A few days ago I had the honor of spending a weekend with a couple that has been together for sixteen years. It seems that it is less and less often that I meet people who have been together for over ten years. But there they were—sixteen. They held hands as they walked. They stared at each other as if in admiration. Every chance they had, they would display subtle signs of affection: a brush of a hand, a flirtatious giggle, a brief hug.
"We are still on our honeymoon," Lisa (not her real name) informed me without my asking. As if to demonstrate her point, she reached across the table to gently squeeze her wife's hand.
Lisa and Elise (also not her real name) have only been married for four years. Their state's jurisdiction did not permit LGBT individuals to marry, so they waited. In the beginning, they didn't mind so much. They didn't think that they needed a piece of paper to show the world their love. This all changed a few years ago when their friend Peter's lover was struck and killed by a bus. When he first arrived at the ICU in a coma but still alive, the doctors barred Peter from being with his partner. Life-partner did not equal 'relative' in their official books, and so Peter's partner of more than thirty years died alone, with Peter desperately arguing with the hospital staff just outside the ICU door. That was a turning point in Lisa and Elise's lives. It then took another two years for them to find a rabbi and a state authority to marry them.
That was four years ago. Today, 'the honeymooners' are just as much in love as they were sixteen years ago. Their relationship hasn't been easy. They are different people: Lisa is a flower child who likes the outdoors and heart-stopping adventure, while Elise, a prominent attorney, is a reserved art lover who prefers quiet afternoons in a museum.
"We work hard at our relationship," Elise told me. "We have different interests, different jobs and different spheres of influence. However, we both make it a point to understand and join into each other's hobbies. After all, how would I know that I enjoyed scuba diving if Lisa hadn't forced me to take a class in Mexico? After the zip-lining tour she convinced me to take in Costa Rica though, now I know that I really hate zip lining!"
"And the more we work at our marriage," chimed Lisa, "the more we fall in love. It's because we get to know each other more and more intimately with every such experience. As a result, we are no longer in love because everything is fresh and new. We are in love because we REALLY know each other."
In my everyday life as a matchmaker and a dating coach, I consult many clients on love and relationships. To be sure, I always tell them that both 'love' and 'relationship' are explicitly unique terms; unique to each person's experience, feelings and situation. I really believe in that. I believe that there are just as many ways in which people feel and express love as there are people! However, sitting next to Lisa and Elise, I knew in the pit of my stomach that in their case love cannot be mistaken for anything else. It was almost a physical condition that one could feel just by being in their presence. It was radiating, it was oozing from every pore of their beings directly into everyone around them. It felt almost contagious as I sat next to them.
So what does this mean? It means that there is such a thing as great love, the kind of love that encompasses your whole being and completes you, to make you into an even greater you, one that you never even thought that you could be. A love like that does not care about the clothes that your soul wears—male, female, black, white—because it does not see them. This love penetrates directly into the soul, bypassing the shell. Will everyone meet a love like that in his/her lifetime? Probably not. The better question is, even if we're lucky enough to cross paths with a love like that, will we recognize it?
Which brings me to my second point: in the case of Lisa and Elise, this great love grew out of their commitment to each other and their commitment to make it work. How many couples are willing to work hard to create a marriage like that? Have no doubt about it: it is a lot easier for heterosexual couples to do so than it is for most LGBT ones, who in additional to internal issues have to deal with external distractions. And yet, many of us just won't dedicate the time or energy. Great marriage, just like great love, requires a lot of hard work and dedication. How many of us are ready to devote years of time and effort to be in love with each other through decades? Unfortunately, fewer and fewer couples today are willing to do so. It has become a lot easier and more acceptable to walk away!
So as you daydream about your soul mate and about your happiness, remember: great love and great relationships do not just materialize. Just like any other skills, they have to be practiced and honed. It takes a lot of preparation to recognize the 'real thing' when you see it, and even more to be able to perfect it into the bliss that can be yours.
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