A few months ago when my two daughters were home from college for a three day weekend, their Dad and I had a chance to sit with them and just talk. It was a really good conversation. And then my oldest randomly asked, "Do you and Dad still love each other as much as you did when you got married?"
It should have been a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer - at least that's what my daughter said when I stumbled over my reply. For me it was a very complicated question.
Let me set the stage: it was after 10:30 p.m. which is not a big deal for college age kids but for someone who gave up sleep for many years to be at the beckon call of her children, it is late at night and my brain was tired. On top of that my husband and I had been re-doing our family room which involved pulling off wallpaper, puttying, sanding, painting, and re-varnishing built in shelves. The fumes from all of the products used were dancing in my head. But the most significant reason for my hesitation in answering my daughter's question came from a project I'd been working on.
For over a year [because I have to think about things for a long time before doing them - wish I could fix that] I had been making 'counsel' books for my daughters, full of all the things I hoped I taught them, hoped they'd listened to and hoped they'd remember. In fact, that's what I entitled it: The Things I Hope You Always Remember. I know I'm only a text, email, or phone call away if they have something they want to talk about but I wanted to put in writing the things I really wanted them to know. I shared personal experiences, quotes, scriptures, General Conference talks and so forth to support the different areas of counsel/advice [read - 'lecture'] I included. The books were complete except for the section that I felt was one of the most important: Love.
I had been pondering for several months what I could say to my daughters about Love. I want their lives to be filled with it. However, I have learned it isn't as easy as it sounds. Lyrics to songs, television, movies, novels, fairy tales all give us this idea that you fall in love and its wonderful and lasts forever. It can be like that but it doesn't just happen. You can't just 'fall' and expect it to be bliss. I've always liked the LDS jingle that says, "Love isn't something you fall into, its something you grow." That's what I have learned and what I wanted my daughters to understand- good things grow, they don't just happen.
Now, in the beginning, I agree there has to be attraction and attachment but true love grows beyond that. It requires commitment and sacrifice, cooperation and determination. It also needs to be rekindled now and then to keep the fire burning. There are plenty of books and lectures given on the subject so I won't elaborate too much but I have found a definition of love that works for me. It is a scripture from the Book of Mormon [a similar one is in the New Testament] Moroni 7:45. It speaks of charity which is often associated with kindness given to others but is probably most important to practice in the home. This definition of love can apply to spouses or children. I'm going to modify the scripture just a little:
Love suffereth long [patience, enduring]
Love is kind [tenderness, thoughtfulness]
Love envieth not [happy for each other's successes, encourage developing talents]
Love is not puffed up [not prideful or self centered]
Love seeketh not her own [no 'my way or the highway']
Love is not easily provoked [stay calm and carry on]
Love thinketh no evil [you never intentionally hurt people you really care about]
Love rejoices not in iniquity [there must be fidelity and trust]
Love rejoices in truth [thanks for being honest about where the money went]
Love beareth all things [face challenges together, lean on the Lord]
Love believeth all things [together we can do anything, unity makes us strong]
Love hopeth all things [if we do what's right and do our best the Lord is on our side and we won't fail]
Love endureth all things [make the best of this life until we get to the next one]
This may be an over simplification but, to me, true love is all of those things and they need to be put into practice over and over again because people don't remain stagnant and relationships don't either. They are either getting stronger or weaker all the time. True, long lasting love, is not based on a one time "WOW is he ever hot!' moment.
The thing about love is its going to be tested - can you be patient and kind when you're tired or hormonal? Can you be happy for your spouse when they get to go on a trip or have some fun that you don't get to participate in? What happens when both of you have good ideas but have to choose only one? Is it ever okay to say "I need a 'ME' day?" [it is by the way][in my opinion] If love isn't true, if it isn't nurtured it will not pass the tests. It has to be a priority to keep it growing.
All of these things and more ran through my head when my daughter asked, "Do you and Dad still love each other as much as you did when you got married?" I thought about the sacrifices I'd made, the times I had to be patient and kind when I really wanted to scream, the nights I endured listening to my husband snore and keep me awake, times when I did seek my own instead of respecting the budget and so many other big and little life events. I also remembered the support in developing my talents, a surprise trip to Vegas, dishes done without being asked, and having dates be a priority. All of these things have affected how I feel about my husband and led to changes in how much I love him.
So, now that I've had more time to think about it, if my daughter were to pose that same question today I would have to say, "No, I don't love him the same as I did twenty two years ago. I love him completely different."
And I wouldn't have it any other way.