Just this morning Demilked, the design, art and photography website posted a series of pictures in a posted entitled, In Love For More Than 50 Years: Couples Pose For Heartwarming Photo Series. Here’s what Demilked wrote about the author and photographer Lauren Fleishman…
When you’re about 20 years old, it’s hard to imagine couples that stayed together for more than three years. But photographer Lauren Fleishman aimed at ones that had been in love for far far longer: her book The Lovers is all about couples who had been together for more than 50 years. The lovebirds seem very open when talking about how they got together – and still very much in love.
“This project was inspired by a series of love letters written by my grandfather to my grandmother during World War II that I found in a book next to his bed.” Lauren states on her website. “The letters spoke of a young love, the type filled with expectations of a new life together. They connected me to my grandfather and his 59-year marriage in a way that I had not been able to connect to him in life.” And this was the inspiration behind the project. The stories that these old couples tell are heart gripping and cut at times.
That’s the kind of love we wish to be asked about in fifty years or so.
Some of us aren’t going to have to wait nearly that long. I’m joining the ranks of those quickly closing in on the golden anniversary.
When Dr. Phil first burst onto the national media stage – he was a DFW guy who had a firm that helped attorneys with the jury selection process – I remember hearing him describe seasoned marriage as a “soft place to fall.” We had probably been married 20 years or so at the time. This January we celebrated our 37th year of marriage. Well, that description – a “soft place to fall” – resonated with me because it’s exactly how I felt about my love for my wife. I feel more so that way today. Old love isn’t like young love. It’s better.
Don’t get me wrong. Young love is terrific. The romance, the passion, the energy, the discovery and optimism. Just look at these kids to the right, me and Rhonda circa 1977. That’s young love. But like my hairline, young love fades. Unlike my hair, it doesn’t fade away though. It fades into something far, far deeper.
A soft place to fall.
But this isn’t about my marriage. It’s about love, marriage and finding that soft place to fall. I hope you’ve got somebody special you love very much. And if you don’t, I hope you find them sooner than later because true love changes everything. And that’s the subject of today’s show.
The Senses Of Love
Music is a big part of my life, but you know that already. Love has fueled more songs than any other subject. For good reason. We’re either chasing it, figuring it out, enjoying it or lamenting the loss of it. There’s nothing like it. NOTHING.
Music enters every courtship. That’s why you hear couples talk about “our song.” Even non-music lovers find a place for it in their heart when their heart is in the throes of love.
The other day I read that women are highly attracted by smells. More so than men. But smells are important for men, too. For me it wasn’t perfume so much as it was the totality of the smells. Subtle smells like her leather clutch. Her scent while sitting next to me in the car. The smell of her lip gloss (and yes, the taste). The scent of her hair. Roll them all up and package them and while we were dating with hundreds of miles separating us, and I could survive for days or weeks. The smells triggered a sense of her presence providing instant comfort.
We survived a long distance dating life for about 3 years in the mid-70’s. Music was big because when you’re driving all night long – 11 hours one way – you have time to listen to LOTS of your favorite tunes. Time alone.
I wheel into her driveway around 6am on Saturday morning. Arriving anywhere else, I’d be bleary-eyed and incoherent. But not parked in her driveway. There’s nothing like anxious love. Times when you can’t wait to see somebody you love. Time alone with them.
From the time we first dated, neither of us dated another. We wrote snail mail (’cause it’s all we had) letters every single day. We saved our money so we could make phone calls occasionally after 11pm when the long-distance rates went down. The glory of true love is seen when a man loves a woman.
After nearly 3 years of this, I’d had enough. It was time to make this love permanent by asking her to be my wife. We joined hands and my best friend‘s dad presided over the ceremony over 37 years ago. Time alone does tell the story of the glory of true love.
Taking Love (and loved ones) For Granted
I know it’s impractical to live every day as infatuated with her as I once was. But I confess that daily I walk by the room where she’s sewing, or typing (she’s always had a medical transcription business out of the house) and want to walk in, hug her and tell her how much I love her. Sometimes I do it. Other times it seems like it might be too much of an interruption. When you both work out from home offices this happens daily. Every single day.
But now, for hours we can be under the same roof, doing our work, living in our own world, without speaking. See that young man in the picture above? There’s no way you’d have convinced him that that’s how life would be about 38 years after I took that selfie with my Instamatic camera. You don’t remember those cameras, but you had to develop the film. I had no way to know if I even got us both in the frame. It’d be weeks before I got that film developed. You kids are spoiled with digital photography. 😉
I didn’t take her for granted in 1977. I don’t take her for granted in 2015. But through the years I’ve grown more scared. Scared of losing her. To sickness. Or death. We’ve enduring many trials and struggles. No different than most couples who’ve spent a lifetime together. Faith in God. Faith in each other. Faith in our union. That’s guided us through it.
Time alone can tell lots of stories, but time alone doesn’t make for deeper love. And time sure won’t cure the hurt that comes with some love. One of my favorite songs was written in 1975 by Robbie Robertson, the leader of The Band. He wrote about a lost love and how nothing he did made any difference because the “sun don’t shine anymore.” The song first appeared on their 1975 album, Northern Lights – Southern Cross.
It Makes No Difference
by Robbie Robertson
It makes no difference where I turn
I can’t get over you and the flame still burns
It makes no difference, night or day
The shadow never seems to fade away
And the sun don’t shine anymore
And the rains fall down on my door
Now there’s no love
As true as the love
That dies untold
But the clouds never hung so low before
It makes no difference how far I go
Like a scar, the hurt will always show
And it makes no difference who I meet
They’re just a face in the crowd on a dead-end street
And the sun don’t shine anymore
And the rains fall down on my door
These old love letters
Well, I just can’t keep
Just like the gambler says:
“Read ’em and weep”
And the dawn don’t rescue me no more
Without your love, I’m nothing at all
Like an empty hall, it’s a lonely fall
Since you’ve gone it’s a losing battle
Stampeding cattle, they rattle the walls
And the sun don’t shine anymore
And the rains fall down on my door
Well, I love you so much
That it’s all I can do
Just to keep myself from telling you
That I never felt so alone before
The hurt of lost love is a bad, lingering hurt. And when you’ve been married as long as I have, the prospect of lost love – not lost love because you lost the person to somebody else, but because something else happens – is among the most dreaded fears I know. I don’t want to take a single day for granted with my wife. But I know I do in spite of my best intentions. We have to work and do things other than embracing those we love.
Lately, in the day job I’m having lots of conversations about “being present.” Increasingly, people in work places are challenged by schedules that are too hectic and demanding. The conscientious people want to improve their ability to be in the moment. Proof that the same problems we face at home creep into our work, too.
Electronic distractions can tempt us to take people and experiences for granted. Sit in any conference room in the world and unless they collect the cell phones at the door you’ll see people staring at their phones during the meeting. Increasingly, I see tablets even in organizations with a low tech IQ. I’m not talking about surfing the net or checking Facebook. They’re sending and receiving work related text messages. They’re doing the same with work emails. Talk with them individually like I have and you find out many of them (sometimes all of them) feel too disconnected during their face time together. They wish it were different. They just don’t know how to fix it. For some, leaving their phones or tablets out of the meeting isn’t reasonable because they’ve got too many people who need to be in touch with them. It’s a problem that has no business infecting our homes — they simply have too many touch points. Too many people who need just a bit of time and attention at work. That’s not usually the problem at home.
Distraction afflicts us at work and at home. And at restaurants. Just watch couples – forget larger groups – sitting at a meal. I dare you to find a couple where at least one of them isn’t constantly looking at a 3″ screen. It’s digital crack cocaine that people can’t resist. How can such a small handheld device distract us from our spouse? Or family? Or even friends?
We’re Afraid We’ll Miss Something, And We’re Right.
We might miss something. That Tweet or Facebook post. A Vine video or a SnapChat message. It’s truly addictive. And it never stops. The digitally connected world is streaming (and screaming) at us with an endless vengeance. It’s like the Hotel California. You can check in, but you can never leave. Well, you can. You just don’t.
Social scientist will be studying these things for years to come, but I’m not smart enough to participate in the study. I can only observe, working to lean more toward wisdom and away from the foolishness of digital dependency. When across from me sits the love of my life – a woman I fear losing – it should be easy to be in the moment. I may miss a blog post, or a Tweet or any number of other digital footprints made by people I’ve never even met. But what if I miss a moment with this woman I once drove all night to see — to spend less than 32 hours with before having to drive another 11 hours to go back home, arriving around 1am Monday morning, then having to attend early morning class, followed by work.
We’ve all heard that old saying that nobody laying on their death bed ever said, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” Well, I’d hate to realize I didn’t devote myself to being in the moment with my wife because I couldn’t resist something much less important.
Saying “No” To Some Things In Order To Say “Yes” To More Important Things
Lyle Lovett sang, “I married her just because she looks like you.” It’s funny, but it makes me think of how shallow some people can be with love. All the stories of couples whose love turns to hatred makes me wonder what happened…and makes me wonder how seriously they entered marriage. I’m not naive. I know quite a few people marry for reasons other than love. Shallow reasons. Like money. Beauty. Status. Fame.
There are other ways to be shallow though — even when we marry for love. Communication can be shallow.
Some couples never discuss real issues. I know this because throughout my life I’ve had enough conversation with married people who admit they never talk about serious things. I’ve often sat across from a married man and asked, “What does your wife think about that?” Maybe it was some career challenge, or a possible career opportunity or some difficulty in their life. Too often the answer is, “I haven’t told her.”
How can you not tell your spouse something important? How can you not talk with your spouse about what’s happening in your own life?
But that’s exactly how it goes in too many marriages. Shallow conversation. No depth. Keep it simple stupid talk ruins any hope of deeper love.
I guess shallow talk is better than no talk at all though. Inches away sits a person we claim to love. In our hand is a device connected to people we may casually know, if we know them at all. Or complete strangers known only to us through social media. We too often say “YES” to the strangers while ignoring the one to whom we said, “I do.” I’ve got no good explanation for it. It’s a compulsion – maybe an addiction – that many can’t seem to ignore.
Like shallow talk it’s lack of desire, an unwillingness, poor self-discipline. Maybe it’s a lack of love. I could make a good argument that the man who refuses to inform his wife of his most troubling issues is being dishonest, deceitful and not exhibiting the kind of love he’d want from her. You’re either partners or you’re not.
Saying “NO” can be hard. Saying “NO” to keeping the talk shallow so you can sit down together and fully discuss really important things seems tougher for some. I don’t pretend to understand it because it’s not how I’m wired. I’m wired for depth, but not everybody is. Talk of what you ate for lunch can be as deep as some folks ever get. How does that deepen your relationship with your spouse?
I’m baffled by people who can sit still to engage in long conversations about nothing, but seem visibly uncomfortable and quickly leave a room when talk turns to something important. Experience has taught me that some people prefer to live life like a Seinfeld episode though – always having conversations about nothing.
Deception creeps into some marriages and breaks up what was once love. It’s not a Seinfeld episode. It’s more sinister than that. I don’t know how that happens, but it’s sad. Carried to an extreme it can turn the glory of true love in pure hatred. But we don’t want that — and surely that’s not happening to you. We want true love and I hope that is exactly what’s happening to you.