Last year, my husband and I commemorated our wedding anniversary by taking a trip to Europe. It was the perfect way to celebrate our marriage because we both love to travel. However, beyond that, we really don’t have much in common, and I truly marveled over how we’ve held together through 30 years of effervescent ups and tumultuous downs.
I have written on this topic before: the yin and yang of my marriage. But the idea that opposites attract and that we complete one another like interlocking jigsaw puzzle pieces doesn’t quite suit as a description of our union. We’re more like two separate planets - one rotating around the sun, the other circumnavigating the moon - sharing space in a vast universe. Our connection is the gravitational pull by which our orbits collide long and often enough to raise two children in a comfortable home, sustaining a lifestyle that defines us both as blessed.
In other words, I have no clue as to why I love my husband. There is no argument for it, which isn’t to say that he doesn’t have his good qualities. He does, but some of his bad ones are doozies. I’m exactly the same.
I don’t love my husband for particular traits. I love him for no reason whatsoever. I love my daughter and son in the same way, spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about each of them - their characters, their behaviors, their needs, their life circumstances - but loving them neither more nor less as a result of my analyses.
You could call it "unconditional love," but that term has been used and ground down into a bromide. For example, I know a man who announced to his three children that he and their mother were divorcing, that the split was entirely her idea and that their failed marriage was all her fault. He stated this as his blindsided, dumbfounded wife listened in horror. He then ended his pronouncements with, "But I want you all to know that I love you unconditionally."
Personally, I think the callousness and manipulation behind his previous statements rendered his proclamation of love meaningless to the point of laughable. But I do believe he meant what he said. Perhaps love, unconditional or not, just isn’t the only ingredient to make the secret sauce of a happy marriage or a stable family life.
Here’s what I know: My loved ones irritate me a lot. I notice everything they do and say; almost nothing slides by. That’s just my nature. I never stop loving them, but that’s the easy part. For me, the harder row to hoe is acceptance - to unequivocally accept the faults and frailties of my loved ones, who on occasion hurt me, frustrate me and let me down, but who love me as ferociously as I love them.
It takes some effort to practice acceptance. Whereas love easily overlooks any behavior, good or bad, acceptance forces me to look squarely at human weakness and say, "This is the reality, and I take the whole package." I know it’s exactly the same for my family when it comes to me, particularly when it comes to incisive and relentless commentary regarding their inner beings that they never asked for in the first place.
At the end of the day, we really are all in it together. Our love for one another is the river from which a tributary of acceptance also flows, and those waters are a salvation, a mercy, a grace. In the hubbub of life, I honestly can’t think of anything more comforting than that. It’s such a relief.