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Published February 19 2009

Love can be journey enjoyed over lifetime

How do you make love last a lifetime? Better yet, how do the burning embers of love become even hotter, better and deeper as the years roll into decades and the decades into a lifetime?

As highlighted in a previous Valentine article to my wife, Darlene:

- The beginnings of love are important as match and tinder. The romantic bonding and mysterious passion ignited during courtship and early marriage are the sparks that start the fire.

- We turn to each other for warmth, comfort and safety when the storms of adversity rage against us. We protect the fire in the hearth by fidelity and personal responsibility against the squelching waters of self-destructive habits, indifference and selfishness.

- The bed of coals of our love is also protected from the wintery chill of unresolved conflict, painful differences, imperfections and weaknesses. Acceptance, patience, forbearance and forgiveness keep disappointments and fantasies from smothering our fire with dirt, ashes and water-logged debris that don’t belong.

- The fire of our love is fanned by fun, play, laughter and humor. The joy of companionship, shared interests and mutual adventures replenish the fire on a daily basis.

And now for the rest of the story:

Giving love is receiving love.

I became acquainted with love through watching you love me, our children and so many, many others. The glow in the coals is sustained by the gentle breeze of your sacrifice. Your generous, kind actions – some planned, some spontaneous – put my needs ahead of your own and brought out the best in me.

I have learned and am still learning how as much as being loved is wonderful, even better is loving another.

“The pleasure of love is in the loving. We are happier in the passion we feel than in that we arouse.” – L. Erdich

I remember how generously and tenderly you cared for me when my health was impaired. I have experienced your kind heart, your willingness to listen, your considerate actions, and your sacrifice on my behalf. I know that I have been difficult – I have made it much more difficult that it needed to be.

Your loving me has made it easy for me to love you. I have also learned that giving love is receiving love. The more I love, the more capacity I have to love. The more I love, the more I am loved. The love I give comes back even greater than I gave.

“I will show you a love potion without drug or any witch’s spell; if you wish to be loved, love.” – Hecato

We do not have control over our passion. We cannot direct it. We can however, choose to love because we can choose to do loving acts. Sacrifice comes from the active, choosing part of love based on our intentions. We can create love through sacrifice. Sacrifice balances passion. We need both, passion and sacrifice.

Love must be expressed.

Thank you for sharing your heart with me and making a safe place for me to share mine. In my troubles, I have found a friend. In my excitement, I have found a companion. In my confusion, I have found a caring and listening heart. Becoming soulmates is more about dialogue and conversation than it is about devotion and caring or even thinking or being alike. Thank you for a lifelong conversation.

Your touch has meant so much. Your gifts have been inspired. Your love has been spoken most loudly by your countless acts of selfless service. The flames of our love reaches heavenward, visible not only to ourselves but to others, especially our children.

“Know me. Understand me. Respect my differences and accept my weaknesses. Love who I am, not what you need me to be. If I can feel this from you, then I will feel safe and free to give you all that I have to give.” – Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh

Love takes time – a lifetime.

It amazes me how different we are and how our differences complement each other. We are open to each other’s influence.

Your honesty has been a mirror to my weaknesses – you care that I am my best self and are not afraid to help me become better – even if it is unpleasant. Behind the unflattering mirror is the constancy of your love and encouragement. It has freed up my time and spirit to worry about things other than our relationship.

We have built and shared a faith, homes, children, grandchildren, career, friends, church service, and community life in the Dakotas and now Missouri. You have honored my life dreams and have sacrificed much for them. You have committed a lifetime to me and to the raising of our children. I can only hope I have done the same for you.

Our shared history includes common interests, travels, hardships, setbacks, births, deaths, marriages, joys and triumphs. You commented about what a rich and interesting life we’ve have had to this point – lots of memories of things appreciated and enjoyed together. These memories are ours and ours alone.

We became soulmates by sharing our journey of love.

“Young love is a flame, very pretty, very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable.”

– Henry Ward Beecher

The best is yet to be.

Love, Val

Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Mo., and can be contacted through his Web site, www.valfarmer.com.