Monday, June 06, 2005

Love, Marriage, and Affairs

Excerpt From Captain Correlli's Mandolin:

When you fall in love it is a temporary madness, it erupts like an earthquake and then it subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots are so entwined together that is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining he is kissing every part of your body. No don't blush, I am telling you some truths.
That is just being in love, which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over, when being in love is burned away.
Doesn't sound very exciting does it?
But it is.

We recently went to two weddings in one weekend. Both of these couples had been living with each other for several years, so they had had enough time to get beyond the insanity that we all feel when we fall in love. As they exchanged their vows, looking with so much optimism and trust at one another, in two very different ceremonies – one a formal Catholic mass in a beautiful stained glass chapel, the other a mixed, but mostly Jewish wedding outdoors at a camp – I wondered how long these marriages would last – 10 years, 20 years, or a lifetime? For most couples, the wedding marks a clean slate. It is only later that growing apart, indiscretions, the strain of raising children, or differences about money erode the commitment that starts out so strong. I can honestly say that I believe both of these couples, in their mid-twenties, will last.

I have another friend, however, who is having the most fairytale like relationship with a man considerably older than she is. And she is over 50. They have known each other for over 30 years, having corresponded and remained the best of friends all this time. But they had never allowed anything more than holding hands once, and maybe one kiss. She told me that he is the only person she has ever been able to trust. Thirty years of pent-up passion has now erupted into a romance to end all romances. He writes her a real letter, mailed with real stamps, every day. The only problem is that he has been married for more than 40 years. Until just today, I had reveled in my friend’s newfound happiness; I hadn’t thought about this from the wife’s standpoint. What suddenly hit me is despite all the wonderful sex and current infatuation, in the end at least one person is going to get really hurt. Or it could be two. Or even all three. It makes me very sad to think about this. I am especially glad I am not the wife. But I don’t think I could bear to be my friend either, having to share the person I loved with someone else.

I have had an ongoing discussion with this same friend about monogamy. She is in favor of non-monogamous relationships. I really believe that if you love and trust another person – spouse, partner, girlfriend, boyfriend – you don’t have room in your heart for similar feelings about anyone else. I just can’t imagine that it would be humanly possible to condone your lover’s sleeping with someone else. Certainly for those of us who have been married as long as I have, the breathlessness described above is a thing of the distant past. You know every inch of your lover’s body. You have tried and true ways of making love, that may not vary greatly. We all fantasize about that long-gone passion, but the cost of recapturing it with someone else is a high price to pay for something that may burn away and not yield the real thing.

Growing old together poses a lifetime of challenges. Love and trust increase the odds that two people can make it together.


Blogger Arya samaj said...

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3:46 AM  

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