A Visit With A Couple In Love

Katie Young
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Wednesday - August 09, 2006
| Del.icio.us

Sally and Lyle are a couple I met a few years ago at a friend’s dinner party. Both in their mid-50s, they had each been through a divorce (she, after 30 years of marriage; he after 25.)

Sally and Lyle met through mutual friends long after they both swore off dating, relationships or future marriage. They had both decided, separately, that it was better to just remain single.

“I was an old dog,” Lyle told me. “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.”

Sally was nodding in agreement. “Old dog,” she reiterated.

The two shared a glance and then a giggle.

Friends had set them up, and their courtship continued “very slowly,” said Sally. “We were both still nursing our own wounds.”

Slow was good, the couple told me, because it helped give them time to work through their respective issues as individuals, while allowing them space to grow into being partners.

They began to care deeply about each other and, even though they swore they never would ... found themselves wanting to make an effort for the other person - wanting to love again, wanting to be vulnerable again.

Recently, I had the chance to sit with them again - it now being six years into their partnership. Sally and Lyle started talking with me about things they wish they had known about relationships when they were younger.

They had come up with the top five things they wish they had known in their first marriages:

1) That the little things are actually big things.

“Small gestures and courtesies count for a lot,” says Sally. “In day-to-day living, it’s easy to dispense with a ‘please’ or ‘thank you,’ compliments and gestures (a card or flower) of civility, appreciation and affection. But over the long haul, these form a part of the glue that, applied daily, can hold a relationship together.”

Sally adds that these gestures reflect love and caring and respect on a daily basis, not just on the obligatory special occasion.

2) Love needs kindness - and kind words - to grow.

“Communication, communication, communication,” says Lyle. “Yes, there may be ‘Mars and Venus’ moments when you may wish your significant other were on another planet. But to make love last, be kind to each other. Speak with affection in a tone reserved for your special someone.”

“Make the person feel needed, important and loved by the words you choose and the way they’re delivered,” added Sally. “Yelling, cursing, curtness, sarcastic retorts and belittling remarks wear away at the foundation of a relationship until one day you wake up and wonder where the love has gone.”

3) No one is perfect, so try not to do too much “remodeling.”

“On the other hand,” Lyle said, “be able to say how you feel about important issues so you can arrive at a solution together.”

“Another way to look at this is to pick your battles and be open to change,” said Sally. “Each of us brings to a relationship a lifetime of personal history, family issues, ways of looking at the world, values and past hurts. No two people will ever view life’s moments the same way all the time. One of the benefits of growing older is accumulating more ‘context’ to put things in to perspective - hard to do when you’re younger, and it all seems important.”

4) Don’t forget to laugh - and learn how to talk with each other.

“Many couples talk ‘at’ each other,” explained Lyle. “But being able to share feelings is at the heart of every relationship. And yes, it is also a potential minefield, with issues ready to detonate if they’re not addressed. But the alternative is even sadder: to never be able to say how you really feel and, ultimately, to never connect in a deeper way with the person you say you love.”

5) Never minimize someone else’s feelings, and practice balancing talking and listening.

“Minimizing says, ‘Your feelings don’t matter’ or aren’t ‘valid,’” Sally said. “Everyone is entitled to feel as they do. Learn to listen with a compassionate heart, acknowledge the other person’s feelings even if you don’t agree with his or her view, and find the real issue by listening between the lines.”

At this point, Sally reached over to pat Lyle on the hand; Lyle leaned in to give Sally a quick peck on her forehead.

“What do you think?” Lyle asked me.

“Words to live by,” I said, smiling.

And I really believe that. Don’t we all wish for a little bit of insight into our own futures? And if you don’t have a crystal ball, perhaps the next best thing is to learn from the mistakes of others. Make their lessons your own and you won’t have to wait a lifetime to figure out “what you wish you had known when you were younger.”

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