When I was a little kid I used to sleep over at my Grandma’s house on Saturday nights. Date nights or lady’s nights for my mom, I guess. My grandma would make me an apple pie and serve me little bottles of Coke. I remember how she always smelled like Charlie perfume, Juicy Fruit and Salem Lights. I loved her apartment because it was small and I could hear the sounds of her neighbors thundering over us as we watched television, usually Lawrence Welk or Hee-Haw. Sometimes we’d sit at her small dinner table and she’d teach me how to play Honeymoon Bridge and I’d sit, mesmerized as she flipped the cards back and forth across her fingers like a Vegas blackjack dealer. My grandma had perfect hands decorated with perfectly painted nails. At the end of the night, she’d put on her light blue nightie and hairnet and take her “cough syrup”. We’d crawl into her twin beds in complete darkness until she flipped on her nightstand table and I’d fall asleep while she quietly read her Harlequin novels.
My grandma had a bookshelf filled with these romance novels. Every cover tantalized me and made me secretly wonder what those couples felt as they looked dreamily into each others’ eyes. Sometimes I’d ask my grandma why she loved these books so much and she’d simply say that I was too young that I wouldn’t understand.
I’ve thought a lot about those books over the years. I’ll even admit I’ve read a few of them. They’re not bad and some of the authors have written hundreds a books; a feat notable for even the smallest of writers. And maybe people read them and write them because they’re looking for a little bit of romance in their lives. But romance is hard to come by and I think sometimes it’s something that we have to work at to have be present in our relationships and even our daily lives.
Recently though, I’ve been surrounded by friends who seem to be having serious relationship issues. Since I’m a therapist, they often tell me about their situations and even ask for advice. Sometimes it’s easier to give advice to strangers or clients who I know through my professional life. And when I look at my friend’s relationships, I’m not really sure what happened. Was it a lack of romance or passion? A lapse in communication or an unwillingness to work through problems which sometimes just requires negotiation and a reminder of what brought you together in the first place. Or maybe, a combination of all of the above.
Why is so hard for us to remember those first few minutes we met the person we fell in love with and what brought us together in the beginning. I’d love to say I have the perfect relationship and we never fight or argue, but that’s just not the case. In fact, we argue quite a bit, but we try to sit down and have adult conversations and reach some kind of negotiation so both our needs are met. The reality is, we are very different people with very different expectations and we don’t always agree. Our goals are not always the same and our interests are as different as the person sitting next to you on the bus. But that doesn’t mean that love can’t be found on the bus, as we both struggle in the heat of the small compartment waiting for our stop. Sometimes, love is found and exists in the most difficult situations because it is our common bonds with each other that gets us through everything. Love endures all.
Why is that so hard to remember?
When I work with couples in relationship therapy, the first thing I typically tell them is that reunification and resolving problems in a relationship is much easier than separation and divorce. Having been through a “divorce” of a nine year relationship, let me be the first to say that separating and dissolving a relationship is miserable, sad and in essence, the end of the magic. In my last relationship, I truly believe if we had sought therapy years before, when the problems arose, we might have been able to save the relationship. But the problems continued and persisted, tension grew and the magic died. And sadly, it couldn’t be saved.
Happily, we’re both in relationship which, I believe, are making us both happy today. But that doesn’t happen for a lot of people. Some people stay in miserable relationships for years without trying to make it better. Or dissolve a relationship never to find love again. And that’s probably, to some degree, why my grandma read those books, night after night. Maybe, she was seeking just a little bit of romance she couldn’t find anywhere else in her life.
As much as I love to read, obsessively at times, there is no book that compares to the comfort of a wink, a hug or a kiss. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll buy one of those old romance novels and remember my grandma Ethel a little bit while reading it. But tonight, I’ll close my eyes and smile, listening to my boyfriend breathe softly as he falls asleep, because that is love. And we should love and hold onto love while we can…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!