When you are young and in love, its easy to hold hands with your partners and dream about the days when you will be rocking in chairs under a covered porch sipping tea while the crickets chirp in springtime harmony. Maybe there are some grandchildren running around, and a pot of homemade stew on the stove.
But is this a reality? Instead of thinking about someone to take Alaskan cruises with, and who will be your rocking chair partner – shouldn’t you be wondering whether the person you are holding hands with today will be able to wipe your butt when you can no longer do it on your own? Will they be willing to pull the hair from your ears or nose, or dig out your ingrown toenail because your back is too sore to bend down and do it yourself? Will they sit for hours in a nursing home or hospital, lovingly by your side whether you know they are there or not? And in return – as you look at your young love, how will YOU feel about wiping their butt, pulling hair out of their ears, or changing their diapers when the time arises?
Young love is a beautiful thing, and a beautiful time in the springtime of life. Yet the things we look for in a partner are often not the things we need to look for in a spouse over the long term. The things we look for in a life partner in the NOW, often do not take into account what the future may hold. Most men and women look for chemistry and a compatible sex life. But what happens when Viagra no longer works? Many of us look for partners who share our same financial goals? But what happens when all you have is social security and dozens of prescriptions to buy each month? Or when neither of you can longer drive the RV or the Porsche convertible?
Perhaps, this is just another one of loves cruel tricks. Or maybe, just maybe the hope is that the partner we spend the young, carefree days of our lives with when we are all beautiful and handsome, healthy and capable – will end up loving us so much that anything is possible in the future. (Or maybe as we get older we just give up so easily on the romanticism that is love, that we change our ideals about what good relationships really consist of.) Years together have a tendency to make two people so comfortable with one another that all bets of manners and always putting the best foot forward are off.
The hardcore truth is that it is impossible to pick a partner that will be perfect during all the changes in your life. From pregnancy to parenthood, from midlife crisis to weight gain, from sickness to growing older – none of us really know how our spouse will react or handle the situation until we get there. In marriages, people tend to change every few years, and the hope is that both halves of the whole change simultaneously and somehow find their ways back to similar goals and mindsets before the relationship loses its connection. Sometimes this happens all on its own and others times, the core differences in our partners are so different that the relationship dissolves. For the lucky ones, the changes ebb and flow like the tide, but the waters of the love still end up together on the shore.
While its funny to think about ourselves growing older. To imagine our partners with wrinkles and wearing Depends. To see ourselves as grandparents or envision ourselves as the cute old couple who eat lunch every day on the park bench under the big Oak tree, it is certainly something that we should do. One day, no matter how hard we try to avoid it, no matter how young we think we are – we too – will be THAT couple. Wiping each other’s butts, pulling out nose hairs, helping one another shave our toes, bathing each other and sharing the marital bed with wrinkled bodies and soft skin that only age and experience can produce. Will the love still be there? The passion? Will our partners still look as beautiful and handsome as they did on our wedding day? Will we look back at our wedding pictures and recognize the faces? Will we still be in love? If we are lucky, the answers to these questions will be YES. But only time has the answers to these questions.