When I met my husband, October 10, 1981, he was sitting outside, and the sun was glinting off his red hair, and I felt that "wow!" It turned out to be a lasting love at first sight. However, the truth is that I felt that "wow!" to one degree or another for many guys while I was single. With Richard, everything progressed pretty seamlessly from that first day until marriage. Now, after being married nearly 30 years, we're happy and blessed. I believe "love at first sight" is only in hindsight. We can't know at the beginning. I find that expectations of romance and "instant" relationships are very high in both men and women who come to see me, and so is the frustration level when this doesn't happen. Internet dating, coupled with movie and TV images of instant "love at first sight" create expectations that prohibit people from getting to know anything about the character of the person they're dating, and don't give the couples a chance to develop what I call the "infrastructure" of a long-lasting relationship. Just like a high-rise building with no basement, relationships with no decent foundation tend to get more tottery as they go on. What do I mean by infrastructure? I mean communication and problem-solving patterns, space-and-power -sharing agreements, trust and mutuality.
Every day, I have the delight and privilege of loving Richard, a real, fallible man. We’re about the same age, he’s losing hair, I’ve gained weight. But, after almost 30 years, we have fused our hearts and souls, if not our personalities. He clearly loves me, though I often frustrate him, and I am grateful for his presence in my life on a daily basis. Our sex life is lovely, thank you, even if it doesn’t match cyber-fantasies. We laugh together, we share the struggle with life (and dead telephones) together, and the thought that he might die before I do fills me with dread. All the handsome celebrities in the world couldn’t replace my very own, live and kicking, formerly red-haired leprechaun. It took me 37 years to find him, and I’m not about to replace him with so-called “perfection”.
It's amazing what 30 years of being actively, joyfully in love can teach. Richard, and I met when he was 37 and I was 36. We had already learned what NOT to do from previous broken marriages. When we met, like most couples, we quickly entered limerence -- that "in love" feeling where nothing matters except each other. But, sooner or later, life calls -- we each had our own businesses that needed attention, and we had to come up for air. Over the years, we've learned the skills of long-term relating, and keeping love alive -- which are different from new relationship and dating skills. We've learned tolerance for each other's annoying little quirks, how to give each other adequate space while staying deeply connected, how to be partners in life who can always count on each other, and we've developed a shared sense of humor that we count on to lighten up difficult times. We're lucky enough to travel a lot now, work a little less. We've survived many losses, including dear friends and family members, and learned to ease the pain by sharing it. We've learned that tomorrow is another day, and to look forward with hope. We started out as two highly independent people who've gradually become part of each other's hearts and souls, but never just one person. We've learned that love continues to deepen and surprise us with sudden glimpses into its depths.
Causes Tina Tessina Supports
The Carter Center