Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward
I’ve been thinking about love and relationships. Blame it on Valentine’s Day. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m not particularly “romantic.” I find the idea of a 24/7 highly passionate, all-consuming love affair, frankly, exhausting. And I’m put off by the obligatory flowers, candy, and jewelry that show up on anniversaries, birthdays, and major holidays. They’re expected…they’re graciously received…but it’s all so hollow. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against flowers, candy and jewelry…just mechanical behavior based on social expectations. If it’s personal, genuine and sincere, then bring it on!
The thing is, I really do believe in love. But when I look around, I feel a little sad for relationships. Why? Because everyone is so fearful and tentative about commitment these days. Because everyone is so confused about their “roles.” Because relationships are more about “what’s in it for me?” or “what am I going to miss out on if I commit?” or “what is this going to cost me in the long run?” Because everyone makes it so damned complicated!
I hear guys talk about their wives, girlfriends, and “other women.” Wives…girlfriends…boring. Other women…variety…exciting! I’m guessing it NEVER occurs to them that perhaps the reason their wives and girlfriends are boring is because they’re bored too. Bored with working all day, then coming home to clean the house and cook dinner for a man who sits in his easy chair stuffing his face with the dinner she’s cooked as he stares blankly and silently at a television. I’m also guessing that “cute little chicky other woman” would be equally as bored.
To be fair, there are women who apparently regard their boyfriends and husbands as nothing more than convenient sources of income. Sex for them is an obligation…like cooking, ironing, and raising the kids. The payoff? “This guy is responsible for taking care of me and our children for the rest of our lives…whether we stay together or not.” It’s no wonder men are terrified. There’s nothing attractive or inspiring about that either.
Ina Garten, of The Barefoot Contessa on The Food Network, recently did a show that celebrated her 43rd wedding anniversary. She was making all of her husband’s favorite dishes, and as she cooked, she ruminated on marriage: “What’s the secret to a good marriage? I don’t know. I would hate to have a marriage that you would have to work at…We just have a good time together. He wants me to be happy, I want him to be happy. It’s so simple.”
I have to agree. It seems to me that much of what is missing in relationships these days is good old “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” A partnership based on love, friendship, and really caring about another person’s feelings equally to one’s own. And throw in a dash of that magical chemistry that can‘t be described or explained.
Once in an interview, the actor Paul Newman was asked why he was faithful to his wife Joanne Woodward, when he was able to have most any woman he wanted. He replied, “Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?” That comment made him sexier and more attractive to me than his beautiful blue eyes or washboard abs ever could. She lit a fire in his heart, and he found joy and excitement in keeping that flame burning. What a man!
Joanne Woodward said of Paul Newman. “Sexiness wears thin after a while and beauty fades, but to be married to a man who makes you laugh every day, ah, now that's a real treat." How beautiful!
George and Barbara Bush were on The Today Show on Valentine’s Day. George read a love letter that he wrote to Barbara on their 49th anniversary. He choked back the tears as he read it, and she reached over and patted his arm lovingly. This is what he read…
“Will you marry me? Whoops. I forgot you did that 49 years ago today. I was very happy on that day in 1945, but I’m even happier today. You give me joy that few men know. I’ve climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara’s husband,” Bush read, his voice cracking. “Little did I know I was only trying to keep up with Barbara Pierce from Onondaga Street in Rye, New York. I love you.”
After so many years, it was obvious that the love, friendship, and respect were still there and as strong as ever.
I’ve watched my Dad, who is 87 years old, come in from working in the garden with a little handful of flowers for my Mom. You can see the expression of love on his face when he gives them to her, and the expression of delight on hers when she accepts them. It warms my heart to see the connection between them that still exists after over sixty years together.
This is what I wish for. I wish we would bring back love. Real love. Grown-up love. Spontaneity. Friendship. Dedication. Partnership. Commitment. Unabashed admiration and respect. Mystical attraction that never wavers. The kind of love that makes us, not more whole, not more complete…but just better. Why must it be so hard?