Recently a woman asked me why she still loves her husband after all these years.
That was exactly the question she asked. She was just so puzzled by why she continues to love him. And they've been together for decades.
She felt it was so counterintuitive. "He's given me a million reasons why not to love him. thoughtless, shortsighted and withdrawn. He does such boneheaded things sometimes. He holds down a job, the money's okay and it sustains him, and in a few years he'll be able to retire. It's quiet when we're together. We survive, but the conversations are few."
She stopped for a second and looked out of the window of my office. "And yet," she said, "underneath it all, I still love him. I can't say how often I like the guy, but I know I still love him. He'll look at me once in a while and I can feel myself change. There are moments when I just melt away from the place I've been standing and adopt a new feeling of forgiveness. I think I'm a sucker."
"But I'll always go back to that place of love. I wish I wouldn't do that, but it's where my heart rests."
"So," she asked, pausing slightly, "please tell me, why do I still love this guy?"
I wanted to refer her to Helen Fisher's book, "Why We Love" and explain some of the neurological components that keep our brains in the game. I'd thought about offering a logical unfolding, incorporating their years of being together with all the experiences they've shared.
But she wasn't looking for a hypothesis to support her argument. She was looking for a reason. So I gave her the best reason I could think of.
"I don't know," I said, "you just do. Love just is. It's the oxygen of the heart. It always with us. Love never disappears. Dormant, maybe. Quieted, somewhat. But it's always with you."
"You love him because you do. You care. He still matters. Love heals, too. Touch his shoulder, make him coffee, smile, but tell him what you told me, too. You can let him know he's a jerk, but that you love him anyway. Let him know you want to see the person you knew again. Let him know there's still love within him, and this love needs to come out."
"Man," she said, "I think you're full of crap. And love better heal. Half the time I feel like smacking him with the alarm clock or pushing him down the stairs. But thanks, anyway."
Well, OK, then.