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Flirting and Loving

In this article, which originally appeared on Salon and is now on IndieBride.com, Lori Leibovich puts forth the possibility that the key to a long-term Relationship (with an uppercase 'R') is flirting. Not with each other - but with the various people one encounters in daily life: the ladies on your block or the neighborhood butcher and baker.

Jamie and I had a discussion a few days/weeks ago about whether or not you can remain attracted to someone for fifty years. I took the position that it's really, really difficult so that I could hear her ideas. My own ideas all seem to be based on the idea that 'attraction' changes: it may no longer be as physical but may be more emotional, or vice versa. The "mother of my children" is an incredibly attractive title, and I'm quite sure that whoever bears that title will be quite attractive on that merit alone. "The person with whom I'm closest" is also an incredibly attractive title.

I've never asked my parents why they are still attracted to - in love with - each other. My mom thinks my dad's jokes are horrible (they are), so it surely isn't their shared sense of humor, is it? What keeps them together? This is not to say they shouldn't be - that's not the case at all - but what does keep them together? Besides "they both paid for the house?"

I think it's different for every couple. One older woman said "I always liked how I felt in his arms" and her husband said "Easy! She makes the best cheesecake!" The real answer, though, as they looked at each other, seems to be a whole deal simpler: they're still in love with each other.

I remember a story I was told once about this motivational speaker who was confronted by a gentleman of about 40 after a speech. The gentleman said "Maybe you can help me. I don't love my wife anymore. We've been together for 18 years and we have two kids, but I don't love her anymore." The speaker said "so love her." The gentleman said "But I don't. I've fallen out of love with her." The speaker again said "So love her. Love is a verb, it's not something that happens to us. It's something we can do or not do. Love your wife."

It's a cute story, and one that's stuck with me and one I've applied a few times, but I don't think it's something that's going to make my list of ways to "keep a marriage going strong." The relationships I've had that have been worth keeping are also ones for which I've had to fight. I've had to go on a limb and tell friends and girlfriends things they didn't want to hear to make them or myself a better person. I've had to work at the relationships.

But the loving? That's the easy part.

Sometimes in my case, the loving is perhaps too easy. Amy Alspaugh once told me in high school "You could fall in love with anyone." I've never known what that meant. It came as I was telling her about Carey (see my "About Me" for more on that), and I think she meant that I can fall in love with a girl who is so incredibly wrong for me it's laughable, but I can't be sure of that.

I've loved many people, and still do - there's a difference between that and being "in love" - and they range from the folks you wouldn't think I'd even like to those that seem just about right for me.

Jessica was one of those "seem just about right for me" types of relationships. There are many reasons why I broke up with her, including her lack of ambition towards her career, her lack of trying at our relationship, and her insistence that everything that happened was somehow my fault. Being a good sport I took the blame every time, but that's not how a Relationship is supposed to work. Even in breaking up with her I took the blame, giving her one reason why I was the five years we'd spent together: "I can't make you happy anymore, and I haven't for awhile now."

I love to make people happy. Jamie and I had another conversation about whether we were "even" or not - on paying for dinner, on whatever. I've given her flowers and a pack of Smarties and a few other small gifts. What she may fail to realize is that the happiness they might bring her, those little "thinking of you" gifts, is the repayment. She owes me nothing, and instead I feel as though I still owe her. I told her that money is not the currency of a relationship.

Those little gifts, though? I think that's one way to keep a relationship going. Thing is: they have to occur naturally. You have to be in a store, see something that reminds you of someone, and buy it for them. It's not something you should have to "remind" yourself of. It's not something to put in your Day Planner: "Buy spontaneous 'thinking of you' present for wife." It just has to happen, and when it doesn't, perhaps that's a warning sign that you're not doing very good at loving your wife or friends.

Of course, this is all "just my take." My opinions change slightly every day, as new experiences and feelings shape and mold my perceptions of my world and the people in it.

Love is a funny thing, as unique as its practitioners. I love, and as much as it grates me to say it, I've been loved. Have I met the love of my life? The one which will flirt with the butcher and yet still come home to me every day to make me a bowl of cherry vanilla ice cream? Perhaps.

Until I then, what can I do? Just love the people I love, I guess. Like I said before, that's the easy part.

One Response to "Flirting and Loving"

  1. "I've loved many people, and still do - there's a difference between that and being "in love" - and they range from the folks you wouldn't think I'd even like to those that seem just about right for me."

    Thank you! Finally, someone I can agree with. I got chewed out in a major way for introducing that concept to my last girlfriend (during the early stages on the relationship. stupid me). Of course, two years later and now we're "not a couple" but still see/talk/sleep together pretty frequently. An interesting situation, sure, but now more than ever it's a matter of "love, not in love".

    At least *she* can appreciate it now.


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