“Love is a rebellious bird,
That nobody can tame’
And you call him quite in vain
If it suits him not to come.”
(La Habanera from the opera “Carmen”)
When I was younger and still in grad school one of my jobs was to evaluate the arts and humanities programs in Suffolk County.
The program I recall best was a grant received by the Roslyn school system called The Love Lesson. This multimillion dollar program was funded by the federal government and designed to teach kids about love.
It was a fine program and it impressed me that the government felt that love is worth investing in.
Over the years I have taught post graduate courses on love so I do know the literature. And having listened to patients talk about love and its disappointments I could see that love really is a rebellious and elusive bird.
Everyone knows that love is crucial for health, for kids and for happiness. And since this is the season of love I thought it might be fun to talk to some folks and see what they could teach me about love.
I started each interview with a series of question like “What is love? Is it important? How do you keep it alive?
My first interview was with David Kim of Pembroke Cleaners. He said that love is chemistry and also being honest and open with your spouse.
This forms a bond which then is able to withstand the day to day bickering.
I asked Kim Schneider who is a vet assistant at the Cat Hospital and she emphasized the importance of empathy, listening and compassion.
She said it’s knowing what the partner’s real but unspoken needs are and then answering them.
I proceeded down the road and walked into the Village Gift and Flower Shoppe which always reminds me of an old country store but without the potbelly stove to gather around.
Owner Angela Williams was there with her husband John.
I asked them about love and John spoke first and said “You have to find the right person and then you become friends which are the key. That’s what love is.” Angela said “love changes dramatically when the children come. I watched my husband show how good a dad he was and my respect and love for him grew deeper.”
John felt that “It’s very important to have similar values” to which Angela replied, “Yes that’s right. I don’t think opposites attract.” I then thought to myself ‘yea she’s right. Look at how short lived the hapless marriage of Denis Rodman and Carmen Electra was. It lasted only two weeks.’
Then I thought to myself that ‘maybe Carmen Electra chose her name after the opera character Carmen who was that dangerous gypsy seductress.
I did not share these thoughts with the Williams’ since, though quite interesting, would have been too diverting.
John went on to say that his kids have added lots to his life.
“My oldest who is non-materialistic has taught me a lot about how to live and enjoy a life.”
John went on to say how you marry not only a person but a whole new family and that if it’s a nice family your life is immediately richer.
From my previous work in this area I already know what the research says.
Love requires chemistry, high level compatibility, shared values. Research also says that the ability to fight fairly and not maliciously is a crucial predictor of a successful marriage.
But what I learned today was something new and unexpected. What I could see was that love is actually the beginning of an amazing process which is a great expansion of your life. Your children open up a new world for you.
Of course no marriage is perfect. The wife is not Marilyn Monroe nor is she Audrey Hepburn. The husband is not Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart nor is he Brad Pitt. These ideal characters only exist for two hours and only in the fantasy world of film.
But real love is more magical.
It’s finding someone who becomes your lover then friend then companion and then teacher. And then your kids can become your teachers as well.
John and Angela’ son is quite right when he suggests we are better off not buying the new Mercedes but instead taking a long walk on a trail up some beautiful mountain.
The great Christmas film “It’s a Wonderful Life” tells us richness is only found in family and friends and community and never in money.
That is what I learned on these interviews today. Love is a window into the world of richness and joy and surprise. It starts with a small kiss and ends with a great big booming family.
And as they say in the commercial ‘that’s priceless.”