing, such love is often done intuitively, reflexively, comfortably. When you focus on it, you can find great peace, and, when it’s healthy, it’s rhythms go on without conscious effort. You automatically think of them in your choices because that’s how you now function. That’s who you’ve become, not a distinct individual anymore but a piece of something larger. The joy and pain experienced in someone else become your joy and your pain, and, in that way, you are found in two places at once.
But, also like breathing, it can be taken for granted, and, if threatened, go from a wonderfully comfortable part of living to the sole focus of a panicked mind. I feel many of my ideas about relationships have been taught in my family’s example, and I’m very grateful for that. But even after decades of matrimony, I’ve seen some couples go through a time in which it appeared they could lose what they had built. And the reason was, apparently, becoming too complacent in their relationship. I'm happy to say, those I’m thinking of struggled to bring it back, though it hurt them tremendously, and they once again have model marriages.
I worry such love can sometimes get too comfortable. Maybe some forget they’re obligated to their children to actively love, not only them, but their parent too. Maybe it can become so much second nature that you forget you don’t have a direct line into the other person’s mind, and maintenance of the connections you do have is necessary. Whatever it is, I never want to be in that position, and doubt we ever will, but I will always remember the time when that love wasn’t there, and be aware of the panic that would crush us at losing it, in suffocating, at it were.
Last night it was just very nice to give whole attention, and take in a deep, long, intended breath together. I’d recommend it for any occupied parents; it may even be part of your responsibility to get out and have a nice quiet evening, every now and then ;-).