By Jennifer Richardson
When I was a child I collected my first lessons about relationships and emotions from my kind parents and a tight knit group of my parents’ contemporaries. I was honored to see several marriages and friendships that truly went the distance. My parents worked hard to surround me with positive influences and counteract the live-whatever-you-feel-in-the-moment popular culture. Their efforts gave me a birds-eye view of authentic and determined relationship building.
In retrospect this was a beautiful, protected time in which I was encouraged to see relationships and marriage as good things; enjoyable, not to be entered into lightly, and opportunities to learn and grow and sacrifice for one another.
Maybe the most memorable take away for me was the studied approach to choosing your love based on shared values, then deciding to spend the rest of your life loving your choice. I really had no idea how much this would influence me as I chose my own life connections.
As I entered my twenties and spent more time with people I had not known as a child, I can remember a growing awareness that not all relationships lasted. I made my own mistakes and blunders and learned valuable lessons. I started paying more purposeful attention to how people selected those who would be in their lives, and how successful the outcomes appeared to be.
When I chose to be in love in my own life I learned how transcendent and marvelous the experience of walking into love could be. I felt the tumultuous and exhilarating, and sometimes terrifying feelings of romance, and the vulnerability of holding something that seemed too precious to lose. But through all the sentiment and sensation I had a very solid belief that the person I was choosing was right for me.
It was not the fact that he was tall, broad-shouldered, and blue-eyed—although those things were just what I would have ordered if I could have. It wasn’t just because I lost my equilibrium when he was standing near me, or because I counted the minutes between the instant he left until I saw him again.
All of that felt amazing. But the relationship was built on more. He was a hard worker, an honest person, a what-you-see-is-what-you-get man who shot from the hip and always left things better than he found them. He was a dreamer and a doer, he lived authentic spirituality, and he was grateful for life and love. He was capable of long-term friendship, and was know by many as a man who helped others. He was always interested in living life as a mission, and making a contribution was just part of his every day. He approach life with humor, and he was the same man a year after I met him as he was on day one.
My head was in the clouds, but my feet were planted firmly on the ground. I adored the feelings but I also knew they were only as valuable as the ideals that were circulating beneath the surface.
In the years since I have seen many marriages and commitments, and I am happy to say that most have been constructive. I have also seen the sadness and hurt of relationships that ended when the emotions drifted away and what was left was not enough to hold two lives together.
People often ask about the secret to lasting love. What do we do when the feelings change. The answer, of course, is that feelings will always change, and emotions are never the reason to commit to love in the first place.
Twenty-seven years into my connection with the love of my life I can say that my commitment to him is built on the same underpinning I saw in him when I first started down the road of discovering who he was, and who we could be together.
Love is a decision; it is as steady as we choose it to be. The roller coaster ride of emotion can be a fun, dramatic, heart-breaking, dizzying experience, but the feel of the ride can only take us in circles. It is the unmoving, resolute strength of the foundation under the roller coaster that allows for the thrill to be experienced without harm. The ability to feel is an incredible gift. Feelings make the journey a richer experience, but they were not intended to chart the course.