Love at any age is blissful
When I was working full time, I loved walking into our newspaper office each morning. I was always greeted by the welcoming smell of coffee and the welcoming smile of Linda Koehler, my colleague and friend.
After I moved to Florida, Linda and I have stayed close.
It's one of those friendships where, even if you haven't seen each other for a year, you can pick up a meaningful conversation in a heartbeat, as if you were just together an hour ago.
Some friendships are superficial. What you have in common is an activity you do together. But others are the soul-sister kind and Linda fits into that category.
So it was only natural that Linda and I started reminiscing last week about the magical powers of love. We talked about how every single activity, even grocery shopping, is special when you share it with the person you love.
But we agreed that love is "different" depending on circumstances. A new love differs from one that you have shared for many years. And, from personal experiences as well as from interviewing others, I can tell you that love between two mature people, (that's my polite word for older) differs from that of young people.
When you're young, maybe you can take the magic of love for granted. When you are young and single, you just assume you are going to meet someone special then the gift of love will be yours.
When you're older and you've learned a lot in the School of Hard Knocks, you know what an extraordinary gift you have been given when you find love. And you do everything in your power to safeguard that gift.
I went to lunch the other day with three other women, two of whom are also enjoying second marriages later in life. As we listened to our friend who has been married for 50 years talk about how much she and her husband value time spent apart from each other, we contrasted that with our feelings of most enjoying togetherness.
I relish every single aspect of togetherness. Sharing a morning cup of coffee as well as leisure conversation each morning ranks right up there with what I regard as priceless gifts.
I use this analogy: You can best appreciate sunshine after you've been in the rain. And there are way too many storms you have to trudge through when you lose a spouse, either through death or divorce.
My friend, Susan, who was divorced for 20 years before she met her current husband, said there is no doubt in her mind that she treats this husband differently.
"I don't take a single day with him for granted," she said. "And I don't think either one of us would ever knowingly hurt the other one."
She recalls scenes from her first marriage where she and her husband were screaming at each other. "Now, I would never dream of screaming, no matter how mad I am," she said.
She makes the point that when you are older, you have a stronger sense of what is important in life and what should be allowed to slide by.
But our friend who has been married 50 years says that her long-term marriage gives them a comfort level with each other that is hard to match.
So, which is better - a new love or one where the couple has been together for a long time?
How would you answer that question?
I think love at any age and any stage is blissful and should be treated reverently.
When I tell my girlfriends about something sweet and tender that Dave has done, they say, "Wait. You're on your honeymoon. Things will change."
We doubt it. When Dave and I took our marriage vows in church, we added another vow of our own - the promise to always be gentle with each other.
We know we won't always like what the other one is doing and disagreements are bound to happen. But in keeping our vow to be gentle with each other, we know we will avoid unnecessary hurtful words and negative repercussions.
Dave says he thinks couples are smarter the second time around. I attribute that wisdom to age, not second marriages.
In an earlier column, I asked readers to share their experiences on what pitfalls to avoid as well as what makes a marriage strong.
"My first thought was laughter and a sense of humor," wrote one Whitehall reader. Married for almost 31 years, she says she and her "great guy" found that it's important to laugh together.
She also cited sharing a faith as something that strengthens a marriage.
I sure do agree with her on both counts.
During our marriage ceremony, David and I included the Ceremony of Three Cords. As a symbol of our deep belief that marriage is a union of a man, a woman and God, we braided three cords together. We keep that braided cord as a visual reminder that we are not alone in our marriage.
In response to my marriage opinion survey, I received some beautiful testimonies from couples that remain happy through thick and thin.
Some are married for decades; others are married for just a few years. What they have in common is the knowledge that love at any age is to be cherished.
We set Valentine's Day aside as a time to give our loved one a gift.
But the greatest gift we can give each other is love itself.