Love Through The Years
By Noel Daniel
Love Is A Hard Thing To Describe,to experience, to pin down. Whether you have a special someone in your life or don’t, February shouldn’t be the cruelest month. Maybe you just found love, maybe you’re still looking, or maybe you’re not interested at all in the sort of love the holiday is associated with. No matter who you are, or what your beliefs, a powerful connection to another human being is what ultimately ties all of us together.
Even romantic love evolves through time. We decided to ask three separate couples — newlyweds Cortney and Philip Mullins, fiancées Claudia Streeter and Gary Bellani, and spouses of 41 years Eva and Eddie Gonzalez — about their thoughts on love.
When asked to use three words to describe their union, Streeter seemed the most excited, using the words, “Elated, invigorated, and energetic.” Mullins, too, was bright in her response of, “Keeps getting better.” Both Eva and Eddie Gonzalez took pause at this question, giving it considerable thought.
“Three words, huh? Hm,” started Eva. “That’s hard because it’s been so many years, there’s a lot of love there.”
Ultimately, she decided on the words “Love, faith, and forgiveness.” In much the same vein, Eddie offered up “Good, fortunate, and truthful.”
“I feel fortunate that I married her from right straight out of high school,” said Eddie. “I’ve always cherished it.”
And all of the couples agreed that they understood their partner better after their union, and in a number of ways — even those who had been dating for years and years before. “I think we understand each other better now more than ever,” said Mullins. “We dated nine years prior to getting married, but there are just some things you can’t know about another person until you’re married and with them every day. Even a decade in, there are still surprises!”
Streeter admitted that conversations become much more serious, to-the-point, and that less time is wasted on “fluffy conversations.” Eva said it gave her insight into his habits, his way of thinking, and the caring person that he is. And Eddie?
“Well, she’s a real good cook,” Eddie said with a laugh. “And she gave me four kids. And she’s always been there for every one of them. I’m very proud of her.”
There’s no doubt that couples come closer through civil union. It helps that there are a lot of good things about marriage — at least according to the couples. Mullins praised building a life together as her favorite part, and professed an enjoyment of creating their own traditions.
“I think it’s knowing that I’m going to be in a relationship that’s long-lasting and that we’re both going in the same direction, having marriage as a common goal,” said Streeter, on a similar wavelength. “It just feels safe. Like you’re cared for.”
Eddie echoed this, saying his favorite part was having someone to love and not being alone. This time it was Eva’s turn to joke.
“Being able to spend his money,” she laughed. “No, the best thing about being married? There are a lot of benefits! The understanding’s there, the caring.”
But it’s not all easy. In fact, sometimes even getting the ball rolling is hard. Streeter admitted that the hardest part was just planning the wedding. There are a number of possibilities in terms of throwing a wedding in one’s early 60s, and she finds it hard to decide the best way. For Mullins, it’s having a new roommate.
“I’m pretty sure our only fights during marriage have been about housework,” Mullins said, “or the lack thereof.”
Eddie was caught off-guard by the question. As someone who’s been married for 41 years, he wasn’t sure what to say — which is remarkable and beautifully telling. He explains that the hardest part might be working to support a family, but it seemed to be an answer he struggled to come to. But his advice to those looking to marry came very easily.
“Be truthful with each other,” he said, laughing as he often did in his responses, “and always have God in your faith. Never go to sleep mad.”
“You can’t forget,” Eva agreed, “but you can forgive.”
And when it comes to that lifetime commitment, Mullins stresses the importance of communication and getting to know someone.
“Don’t rush into getting engaged or married,” she said. “There will still undoubtedly be surprises in marriage, but I felt like when we got married I fully knew the person I was committing to. Over the years, I’d seen him at his highest highs and lowest lows, in sickness, in triumphs, in stressful situations, and we learned how to communicate and stay together through it all. No matter what life threw at us, we learned how to face it together.”
According to Mullins, that’s exactly what love is. Love is putting another person before yourself, she believes, even in those instances where you might feel they don’t deserve it.
“It’s never giving up on someone and promising to always see the best in them,” Mullins said.
While all the responses to “What is love?” seemed to agree with Mullins’, it was Eddie’s that stood out. He paused a moment after the question, his voice lilting when he finally responded.
“That’s my wife’s nickname,” he said happily. “That’s my wife — she’s my love. She’s been here all these years for me. My whole life revolves around her.”
Married or not, engaged or not, in a relationship at all or not, Mullins’ words ring true. For as complicated and messy as love tends to be — for as troublesome as it’s become, in spite of being an abstract concept — it can be easily summed up by the refusal to give up on someone and to always see the best of them. In sickness, and in health.