Benign Neglect: The cards say: “What cards?” This section is largely empty. The few that are there are “belateds.”
Young kids. Careers. Home care. Community involvement. Overwhelmed by all there is to do in a day, the couple’s “coupleness” goes on the back burner for a while. It’s okay. Healthy couples that moved to “we” developed the solid foundation they need to tolerate some benign neglect. The focus of their love and their energy right now is on maintaining a home, raising healthy children, participating in community, and balancing work and family.
Smart couples know better than to reserve their declarations of love and caring for a big splash on Valentine’s Day. [Note: If they do go out to dinner, chances are they end up talking about the kids or figuring out how to afford a new roof.] Instead, they find little bits of time nearly every day to check in, to share affection, to solve problems, and to affirm that they are a team.
The Very Married: The cards say: “We’ve made a good life.”
Love between the very married is comfortable. Secure and at ease, both partners know who they are and what to expect of each other. They can share a living room for an evening without saying a word and yet be warmed by each other’s presence. They know each other’s habits, stories, and jokes. The things that irritate them about each other have been irritating for years. The things that please them are equally familiar.
Settled love is not as exciting as new-in-love. But settled love has richness and depth. If this couple goes out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, new-in-love couples may misinterpret their lack of conversation for lack of interest. Not so. Their communication is on a much deeper level.
Other Categories of Love
My card gallery would also have room for many other kinds of love that nurture and sustain us all:
The playful love of children for their best, best, best friends;
The innocent love of children for their parents and caregivers;
The confused first attempts at love during adolescence;
The steady love of good friends for each other;
The complicated love of extended family;
The respectful love we have for those who have taught us the things that really count;
The courageous love of those who try again after a failure of love; and
The quiet love of old age.
None of these are about cupids and arrows. All are vitally important in our lives. Let’s make room on Valentine’s Day to value and honor all the kinds of loving available to us. Whatever stage or kind of love we have in our lives, we are fortunate indeed.