How to Stay in Love

Author of Comeback Love
When I was a teenager, I asked my father, "How do you stay in love forever?" He eyed me suspiciously. "You meet somebody I should know about?" I shook my head. He said, "You gotta get older and figure it out for yourself."

"That's it? Lose my hair and I'm all set." He shot me a look that let me know my sense of humor left something to be desired. Then he gave me an answer that had the distinction of being unhelpful in the short run and my saving grace over time.

"That's not the whole thing," he said. "The most important part is waiting around to meet somebody who's worth figuring it out for."

So I got older, married, and here's what I figured out: Memory. That's the answer. Pure and simple.

And here is what I remember: The first time I saw my wife: her hair was brownish gold, and she had this sudden smile that seemed to light up her eyes like sunlight on a blue-green sea. I remember noticing her hands, the fingers long and slender, and I stared at them long enough that she laughed and asked me if I was OK. I remember-this was months later-staying at the Plaza Hotel with her and our room had a view of Central Park, and we watched the snow falling, and I remember every one of our trips-to the cool, bright wine country in California, and to Europe, the Cascades, the Caribbean, and I always laugh recalling that café in Paris, L'Ocean, where the pain au chocolat was so flaky and delicious she told me I had to get her out of there or her clothes wouldn't fit.

I remember the afternoon we closed on our first house, and we walked the empty rooms, not quite believing that this place was ours, and how beautiful she looked when she was pregnant-her skin actually glowed, and she was so happy despite the discomfort. Of course, I'll never forget the night our son was born, and I was holding him while my wife and I gazed at each other, overwhelmed at how an event as common as childbirth could feel like a miracle.

Yet the trick to staying in love is not only rooted in memory, scrolling through pictures on your computer or reading through an old diary. It is when you choose to remember, a choice you make because you are certain that you and your beloved-and the life you have built together-are, as my father advised, worth the effort.

This is no easy task because you have to remember in times of heartache or separation or when your lives are ruled by a cruel, mysterious gravity that pulls you in opposite directions and keeps you at a distance that seems, in its grimmest stretches, impossible to close. Anger, disappointment, the loss of a job or a parent, trouble with a child or just plain exhaustion can make recalling the joyous moments feel as though you are being asked-condemned might be a better word-to help Sisyphus push his boulder up a hill.

How do you get past the problem? You keep pushing-pushing back toward the glimmering moments you recall. That's the challenge of love, its work and its sorrow, and the only choice you have if you want to gather more memories to sustain you.

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Related links:
Buy Comeback Love by Peter Golden
Talking It Over: Marriage Therapy and Men
How to Find Time for Romance while Raising Kids
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