On a sunny and breezy day, Ann and Frank, married for 35 years, strolled around the lake together with their dogs. Suddenly, Frank turned around and said: "Do you know we have nothing in common anymore except the two dogs?" Ann did not respond.
Sitting in my car and waiting for my son's golf lesson to finish, Ann tranquilly recalled that moment with me. This was not the first time she complained about her relationship with Frank. I asked her peevishly: "Over the years you two obviously have grown apart and have been bickering for years. Aren't you tired of being unhappy? Why don't you just leave? I am not sure if you love Frank anymore." Again, Ann did not respond.
Julie, a great friend, told me that she was getting a divorce. After 12 years, the passion was no longer there. They had grown apart. She was not the same woman that he married 12 years ago. Her interests and goals had changed over the years while his remained basically unchanged. While listening to her, I couldn't stop thinking about the conversation I had with Ann. Before Julie hung up, she asked me if I still love my husband. Like Ann, I did not respond.
I thought I am happily married, but why didn't I respond "of course, I love him" right away? It should not be a difficult question to answer, right? Like Julie, the infatuation of love has receded. Over the years, I have evolved. Like Ann and Frank, we don't share many common interests except our two boys. Does that mean I don't love him anymore?
As I sipped wine with another friend, Ingrid, I posed that same question to her. She laughed and took out her smartphone, searching for something to show me. Without lifting her head, she asked me if I have seen Fiddler on the Roof. I am aware of the story centering around Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his family and Jewish traditions while outside influences encroach upon their lives. Sadly, I have never seen the play or the movie.
She found the lyrics of "Do you love me?" and read it out loud to me. It's a conversation between Tevye (the father) and his wife, Golde, after his second daughter accepted a marriage proposal from the man she loved.
Tevye: "...Do you love me?"
Golde: "Do I what?"
Tevye: "Do you love me?"
Golde: "Do I love you? With our daughters getting married. And this trouble in the town. You're upset, you're worn out. Go inside, go lie down! Maybe it's indigestion."
Tevye: "Golde I'm asking you a question... Do you love me?"
Golde: "You're a fool."
Tevye: "I know... But do you love me?"
Golde: "Do I love you? For 25 years I've washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house. Given you children, milked the cow after 25 years, why talk about love right now?"
Tevye: "Golde, The first time I met you was on our wedding day. I was scared."
Golde: "I was shy."
Tevye: "I was nervous."
Golde: "So was I."
Tevye: "But my father and my mother said we'd learn to love each other. And now I'm asking, Golde. Do you love me?"
Golde: "I'm your wife."
Tevye: "I know... But do you love me?"
Golde: "Do I love him? For 25 years I've lived with him. Fought him, starved with him. Twenty-five years my bed is his. If that's not love, what is?"
Tevye: "Then you love me?"
Golde: "I suppose I do."
Tevye: "And I suppose I love you too."
Both: "It doesn't change a thing. But even so, after 25 years. It's nice to know."
Ingrid put her smartphone down and looked at my eyes: "That's love. It's years of storming, forming, comprising, sacrificing, fighting, crying, laughing, tolerating and getting through day-to-day grind together. Frankly, there is not much glory to it. You are overthinking it, girlfriend."
Ann and Frank may not have anything in common anymore. But in reality, they really can't live without each other after 35 years. Ann knows that! I may not have been able to answer Julie's question on the spot. I feel that my husband is like the air to me. Without the air, I'd suffocate. So do I love air? I suppose I do. I suppose I do.
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