Excerpt from Chapter 6: Love

Lasting Love — May 2009

Today is our 54th wedding anniversary, so I've been thinking about how long our love has lasted—through good times and bad. Of course, like most loves, ours began long before the wedding. In fact, it began as "puppy love" when we were about 6 years old. Then when we were about 16, our "romantic love" period began. While that kind of love never completely disappears, through the years it becomes transformed into a deeper form of what I call "lasting love."

I do want to quickly acknowledge that having a marriage that has lasted a long time doesn't guarantee that the love has lasted as well. Some couples move away from this kind of loving bond, but do not literally move away from each other. This is often a practical decision that may serve their need for companionship, financial support, or just plain old habit. It's not to be disparaged—because everyone has the right to determine their own course through life, especially when they reach their later years.

But in the U.S. and many other countries, "love" is both more and less important than we recognize. For instance, we overemphasize the importance of "romantic love"—as if it were the be-all and end-all of love. This is a fairly superficial view of love, one that is used to promote all kinds of goods and services in the advertising and marketing world. The most damaging feature of this belief in romantic love as "real love" is that it presents this initial stage of love as the key to "living happily ever after."

Unfortunately, this leads most couples to have an unrealistic view of what love is and what it can be throughout a lifetime together. When the romantic love stage wanes (as it inevitably does), too many couples think this signals the end of their love for each other. They fail to recognize the far more important kind of love that is waiting to emerge if we value and support the shift to a deeper, more bonded, more connected level.

Those who appreciate this transition and don't try to hold onto the earlier "romantic" love are far more likely to actually achieve the "happily ever after" relationship. As with many things in life, holding on to a fantasy can prevent you from experiencing the real thing—and the rewards that come with it.

I know that when we're young, it's hard to imagine being older and finding joy and comfort in having a partner to hold dear to your heart. We tend to think short-term and fail to appreciate that the decisions we make today eventually lead us either toward or away from the long-term goals we might want for our lives.

But if "lasting love" is your ultimate goal, it's important not to cling to the first stage of love (the romantic love that doesn't last). Otherwise, you miss out on having both—the romantic love in the beginning and the lasting love for the long haul. Each one has its place in your life, and the sooner you understand this, the more likely you are to have a life filled with love.

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