Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What's Love Got To Do With It?

In a word, love has everything to do with it.

Can it grow? Can it endure? Can it be better than ever after what seems like forever?  So, what is this thing called love?

Many of us believe the French know more about the subject than anyone else in the world. Fortunately I happen to be in situ and decided to find out what they know that we don't and what we might learn from the masters.

Last year I posed the question: "What keeps romance alive when a couple has been together for several years, or even several decades?" This year I tweaked the query in my unscientific survey. Recently I asked: "What keeps a couple together over the good, the bad and the challenging times?"

Everyone said love is the constant, the foundation which holds a union together. As for romance, well, those married a decade or three (or four) mostly said that's where the work comes in, but it's worth it. As one woman said, "We are so accustomed to being together that sometimes romance seems to be the last thing on our minds; it's at those moments we must take action -- a weekend away, a dinner in Paris, something special. Life is too short to forget about romance with the man I chose to spend the rest of my life with."

Almost everyone said that breaking away from the day-to-day and carving out couple time was essential and that traveling and making new discoveries together enriched their lives, and their appreciation and love for one another.

This is what they told me. . .

Les Hommes:

Fred:  Laughing together all the time, even if life is tragic by moments. Never wait until February 14th to give her flowers and always accompany the flowers with a French kiss. (Fred, who never fails to have something interesting and amusing to say, is mon ami at Easy Fashion.)

Michel: Honestly I don't know how to answer that question. We're comfortable together. We need each other in ways that are inexplicable. I can't imagine my life without her.

Michael: The most difficult is probably not to be trapped by the quotidian, all the obligations of family, work, children. . . One must always make time to have a dinner entre amoureux. Every day I remember what Père Zédé said at our marriage: "Always guard and protect your couple before all else." Don't wait for a special occasion to walk through the door with a bouquet.

Throughout the years romance is the combination of looks, gestures and thoughts every day. 

J.P.: It's about trust, spending time together and treating one another gently as a way of life.

Alexandre: Of course romance is possible every day, but it's not about grand displays and extravagant gifts -- that's easy. It's the everyday gestures, the telephone call that says "I love you" in the middle of the day, the spontaneous invitation to a restaurant for a dinner tete-a-tete, flowers all year long, slipping an umbrella in the back of the car when she's leaving because you think it might rain, dashing into the boulangerie to buy her a chausson aux pommes(because she loves this more than anything else for breakfast).

Giving her a love letter each time she boards a plane, only to be opened when she is in the air.

Those are the attentions that keep a couple together and happy.

Claude: A kiss when we wake-up; a kiss goodbye; a kiss hello and always, wherever we go, we walk hand in hand. 

Daniel: Travel. There is nothing in the world like escaping together with no obligations and re-igniting romance without routine distractions. All we do is concentrate on each other and shared experiences. When we return home the glow from rediscovering one another lasts for months.

Alain: It's important to have both the same and completely different interests. We have parallel lives that converge at the end of the day which gives us interesting topics of conversation. We also share certain hobbies with friends like bridge and Scrabble. But it's traveling that is the most important for us, sharing unforgettable experiences together makes them richer. Love in a couple that lasts is, I think, is a balance of the platonic and the physical.

Saying "I love you" every day or several times a day is one of the secret ingredients in the recipe of lasting amour.

Les Femmes:

Marie: Maybe it's a cliché, but I think it's the magic formula, a wife who is friend, mother and mistress. Fortunately he's a great cook.

Maryanne: Tolerance, concession, understanding, patience and always, always talk. Sometimes there are things we mustn't say. I don't believe one should tell their spouse everything.

We embark on adventures. Our latest is a house in Florida which we're decorating. It's exhausting, but fun. And then, of course, we must learn to speak English. . .

Jeanne-Aelia: This is what my great friend Jeanne-Aelia told me last year, but it's so good I wanted to share it again. "I think romance in a marriage of many anniversaries starts with the definition of romance: "an ardent emotional attachment or involvement between people; love" according to the Thesaurus.

I think romance does not need all the flonflon of Valentine's day, heart shaped candy boxes or flutes of champagne clinking; rather a great wine, one evening, just for the fun of it and kindnesses and small attentions each and every day. Love and thus romance is shown simply, truly, everyday, anytime and needs no embellishment."

Edith: I give my husband at least two compliments a day, like little gifts. They are absolutely sincere and can be as mundane as "I love that sweater on you." I never pose an accusing question like: "You didn't pick up your socks again today did you?" Instead I'll say, "darling, don't forget to toss your socks in the laundry basket." And sometimes when the two of us are alone and I look at him and he looks at me and we tell each other we're glad we're together after all these years. We made it and it's only getting better.

Dany: Tenderness, surprises, small attentions that you know will make him happy. He's my best friend.

Françoise: He's my rock. I know he is always there for me no matter what. He knows I'm there for him. I know I'm lucky to have found him and I never forget that.

Marie-Claude: We have built a life, a wonderful family together and we appreciate each other. 

Marion: My husband travels a lot which gives us both some breathing space and time to miss one another. I'm always happy to see him when he returns.

Claudine: Lots of delicious meals together at home and just always knowing we're there for each other.

Isabelle: Know how to talk and most important know how to forgive.

Some statistics: (Same as last year because I couldn't find more recent figures.) Some 49 percent of the French population will celebrate Valentine's day, 47 percent with flowers and a dinner tete-a-tete

And, a very happy Valentine's Day to you no matter how you celebrate. Marion told me this morning she and her husband never celebrate. My-Reason-For-Living-In-France just invited me out to dinner.

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