Love is … Never having to say you’re sorry? ... Something you feel? ... Something you do?
Here we are. It’s February; and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Are you a romantic? A big spender? A note writer or a giver of big hugs and candy? I’m not a big fan of going out to dinner that day. It’s usually too crowded to be much fun; and it doesn’t make me feel more loved as a wife. What I do appreciate is something personal that adds to the love and devotion we should be showing each other throughout the year when things aren’t always rosy. All relationships have ups and downs. Two people may form one couple but each person still has their own emotional and physical needs, their own opinions, their own ideas on socializing with friends and family. Add to that work, household duties, finances and kids— and there’s a lot to juggle and negotiate. Still, marriage should be fun, loving and for the most part ... peaceful.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, I wonder how other couples define love, what makes their marriage or relationship long lasting? What made their mate “the one” and are those the character traits they still admire most? I emailed those questions to friends and family members for this column wondering how many would respond, promising no one would be identified. I also told them their thoughts might make others more appreciative of what some might take for granted. The responses were overwhelming, heartwarming and alike in the sense that most viewed love as an action, an effort, and as one wife wrote, a constant choice.
“It’s easy to love someone when everything is going great,” that wife wrote. “That’s cake. It’s when life is chaotic; your spouse is on your nerves; your kids aren’t behaving; you’re disagreeing about how to discipline or what’s the next thing that has to get done in the house, or it’s just that one or both of you are in a bad mood. It’s the daily choice to love that gets you through those days.”
Married for almost 24 years, this couple described why their spouse was, and still is, The One.
“Stunningly beautiful, caring, smart, funny, compassionate. One who always looks out for your well being. She is there when you’re up, or down,” he says.
“What I admire about my husband then and now is that he has always been able to make me laugh. He’s kind, courteous, selfless at times, he listens to me. He respects me,” she says.
Another couple who responded is celebrating 18 years of happiness. The husband’s take on what love is was as follows: “Foremost, a constant vigilance for your partner in all things, and an intense sharing of life.”
He still admires his wife’s passion and faith that drew him from the start. She would marry him all over again for the traits she still holds dear. “Integrity, a family man, character and genuine curiosity, and standing in the dark next to him and feeling nearly breathless.”
A couple married 12 years believes trust and communication make a marriage last.
“If you can’t tell your spouse your innermost thoughts, then you’re not close enough to feel the connection of love and trust. Respecting your spouse is important to build a strong foundation,” the wife wrote. I loved her husband’s reason for her being The One then and now.
“She makes me want to be a better person. She is sensitive, caring and honest. I’ve admired these traits since day one,” he wrote.
The relationship between husband and wife is priority No. 1 for another couple who describe themselves as a good team.
“More important than kids, work, friends, hobbies, etc., you need to have a healthy relationship with your spouse above all,” the husband says.
“After seeing other marriages fail or teeter, I realized it’s important to be present to each other. Don’t just coexist with each other,” his wife countered.
For one friend, love is: “Trust. It is the only thing. This is my second marriage and the first marriage ended when my husband cheated on me. Once you lose the trust, you have nothing. My husband is not only handsome, he is charismatic and smart and just an all-around good guy. He was like that when I met him and he is still the same.”
One wife wrote if both partners compromise, have realistic expectations and work at it love is like that Eagles song, “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” On making love last, she wrote:
“High-fiving each other after some parenting feat or as congrats for taking the garbage out is commonplace in our household, but so is the goodnight kiss. And you’ve got to laugh at yourselves. My goodness, that’s the biggest marriage salvation of all. Sometimes I’ll actually say to my husband after a disagreement or argument, ‘When did you stop loving me?!’ with a laugh, and that’s our cue to stop the conflict.”
The women polled also sounded off on what made them love their partners even more today.
“He acts like I’m the most beautiful person in the world despite my wrinkles, age spots, sagginess, and flannel PJs. He makes life fun with his goofiness and silly antics with our children. I absolutely treasure seeing him with them.”
“His passion for his family and the things he loves.”
The men also shared what made them love their wives, even after years of marriage.
“How we could sit together in silence and be comfortable. The way she wants to make sure others have even if she does not.”
“Personality, caring, understanding, always being positive, looks, determination in life, loving mother.”
“Physical attraction, intelligence, compassion. shared values, culinary romance, strong parenting, boundless energy.”
While many of these responses genuinely brought tears to my eyes, several, including this one, left me laughing.
“I also knew I could marry him when I realized I could sit on the floor in my socks and sweat pants, eating pizza and watching TV, as happily as I could dress up and go on the town. And he thought I was pretty, whether I had makeup on or not. He also liked my legs. I thought he might need glasses. But I wasn’t going to argue.”
And for Tom, I let him know that this column is his Valentine’s Day card, too, since he reminds me of these loving—and loved—men. He is also my proofreader. He liked the article, and wanted to know, “Who said this line?” “Who said that?” Despite his protests, I told him that I couldn’t tell. After all, that was part of the deal.
Robin Rieger is a former anchor and reporter with CBS 3. A lifelong South Jersey resident, she lives with her husband, Philadelphia 76ers Radio play-by-play broadcaster Tom McGinnis, and their two children in Burlington County.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 11 (February, 2015).
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