Thanks for inviting me today, Kristan. I’d like to share what I consider the secret to successful relationships. When I was eighteen I read The Art of Loving by Eric Fromm and I believe the wisdom I learned has been the secret to my happy marriage of 37 years.
It boils down to a very simple lesson: understanding the difference between being in love and loving someone. We’ve all experienced that reality check when the newness, freshness, and euphoria of something we bought, received, or dated began to wear off and all we saw were imperfections.
Instead of lecturing on Fromm’s philosophy today, I’d rather share how an elderly mentor imparts the secret to the hero in Forget Me Not, Book Two in my “Love in the Fleet” series. Sky Crawford is a Navy pilot and renowned playboy. Through volunteer work with the heroine, Sky meets George, a retired Navy pilot who is blind. Please join me as the two men—both former Naval Academy football players—enjoy a beer together while Navy plays Notre Dame on Sky’s big screen TV. When George asks why a blind man should care about a big screen TV, Sky grins and replies, “Because I’ve got surround sound.”
“I’m scared spitless of something, George. I’m so crazy about Daisy. I mean, I never felt this way about a woman before. They were always just fun, you know?”
“No, I don’t. But go ahead,” the elderly man replied.
“Let’s say I decided to settle down with one woman. Let’s say it was Daisy. How can it last?” Sky’s laughter had a nervous edge to it. “How do I know it won’t wear off? You know, this euphoria. See, it’s always worn off before.”
George’s thumb worried the lip of the bottle. “You can count on it, son. It will wear off.”
Sky’s head snapped up. “What?”
“Those feelings you’re talking about. They’ll wear off.”
“Then what makes marriages work? I’ve seen some happy couples out there. My best friend, my parents. They haven’t lost that…that thing.”
George felt around the table and rested his bottle on a napkin. “Because they made a decision to love each other. Being in love is one of the best feelings on this planet. I can still resurrect that feeling when I think of my wife, especially in the early days. But feelings come and go. They don’t last forever. We feel happy, we feel angry, we feel enthusiastic, we feel disappointed. But we don’t feel those things all the time. They’re transient. Just like being in love. Heck, if everyone stayed in love all the time, nothing would get done in this world. We’d all be lost in dream land, walking into walls and things.”
George shut his eyes as if reminiscing. He smiled, then opened them and continued. “Love is something entirely different. Love is a decision. We decide to love someone, regardless of whether we have those giddy feelings or not.” George raised his hand, gesturing for Sky to stop and listen, sensing—knowing—he still didn’t get it.
“Think of it this way, Sky. When you were commissioned in the Navy, you took a vow to protect and defend the United States. Does that mean you’re in love with your job every single day? You know the high you felt when you threw your cap in the air at graduation from the Naval Academy? And the rush you get when your helicopter lifts off the ground and when she lands safely on the deck of a ship? You don’t feel that way every second of your Naval career.”
Whoa. Marriage was like joining the Navy? The old man was getting through to Sky now.
“You get bored on the job sometimes, you get tired of the routine, and you get angry at your shipmates once in awhile. So why do you keep doing it? Why do you keep flying? Why do you stay in the Navy? Because you made a decision. You raised your hand and you took a vow. You made a commitment. You. Pledged. Your. Honor. Same thing in a marriage. It’s a partnership too. Just like the Navy. There are times in marriage when it’s boring, when you get angry or tired of routines, when you even drive each other crazy. But you stay together because you made a decision to love one another.”
Sky set his bottle down on the table. This was way more interesting than beer.
“My advice? Let yourself fall madly in love with Daisy. Enjoy every minute of it. And should you decide she’s the one, keep in mind that these in love feelings will eventually fade away. I think too many couples expect that high to last forever, so they break up when the rush wears off. They don’t know they have to make a decision about loving one another. Don’t get me wrong. Always work at rekindling those in love feelings, but know you will never again feel the way you feel right now.”
Sky chuckled, “Oh, I like that part about rekindling I love to rekindle.”
“Be sure to hold on to those original feelings, so you can bring them out, like a photo album, and savor the memories. Even when you’re a grizzled old man like myself.”
Sky sipped his beer, the game forgotten. It was as if the old guy had given him the secret to the universe. There must be some magic to what George was saying, because here he was: Sky Crawford, king of the skies and the bedroom, actually contemplating marriage.
George broke the silence. “I’m guessing you’re pretty lost in thought there, son.”
“Yeah?” Sky looked up at him to see George grinning.
“Navy just scored a touchdown and the extra point and you didn’t even notice.”
Sky jerked his head toward the TV. “They did?”
“Yup. Now get down and give me seven push-ups, sailor.”
I’d love to hear I’d love to hear what tips your readers have for successful relationships. I will be giving away a copy of Forget Me Not to one lucky reader who comments by midnight, November 25.
Thanks for having me, JQs!