Keeping Love Alive

Keeping love alive over time requires your attention.

One evening a short while back I met with a group of friends at a local restaurant. After several hours of eating, drinking, and some pretty lively conversation (we deliberately talk politics when we get together), it was time to leave. Walking through a half-empty parking lot, I noticed a couple standing by a car kissing and holding each other tight. It took some time to walk past them to get to my car, and they were kissing and embracing the whole time. By the time I backed out of my parking spot though, she was starting her car, and he turned to walk away.

I thought, “They must really be in love for such a long good night kiss.” I was happy for them, for their joy of being in love, for sharing time and intimate conversation together, letting each other into their lives so deeply, and keeping love alive with a long kiss to end their evening, holding each other in their hearts until they are together again.

But I also wondered, “How long will it last?” Love, like any other emotion, rises and falls. I don’t mean that love always has to fade, end or change into some form of bland contentment. But just being together and the passage of time is enough to erode the feeling of love. Keeping a love relationship going, like maintaining friendships, means placing some value on it.

We value friends. We make it a point to call friends just to talk. We make plans to meet for lunch, see a play, go to a concert, or just hang out together. We are a little more careful about what we talk about with friends, not wanting to press each other’s “hot buttons.” Depending on a friend’s personality, we may even be more respectful with the way we say things and avoid certain 4-letter words. We do these things for them, and for ourselves, because we like our friends and enjoy doing stuff with and for them.

We are even more careful with the one we fall in love with, for we want to keep love alive with this one forever. We value them dearly. We find it natural to put their wants and desires ahead of our own, for it pleases them, and it makes us happy to see them happy.

But then a strange thing happens. Over time, we get really comfortable with them. So comfortable, we begin to treat them like family. But, we don’t treat family like lovers, or even friends.

Family is close relatives who have always been around us. We grew up with them and did stuff together, but it was usually Mom and Dad who scheduled events or made us take our little brother or sister along when we had our own plans. We never put the kind of effort into developing relationships with the sibling in the next bedroom that we do with friends. Family is just always there, and growing up, we think they will always be. It’s a given, and we take them for granted. It takes a crisis – a fire, a car accident, seeing someone hurt your sibling – to make you realize how much you care about your family.

So, seeing this couple kissing and hugging in the parking lot, deeply in love, I wondered how long it will take for them to become so comfortable with one another that they will begin to treat each other as family rather than lovers. Are they aware that a love relationship, like a garden, needs to be tended to in order to flourish? Are they even aware that their love can fade?

At the moment I think not. Right now each finds joy in making the other happy, in placing the concerns and the desires of the other first, in wanting to just be with each other. I hope they realize that keeping love alive happens only through their own selfless efforts. I hope they never get so comfortable with each other that they forget to treat each other like lovers.

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