This time of year, love is on everyone’s mind. It must be the mood that spring unfolds before us, while the tulips begin to peer through the snow and tree branches threaten to sprout forth little green leaves. I am not generally a romantic at heart. I laughed my way through Sir Percy’s romantic sensibilities in the novel The Scarlet Pimpernel, and roll my eyes whenever one of my friends becomes gushy over their latest crush. I think that in part it’s because the world seems to put too much emphasis on the romantic side of love rather than the true love that marriages are built upon.
Everyone wants to love and be loved. It’s a part of human nature, something built into us so that we don’t go through life alone. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a good thing. But sometimes I think we fail to realize what love is. There’s attraction, which is a surface type of love that draws you to a person because you find them interesting, fun to be around, or remarkably good-looking. Then there’s the more serious kind of love that develops over time, and unfolds in the pages of literature: the kind where one morning the heroine discovers that she has loved the hero all along. And we, as the reader, give a happy sigh of contentment that now Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe can be together forever.
In Nicholas Sparks’ novel The Notebook, he tells the story of an older couple reading together from a journal the love story of two young people in the 1940’s. The ultimate conclusion of the story is that it’s their life story, and the husband is telling it to the wife, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, in order to help her remember. Their love has lasted through many years, numerous children, and separation through mental instability, but still he remains faithful and caring toward her. The love that Allie and Noah shared is real and lasting, the kind that should be built into a marriage. It may be only a story, but it is an ideal, something that every one of us wants. We want to know that our significant other will be there when we’re old and forgetful, and no longer have the youthful appearance and mindset.
The reason Noah and Allie succeeded in their marriage was because they never gave up, even when all the odds were against them. Every time they had a fought, they immediately made up. They talked it out. They wanted their relationship to hold for all time, and it did. I believe that “love” is really a term that means “commitment.” It also involves acceptance, forgiveness, compassion, and self-sacrifice. You have to be willing to acknowledge that your spouse isn’t perfect, that they will make mistakes. You must forgive them these errors, deal with them with sensitivity, and be willing to make compromises in what you want in order to make them happy. Both parties have to put the other person first, which is why so many relationships fail. Someone is being selfish.
As a single woman, I’m willing to wait for that kind of love. I want someone to grow old with, who will put up with me even when I become old and frail, when we no longer can hear one another, someone I will be content just to sit with and say nothing. Love takes practice. It involves my becoming a better person while I wait for my noble gentleman to arrive. We’re all called to love, whether it’s bestowing your understanding on a hurting child or making time for someone in your life. Sometimes it’s hard, because you’ve forgotten how to love. In the children’s book Pollyanna, the spunky eleven-year-old heroine comes into a household fraught with rules, and eventually causes her withdrawn, emotionally scarred, embittered aunt to learn to love again. Pollyanna taught her aunt, one step at a time, how to open up her heart.
Love doesn’t always have to be romance. Sometimes it’s just love.