“Love makes the world go around.” And around. And around. In this first, dizzy phase of what might be a lifelong relationship, it is hard to think clearly, but we must.
Love that moves on to marriage, must also move on to loyalty and devotion, but too often does not, leaving behind broken hearts, broken marriages, broken children. The wise will “begin with the end in mind,” thinking beyond the initial stage to the middle and the end stages of a committed relationship.
After the “first fine careless rapture” [Robert Browning] comes the engagement, wedding, and the business of being married. New responsibilities are added to the joys of being together. As a couple and individually, you meet new people and loyalty becomes paramount. Do you “stand by your man” or woman, or do you criticize, undercut, demean? Do you flirt? Have an affair? Lack of loyalty will kill your love, ruin your relationship, doom your marriage. If you have children, this puts them at risk. Poor families are largely headed by single mothers, and their children are too often among the least successful in maturing healthily. If you have fallen in love with someone to whom you can and will be loyal, you have chosen well.
At some time, probably when you both are middle-aged or older, accident or illness will leave one of you more or less disabled. The statistics are frightening, but we know, without statistical analysis, that as we age, we will lose capabilities, and sooner or later one of the couple or both will need someone’s care, someone’s devotion. That will test the wisdom of your initial choice and the strength of the bonds that hopefully were enhanced, not weakened, by your behavior in the earlier phases of your marriage. Old age is not for sissies, and it is weathered better with a loving partner than without.
At a recent book signing [for Ting and I: A Memoir…], I was asked what were the “secrets” of our happy marriage, a marriage that has been very happy despite Tina Su Cooper’s severe disabilities due to multiple sclerosis. I was stumped briefly, then replied that one should love and marry a person worthy of your devotion, as I had. After a pause, I added, “and don’t fuss over little things.”
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a freelance writer, writing coach, and retired physicist, author of Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion, available from Outskirts Press, amazon.com, bn.com, or from the web site, tingandi.com. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.