When I worked retail, so many years ago, I had the privilege of witnessing what real love is all about. There was this elderly couple, they had to be in their late 70s or so. When they pulled into the parking lot, he would come around and open her car door. He would open the door so she could come inside of the store. While they shopped, they would hold hands. He would refer to her by the sweetest names such as “my love” or “beautiful”. Her face would light up every time he said it. You could hear the love in his voice. She would reply with the same gentle endearments.
Whenever they came in, they were an absolute delight to behold. You could tell that they were completely in love with each other. Your heart would grow and hope would blossom. To say it was beautiful is an understatement. The joy you felt after they left was something that is difficult to describe. The closest that I can come is the joy I felt the first time I saw my little one on the ultra sound monitor. Yes, it was like that. It was like a universal truth was being revealed to me and if I was paying attention, I would see it for what it was. I paid attention.
Over the years, I have learned one important thing watching people interact with one another. The small things in life really do matter. I have come to believe that it is when we stop doing them for each other or when we stop appreciating them that our relationships start to crumble and ultimately fail.
Life is crazy. We all know this. It can move so incredibly fast that we meet ourselves coming and going down the hallways to our bedrooms each day. Does your partner make your coffee each morning while you get ready for work? Do you ever say thank you or do you just expect that it gets done and get angry when it is not? Are you the one who makes the coffee and expect a thank you for it and when you don’t get one you get bent out of shape? Sounds like a bunch of trick questions, doesn’t it? Sounds like no matter which way you go, you are going to lose out, right?
I am going to let you in on a secret that I have discovered not only in my own life but also by talking to that elderly couple. I wanted to know how they were able to be so in love after all of the years of marriage. They both smiled. I wish you could have seen the way they looked at each other. The very sight took my breath away. I knew that I was witnessing a moment. It was not just any moment, but THE MOMENT that I had to burn into my brain. With a gentle smile on their faces, they told me the following.
The key to building love is so simple that most people completely overlook it. Yes, there were some dark days in their 65 years of marriage. Yes, there were days that they did not like each other very much. There were even days that they thought about throwing in the towel. They even admitted, with a sly giggle from them both, that there were times they even contemplated offing the other one. They said that in the end, it always came down to the small, insignificant things that they did for each other.
She would rub his back after a long, stressful day at work. He would make her coffee in the morning while she got the kids ready for school. She would make his favorite meals. He would fix things around the house as soon as they broke. She would leave him notes in his lunch box. He would plant her favorite flowers in the garden. None of these things are important in the grand scheme of the universe. I could go on for days listing everything.
Speaking of flowers, I think it is time to share another example of true love. My grandfather used to plant Marigolds every single year. It was like he was obsessed with them. Granted they have several benefits in one’s garden. They keep away several kinds of pests and we always thought this is why he planted them. It was only later that we found out that it is one of the flowers for the month of October. He was planting them for my grandmother in honor of her birth month. If that is not romantic, then I do not know what romance is all about.
Back to our elderly couple. After they talked about the various things they did for each other and how over the years, these tasks changed for them, they finally told me why it was important. Again, here is where it gets tricky. They said that the key to happiness was not in expecting a thank you or giving one. If you truly love someone, you do it out of pure love and never expect a thank you in return. You do it for the pleasure of seeing their face light up with joy. In turn, you say thank you in the same manner, out of pure love.
The key is love. Selfless love. Pure love. Love that does not take. Love that only gives. Love that respects. Love that acknowledges the other person’s worth. So what if they don’t do something all of the time. Treasure it when they do. Cherish everything. Make an effort to give. Be thankful for every time the other expresses gratitude.
Mean it. So what if the other person sees you emotionally naked? You are a team, right? Build each other up. Never tear each other down. Anger is a terrible mistress. We say awful words. This is an unfortunate side effect of being human. We are flawed. We get wrapped up in our work and forget that we have a loving partner. Take time to make them feel special. Make them feel worthy. Make them feel desirable. Make them feel loved.
Love is a misused word. It is difficult for some of us to express correctly because it is misused so often. I asked about this as well. How do you know if it is real? I got another one of those knowing smiles. They said that when it is real, the stuff that you have always dreamed about, you will know. I asked how. They said that you will accept the person as they are. You will want to do things to build them up. Your heart will soar. You will not do it because you feel that you have to in order to please them. You will do so because you want to show them how much they mean to you every single day. They will do the same.
Before they departed, they imparted one more important piece of advice. It was powerful and humbling, there is no build a mate workshop. It is not uncommon for us to dream of our “perfect” mate. Dreams turn into fantasy and we get a break from reality. The problem lies in dreaming up perfection. It does not exist. This can be especially dangerous when we build up a person and fall in love with the idea of them. You are setting them up for absolute failure and for you to get your heart broken. There is just no such thing as perfect, especially when we add the human factor to the equation.
I have learned this little life lesson the hard way. To be honest, I have had to learn it far too many times. Luckily, each time I went down Lover’s Lane, I wised up some, not a lot, but some. If you read any of my other articles, you may remember me saying that I tend to attract the same type of man. I have flipped that barrel over and dug down to see what was lurking underneath. It has not been a pleasant experience. It seems like the soul sucking leeches of the world are attracted to me and I fall for their glam every single time. I have to admit though; I am getting much better at spotting them.
Since I have taken a two-year break from dating, I have finally figured out what I want and what I can live with concerning the matters of my heart. This does not mean that I will settle. Quite the opposite, in fact. It also does not mean that I am so picky that I will never be happy with anyone. It means that for once, I know what kind of person will make me happy and what kind I will be able to do the same.
I took a long, hard look back at my dating experiences. Somewhere along the way, I had forgotten what that lovely couple had told me. Sad, isn’t it? I am human so missteps are expected. While taking my break from dating, I remembered what they told me all those years ago and I built upon their advice. What would make me happy? I do not require much. I am not a high maintenance woman by any means. If someone made me coffee in the morning I would be happy as a pig in a mud puddle. I never expect anyone to do anything for me. I am used to doing everything by myself and have a hard time asking for help. I admit, that is partly because of my pride. I am a tad bit strong willed and a little too independent for my own good. Ok, I am more than a tad bit.
Even with these traits that can wear one down, I still yearn for the same qualities as most people. I just want to feel loved and cherished. It is hard to admit this. I am not used to showing affection much less receiving it. It takes an extra special person to get past my humor that I use to cope with every situation to see the person I hide within. Call it a defense mechanism if you wish.
Here is what I consider my perfect mate. The glorious part is that he will not be perfect. I do not expect him to be. My perfect man will have a twisted sense of humor. I tend to find it in places that I should not. Like I said, it is my defense mechanism. I am also extremely silly and tend to go into the land of ridiculousness way more often than is probably healthy. I love life. I simply cannot help myself sometimes.
Next he will be passionate. I want to build a future. I do not need glory and riches. I do not have a burning desire to see my name in lights. That is not what is important to me. What I do wish to see is someone who is driven to better their life. I know that the Universe tends to throw us curve balls all of the time. I know that every time you take a step forwards that you get kicked four steps backwards. I also know that with enough determination, you can kick the Universe hard enough that it leaves you alone so that with every step you take forward, it lets you keep them for fear of another kick from your mighty boot.
I have to admit that I am a hopeless romantic. I will gobble that up faster than a person who has been starved their entire life and suddenly presented a banquet that never ends. Here is the great part, I do not require gifts. Remember, it is the little things. Those mean more than anything you could ever buy from a store. If I feel desirable, beautiful, wanted and loved, I am one happy woman. I won’t lie, the pink and white Stargazer Lilies are my favorite flower and I will never turn my nose up at receiving them. I will swoon my head off and smile so big that I look slightly crazy. Don’t go telling everyone that I had a girly moment. I do have a reputation to keep here.
Let’s see, we have a passionate worker who works hard to build a better future and is a romantic at heart. Not too shabby if you ask me. Here are a few things that I cannot live with. If you have not guessed it, it is someone who will manipulate me. I have dated some men that had zero desire for any kind of future and whose sole goal was for me to support them.
I have a hard time with this one. I will never ask more than I am willing to give myself. When I have committed myself to someone, I give every ounce of my soul and then some. Again, I am not expecting perfection but why is a partner who wants the same things in life and is willing to work for them too much to ask for? I am the type that will dive into whatever my partner is into and try my very best to help them build whatever it is that they are trying to accomplish. I fight for them and their dreams, in other words. I just want the same in return. I am not sure if that is selfish or not. A part of me says that it is not. That couple was able to do this, so why can’t I do it too?
When I read all of this back, I feel as if I am asking to move mountains. The crazy thing is, I am not. None of this is unreasonable. I have seen couples do all of this and more. A partner for life should be just that, a partner. You have to find what works for you. You cannot demand perfection. We all have days where we wish to be one with the couch. It just cannot be every single day of our existence. There are days when we feel like the ugliest, most undesirable, and most unworthy person on the planet. There are days when we do not feel like we deserve to be loved and cherished. There are even days when we are so depressed that getting out of bed is a chore. The key is to embrace the one who brings us joy on those dark days. If it is true love, they will fight for you. They will do everything they can to bring light to your darkness. They will raise you up to the heavens until you soar.
Your loved one will do this through the little things in life. There is no perfect mate. You cannot fall in love with the idea of a person. You must take them as they are, for better or for worse. There is a reason why wedding vows state that. There will be dark days. There will be days of absolute bliss. Cherish them all for they are a treasure. The person you love is worth it. Fight for them and with them. In the end, that is all that matters. Be the light in each others’ darkness until only you two remain, together.