Keeping the Love Alive
Who loves a wedding? We do! But what happens in the years after the confetti is swept away? Our authors talk about what keeps the love alive in long term relationships.
My husband (or the lovely Mr B as he’s so fondly known) and I met when we were 18… And I was actually dating a friend of his. Clearly, that particular relationship didn’t work out and after a few months, Mr B asked said friend if he’d mind if Mr B asked me out, which the ex didn’t mind at all. The rest, as they say, is history.
Our romance began in January 1993 and on June 5th this year we will have been together 25 years and married for twenty. If it’s possible, I love my husband more today than ever. Life can be hard sometimes, even cruel, but my husband and I have made it through good times and bad.
The secret? Laughter, and lots of it! He makes me laugh every day and I am confident enough to say the same is true of me for him. Our first daughter was born in 1999, with daughter number two following in 2001. Raising kids is no easy feat and with our first born refusing to sleep through the night until she was around four years old, those early years came close to breaking us…but we made it!
Needless to say, we’ve both changed over the years with me going from working full-time in a bank to a full-time, stay-at-home mum to our daughters and then, because my husband is such an amazingly supportive man, a full-time writer. I am so proud of everything he does, from running his own company to his solo and choir singing. He has such an AMAZING voice and I love the joy his singing brings him.
Now that our girls are 19 and almost 17, Mr B’s life and mine are once more becoming our own, and we’re wringing every last bit of enjoyment out of it. As our eldest studies policing at Plymouth University and our youngest is preparing to start a Musical Theatre Diploma at Italia Conti in London, we are enjoying more and more date nights as well as breaks away.
We recently returned from a three-night break to Versailles, which was fantastic, and now we plan to make city breaks our new ‘thing’ to do together at least twice a year. Yet, as much as we savour our time alone, we also love that our teenage girls still enjoy spending time with us and I cherish our family time. While you’re reading this, we’ll be on a week-long cruise to Hamburg, Oslo and Brussels with our girls and neighbours, who also happen to be some of our best friends and the biggest supporters of our marriage. Maybe I can share some of the pics from our holiday in my next post!
Long live romance, long live marriage and long live everlasting love!
My great aunt Mary once told me there were three keys to keeping love alive:
1. Get married late;
2. Don’t get involved with a man who takes his laundry home to mum; and
3. Carve out time for yourself.
Since Aunt Mary never married, early or late, despite living to a ripe age of 101, I don’t know whether her advice is valid, but by coincidence, or error, I followed the first two points.
My current husband and I met in our mid-thirties – he after a divorce plus two kids, and me after a couple long term relationships.
More than being impressed that he could do his own laundry, I do remember noticing how scrupulous he was about the time he spent with his kids and how determined he was that he would not become marginalized in their lives. That was definitely a point in his favor – I like a man who invests in relationships and assumes responsibility for his mistakes.
But I’m a wary customer and it took me a while to unbend enough to move in with him and unwind enough to contemplate kids of our own. Actually agreeing to marry took me another seven years and two children.
It was a family rather than a couple’s marriage – we and our two children all stood before the judge and pledged to work hard at loving each other, because love is, and should be, hard work.
Aunt Mary’s advice trio may seem random, but I don’t think it is. The first is about being mature enough to realize what a privilege and a responsibility a relationship is. The second is about choosing someone who realizes the same, and the third is recognizing that taking care of yourself is fundamental to living well, with or without a relationship. It is assuming responsibility for yourself and not expecting anyone else to do it for you.
So far, then, I'd followed the first two of Aunt Mary’s dictums but the third eluded me. With two young children and a busy husband, a job of my own aside from my job as an author, I tended to push everything to do with the non-mother, non-working-woman-me to the bottom of the pile.
Now, that would be fine if I was content with that state of affairs but I admit I kept having this niggling voice that expected my husband to see how overworked and stressed I was and tell me, "I’ll take care of the kids, you take a day, two days, a week off – go to a spa, take an art class, something." What really should have happened, and eventually did, was that I realized it was my job to take those demands for me-time beyond tea with friends.
And that only happened when another wonderful change entered my life – romance.
No, not that kind of romance. Writing romance novels. Much to my surprise two years ago I became a published author, and as part of that marvelous transformation I went to London to meet my editor. That was incredible in itself, but the real discovery was that for the first time since my children were born I spent a few days with just myself in a non-work environment.
For four days I walked from end to end of that incredible city, alone I sat in cafes, visited museums, explored alleyways and markets, haunted bookstores, and meandered in parks. I met myself again as I had been before I was an employee, a lover, a mother, a wife. It was a wary re-acquaintance, but ultimately I returned from London feeling I still had a place in the world that was wholly mine. I went home full of life and love and energy and my husband promptly proclaimed that sending me off on my own should be at least a yearly event since it had such impressive results.
Since then I go away twice each year for non-work related trips, and though they are often around publishing related events, I always take some days just for me. I found it much easier to love generously after I re-discovered how much I enjoyed being by myself.
My great aunt Mary was 101 when she passed away. Though she never married and rarely traveled, she was happy and wise and her three recommendations are worthy of being passed on as a decent prescription for keeping the love alive.
I’ve been married for a lot of years. I look back at pictures from our wedding and think: wow, we were young. And we were, but the advantage to marrying young is, we grew up together.
Maybe that’s why the idea of keeping love alive resonates with me personally and as a writer. What’s the secret of couples who make it?
For us, the secret is, we’re best friends. Seriously, given my druthers, Himself (my husband’s online name) is my favorite person in the whole world to spend time with. Whether we are taking care of kids, mucking in the garden, or working on renovations at our cottage, we’re do things together.
That being said, we both manage to have our own interests and we both support each other in those. He loves sports; I am not the least bit sporty. I just show up when I have to for my kids and he doesn’t mind. I love Broadway shows; he goes with me when none of the kids will. Yes, he’s a seat-filler and he’s okay with that. When I went back to school this year, he was totally behind my new adventure and never complained when I got lost in ceramics. (Oh, yeah, that’s a thing. I’d start working and think, I have an hour left, and then it’s three hours later.) When I decided to make a ceramic “quilt” to cover an electric panel at our cottage, I asked him to cut some plywood for me. He didn’t just cut a hunk of plywood, he made me a beautiful frame for it and put it on heavy-duty hinges. He cared about that project because I did.
And maybe it helps that we’re both pretty easygoing. I don’t need bangles and baubles. I was doing an interview a few years back and the interviewer at the Erie Times asked me what was the most romantic present my husband ever gave me. I answered without hesitation; my steel-toed boots. Yes, that’s right. Himself bought me steel-toed boots for a gift and my heart melted. You see, I spend my summers splitting logs because we heat with wood in the winter. And frequently I’d bang my foot with a log or a flying wedge. He noticed and bought me something to save my poor feet. Yes, those boots have saved me countless bruises and broken toes. They’re one of my all- time favorite gifts. We had to make a boot in my first ceramics class. I immortalized those boots.
That idea of friendship resonates through all my books, whether their romantic comedies, family dramas or cozy mysteries. Friendship is at the heart of my books. From my first Harlequin sale, I Waxed My Legs for This?, which was a true best friends romance (the hero rides to the rescue to rip wax from the heroine’s legs. Yes a true hero would do that!) to Just One Thing, where two injured people find friendship, healing and love, to… Well, you get the point. I think all my characters find not just love, but friendship in my stories.
Himself likes to tell people he is the hero in all my books. He laughs as if it’s a joke. But—shh, don’t tell him—he is. And maybe that’s the true reason we’ve found a way to keep love alive. I found one of the best guys out there and I recognize that fact. I count on him, but I don’t take him for granted. And I can attest to the fact, he doesn’t take me for granted either.
Friends. Best friends.
That’s the secret to our success and that’s the secret to the stories I write. I think that the friendships in those stories resonate as true and readers recognize that truth.
At least I hope they do.
How do you keep the love alive in your marriage or long-term relationship? Got any tips or tricks? We'd love to hear from you here or on social media using #KeepLoveAlive
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