The scene: It’s a Thursday night and three couples are going out for dinner.
Deciding where to go…
A young engaged couple goes back and forth with “you decide” “no, you decide” “you’re so cute when you can’t make up your mind” “you are too!”…and it goes on like this for 20 more minutes. They decide on Applebee’s for the drink specials.
A young family is going out to eat, because mom said so. Dad doesn’t say a word. He knows better. They change a diaper, take the toddler potty, pack the sippie cups and head out to the door. They’re going to Applebee’s because they have crayons on the table.
An older couple, “empty-nesters”, is getting ready to go to Applebee’s for dinner because it’s Thursday, and that’s just what they do on Thursdays.
At the restaurant…
The young couple’s enjoying their dinner. They are in deep conversation, sometimes giggle, whisper to each other, maybe catching a kiss here and there. Every now and then they give a dirty look at the noisy table with the obnoxious kids.
In a nearby booth is the young family. Mom looks frazzled, dad looks a little spaced out, but they both try to enjoy being together while someone else cooks dinner for a change. Both of them notice the kissing couple and remember not too long ago when they had that freedom. The only conversation taking place at their booth is “quiet down” and “eat your food”. No deep conversations and definitely no whispers, but this little family loves each other.
The older couple order their favorite dishes. Like the young couple they sometimes giggle, but their laughter is due to the family in the booth. They remember those days with love and joy, and they laugh at their own memories. They remembering how hard it was, but also how those years helped their relationship grow, change, and strengthen.
This story illustrates one activity, but three very different processes. Clearly these couples are at different stages in their relationships. They love each other, but the love doesn’t stagnate. It changes as they change, as their lives changes.
Like most couples at the beginning, Jon and I were crazy in love. We didn’t care about anything else except being together. Adventure and discovery happened daily. It was fun! And that’s how it was supposed to be.
Ten years into our marriage and “fun” isn’t exactly the term I’d use for us anymore. I guess some people might consider potty training, picking Play-Doh out of the carpet, and watching Dora the Explorer 24/7 fun, but not me. At this stage in our relationship, I think “surviving” is a better word to describe us. But that’s how it is supposed to be right now.
My parents, married for over 45 years, are at a much different stage in their marriage. A couple years ago my dad had a stroke and had to move out of the house for full time care. Six days a week my mom spends all afternoon with him. She brings him food, they play gin, they reminisce. They’ve been proud of their love and their relationship from day one. Theirs is a love story of epic proportions and a treasure for us kids. At this stage, that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Maybe you’re blinded by love, or frazzled by the kids, or living as an example to others…whatever stage your relationship is in, enjoy it and recognize that it will take you to the next level. Just as people change over time, so do relationships. They’re supposed to.
“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.” Rainer Maria Rilke