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J sat at the head of our Hive lunch table. She is a woman in her late 40s, with two teenage children and a kind, warm, yet strict and efficient, motherly way about her. She doesn’t mince her words, and speaks often of praying. J is married to R, who I call the man with the giant laugh (he laughs often, and he laughs loud, and his kindness is contagious).
We have known this couple for a few years. So I asked her to tell us how they met — their grand love story — and she began. As she talked us through their first dance in 1998, and the years she had to convince her parents to let her marry this man so different from what they wanted for her, we sensed something unusual. She was still in love with him and more than two decades later, she still LIKED the man she loved.
“He is a gem of a person”, she said to us, and everyone around that table set aside their sarcasm and scepticism and let their hearts melt just a little bit.
The story left an impact on me. Later in the week I met a friend for dinner and told him all about the love story that had me thinking all week. Why was it so unusual to meet couples in their 40s, who had been together so long and still LIKED one another? Could it be that liking someone is harder and rarer than loving someone?
Most couples I know who have been together for two decades can tolerate one another.
Some are used to each other, the way one is used to an old pair of jeans — it fits, you don’t have to think about it, and you would rather use that energy on other, more important things.
Many couples are so used to complaining about their partners that it has become the most accepted language one uses when you talk about marriage. And this is normalised by spouse jokes and driven by punchlines.
But this idea of liking someone — just as a human being — of wanting to spend time with someone, wanting to share ideas, being keen to hear their opinion on this or that, on matters unconnected to the daily drudgery of schedules and plans, is so wonderful, so fascinating. The idea of liking someone as an independent individual, their OWN person — this is something to aspire towards. A friendship, a respectful companionship that sounds more like a decision than an addiction — maybe that is the kind of love one wants.
As J ended narrating her love story that afternoon, she said, “I fell in love with him, no doubt, but I also chose him. I chose to love him.” Perhaps that is the secret.
When presented with the two words:
To endure: to suffer patiently/to remain in existence.
To choose: To decide on a course of action.
I pick choose.
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