an open letter to the book I read in one sitting

You weren’t anything special. You weren’t a prize-winner or especially deep or intellectual or clever. You were a simple romance story that drew me in so that I could not put you down until I knew the happy-ever-after was there and was satisfactory. You weren’t devoid of clichés and a predictable plot, and yet, you taught me something important, significant and potent: that passion is an important part of my marriage. It is something worth fighting for and it is possible to have as a regular feature, maybe until death us do part.

As young singles, then engaged, then newly married, I feel as though we were very clearly and definitely given the warning that how we feel about each other at the start just wasn’t going to last. I definitely heard and took on board the message that infatuation floods in at the start of your relationship and then fades and what you’re left with is a whole lot of work. Love (and therefore marriage) is action, commitment, making choices, bearing with, forgiving, trusting.

Boo!
Boo!

What I wish I had been told more of is…

“You can have a passionate marriage and you should pursue it.”

“Flirt, like, all the time.”

“Don’t let the sun go down without a snog.”

“The more you have sex, the happier you’ll be, all round.”

POSED BY MODELS PICTURE FROM HULTON ARCHIVE OF A COUPLE EATING D
Getty Images

As the feelings portrayed by you (book) put me in touch with the beauty, mystery and fulfilment in passionate love I realised that the love in a long-term relationship is like burning embers. The initial spark becomes a roaring fire that sometimes feels too much to bear. Then it dies down. But it doesn’t DIE. Or at least doesn’t have to. Perhaps it burns away gently and so rather than just working on communication, tolerating each other, living together, understanding each other, we also need to work on stoking up the flames.

I want to fancy-the-pants off my husband after six years… ten years… twenty years. I know I’m nowhere near there and perhaps will be proved wrong but I want to believe it is possible rather than accept the general belief that passion dwindles down to nothing, but that’s ok, that’s just how marriage is: you end up living with a friend. To me, believing that is pouring water on the fire.

Even in the difficult times.

Sometimes, physical intimacy is all that will connect us when we’ve nothing else to give, or say, or do. It repairs connection in a way that can’t be explained.

Thanks for reminding me. Also, for reminding me how anything we read can teach us something, even when it doesn’t set out to do so.

Some dear friends of ours wrote this quote in the front of a book they bought our son for his first birthday.
Some dear friends of ours wrote this quote in the front of a book they bought our son for his first birthday. I hope he takes it on board.

Note: Sorry to my family for “ew” content. I am conscious of not wanting to dampen my point and clog up my writing with defensive back-tracking… “I know some seasons and physical, emotional, mental problems are a factor… etc etc etc.” That’s the beauty of this whole thing – take it or leave it. But I wanted to say in the notes, I DO know that. Yet there are also choices to be made, at all times. Expressing passionate love can take different forms.

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11 comments

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  1. Rachel

    Hi Jeni – really enjoyed reading that. I could easily have walked away from marriage in the first couple of years. There was a lot of sorrow and pain, however a vow before the living God is not something to be taken lightly. I can happily report that at least for us over the years being married has become better and better, love deeper and deeper and the other more and more enjoyable. I can honestly say after 17 years that I do still fancy the pants off my wonderful husband. Not every day, some days I want to slap him one as I’m sure he does me but in the main it’s really good. It does take effort at times but it’s strong enough to hold up through some very tricky times. As with many things in life I don’t think for one minute you ever arrive in a marriage, it is an ongoing rollercoaster ride of discovery, but I do love marriage and I’m jealous for it. Thanks for sharing and making us reflect again on something so valuable.

    “You can have a passionate marriage and you should pursue it.” : )

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  2. Rachel

    Although I would like to add – when the kids are so little and need so much more of you physically, passion can be the last thing on your mind (even tenderness) – you have to be a lot more deliberate in the when, making time for it, as they get a bit older you do tend to have a bit more energy. Lol.

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  3. the messy mama

    I remember, maybe two or three years into my marriage, one of our church elders (the “pastoral” one) came to visit us. One of the questions he asked us was “how’s your sex life?” which floored us a bit because we weren’t expecting that!! But his point was, don’t stop having sex. Don’t stop flirting. Falling in love, being in love – love is a verb! And you can be ‘in’ love for a very long time. I’m hugely grateful for that meeting. 15 years later we’re still in love. It’s plain (to us) when our relationship is under strain because our sex life dwindles. We had to start having “dates” recently – something we’ve not done in almost 15 years – because we just weren’t seeing enough of each other, there was no space to breathe. The dates have stopped now because we were reminded (by them) of how important it was to carve out space for us.

    Anyway I’m waffling. What I really wanted to say was, it’s possible to not let that passion die in a relationship. It’s possible even after fifteen years (seventeen if you include dating) to get wobbly knees at the sight of your loved one, to get butterflies when you think of them. The passionate eros love. Yes it ebbs and it flows but nothing worth having is ever plain sailing. It IS a work in progress, love DOES change, relationships evolve and grow, but a marriage that lasts learns to roll with the punches and learn from mistakes and never grows complacent!

    Oooh that was quite a long comment…..!!

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  4. Knickers

    Great post. I’m always telling close married friends off when they tell me they can’t be bothered with sex anymore. It’s a gift! It’s a glorious connection!

    Sex is wasted on the married (often) which is a shame. So it’s good to hear honesty from ‘the other side’.

    X

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