The Secret to Enduring Love

“Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.”

— Mandy Len Catron

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What is the secret to enduring love? I thought this was a fitting blog post for February. However, as I started to research this, I realized that for this article to hold any power, to be truly authentic and real, I would have to write about myself, to make this personal.

I have been married for thirty years, and in relationship with Jeff, from friends to lovers, for over forty. I guess that gives me some credentials for enduring love. But it is not straightforward, not a simple dance. After thirty years of marriage, Jeff and I are now once again in therapy; this time working within the model of EFT, Emotionally Focused Therapy. We are reading “Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson in an effort to overcome some really hard patterns we have developed.

Even after all this time, we still rub against each other’s raw spots. Dr. Johnson defines raw spots this way: “A hypersensitivity formed by moments in a person’s past or current relationships when an attachment need has been repeatedly neglected, ignored, or dismissed.”

After so long, you’d think that we would have figured out each other’s raw spots and avoid them. But we seem to pick at them, like a scab, before it can ever heal.

I like this quote:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
― Marilyn Monroe

… not that I’m comparing myself to Marilyn Monroe, I promise. But I can relate to it. The problem I face though is, how do we deal with relationship problems, when we are at our worst, when it seems like love is falling through the cracks…

Richard Bach proclaims: the opposite of loneliness is not togetherness, it’s intimacy. So how do we hold on to that intimacy, even in the face of dealing with raw spots and fear of loneliness?

One of my biggest raw spots is fear of abandonment. My father left our family when I was 12 and my mother died when I was 16. I absolutely have a massive fear of abandonment… and my husband keeps leaving! He is about to leave again, this time to work in Bangladesh. For at least six months, perhaps up to a year.

Another quote from Bach, this one from one of his books that I love The Bridge Across Forever:I’m here not because I am supposed to be here, or because I’m trapped here, but because I’d rather be with you than anywhere else in the world.”

I want this to be true for Jeff; I want him to stay by my side because there is nowhere else he’d rather be. Unfortunately though, one of Jeff’s biggest drivers and passions in his life is to be of service and to work with people who are in the most need. This time he is off to work at a refugee camp. And I love him for it, I really do… and I struggle with not wanting him to leave. These two emotions co-exist in me. I love the man I married who has such high ideals and has a willingness to go through self-sacrifice to serve. And I hate the fact that he keeps leaving… I want to be enough to make him stay.

Every time Jeff leaves to work in another country, I feel a sense of abandonment, my attachment needs rubbed raw.

“Attachment needs are our human desires for acceptance, belonging, comfort when we hurt, and safety to be ourselves. From the cradle to the grave we all long to feel understood and accepted by those we love.”

 So we are doing more work, reading and holding each other, and trying to heal some of the raw spots. We are working to keep making our relationship more secure. Dr. Johnson explains “in insecure relationships, we disguise our vulnerabilities so our partner never really sees us.” So in order to keep securing our relationship, we explore these vulnerabilities and work together with hope they will heal a bit more before we scratch at the scab.

I envision us growing old together, hopefully another thirty years. I believe we will. But I know it will continue to take work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to end this post by altering Mandy Len Catron’s quote I used in the beginning of this article slightly:

We’re in love because we make the choice to be, everyday, even when it is hard.

And I want to close with a TED Talk by Mandy Len Catron: Falling In Love is the Easy Part.

And if you are so inclined to explore the 36 questions that Catron talks about, here’s the link.

I’d love to hear your secret to enduring love. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

8 thoughts on “The Secret to Enduring Love

  1. I appreciate this post and for the sharing of meaningful pieces of your life that show us that relationships take work. For me, the greatest sadness of my life was for my husband to not want to or not be willing to work with me in the raw spots. Instead he chose to ignore his raw spots and if he ignored his own raw spots then what did that mean for mine, and for me, for us? Sadly, our 25+ year marriage ended, but that didn’t end my desire to be with a man who wanted to be in the hard places with me and to work there, in the parts of our lives that are hard so that our relationship can be strong and healthy. No matter how we cut it, love takes courage, commitment and a love for the self above all else.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful invitation to think about and discuss a topic that truly excites me. Exploration of any of the deeply imprinted old beliefs that awaken fear that others hold the key to who I am or whether what I need is given or withheld in relationships, both intimate or even simple daily transaction ones. Even after lots of work, my child remains the only persona who can seriously interfere with my adult relationships shaped by commitment to my Sacred Ground and my constant God shadow. The challenge of your thoughtful post is that it suggests only one side of an important dialogue with another human being. I would love to sit in the same room with you and Jeff and also explore his old beliefs, his childhood experiences and ask,”Why do you need to leave home to be among strangers or those with particular needs to feel your service is purposeful or important enough? Does your own village not need you enough?” That may sound more critical or challenging than the simple question it is intended to ask, but what are the roots of how and why warriors choose to go where they go?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh thank you so much Scott, once again for your insightful and thoughtful response. Actually Jeff and I are incredibly lucky, we have 2 dear friends, a couple, who are both therapists. And we often get together and talk for hours, dissecting and unravelling pieces that have us stuck as couples. And my friend asked Jeff almost that identical question, framed with love and care for both of us and our raw spots. It was a lovely, painful, incredible 3 hours!
      And I would love to have you sit in the room with us. Your calm and gentle probing presence would be a balm. I did only include one side of this dialogue, because well, it is my blog post and I am sharing my side. Jeff’s side is equally complex and painful, thus my comment that we both rub each other’s raw spots.
      Again Scott, such gratitude for your comments and your care.

      Like

  3. Oh, I love this, Patti!! Love it!

    The key to enduring love for my husband and I, is honesty (with ourselves and each other), kindness, and the willingness to be vulnerable, flexible, and forgiving.

    But we did not have this until we encountered a few crisis – roughly 11 years into our marriage. I finally surrendered to active alcoholism and I found program of recovery (AA) that works for me. The combination of my sobriety (working the 12 steps) and our renewed commitment to our partnership, are absolute miracles. I can state that with great confidence.

    At the juncture of my Day 1 in sobriety, he and I were on the brink of separation having lost what connected us when we first met. We have 3 children, two of whom have Autism and he was building a company. We were losing touch with each other, ourselves and our marriage.

    The only thing we had left (or so we thought at the time) was the love for our children and giving them a stable home. So we stayed together and got a second chance to create the kind of partnership we had always wanted, but for many reasons, were too afraid of before. This is what saved our marriage and helped us find what we realized we had never lost- a very deep and authentic love for each other. 8 years later, we are so grateful for the changes we were willing to make for the sake of a happy life. What we have today, is truly a miracle.

    I think I may have overshared- my answer to enduring love is the first sentence of this comment. But I felt I needed to be honest about how we go to this place. It grew from turmoil. We didn’t fracture our marriage for good with out giving it a chance. We stayed and road the rollercoaster until it became a gentle walk on a beach. We are grateful.

    Thank you again for a lovely post!

    Sarah

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Sarah – Thank you so much for your honest and open comment. No you did not overshare, I promise. Getting vulnerable and honest shares like this is a gift and I am so grateful. Sobriety was absolutely a key in my marriage too. We absolutely would not be together if I were still drinking. And it requires work and the willingness to stay and keep open. And I totally agree with you – well put: honesty (with ourselves and each other), kindness, and the willingness to be vulnerable, flexible, and forgiving. Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you again for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

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