As I’ve been working with some of my older clients over the past couple weeks, I’d be remiss if I did not mention the extreme joy that I receive over hearing other people’s life stories. In every instance, these people have lived, meaning they have endured the mistakes of their youth, seen people come and go, gotten married, had children, and everything else one could reasonably expect to experience in a lifetime.
The common theme with these people, who again are in retirement, is the way they fell in love. It was so different from the way my generation does now. Everything was much more romantic and organic back then. People met their lovers in rather unceremonious ways, but these meetings laid the foundation for the future. In many cases, they started off friends, eventually decided to date one another, and then fostered an everlasting marriage.
It goes back to convention, and how in many ways the baby boomers were expected to meet their spouses in that way. It’s not like today, where we meet and hook up with people through our phones and on the Internet, choosing the here and now over the potential the future holds with someone.
While there are positives and negatives to both lifestyles, what we as millenials miss out on is the joy that comes from investing in a relationship that will not pay immediate dividends. There is no doubt that marriage is a tough assignment; in many ways, I could make the argument that it is an almost impossible narrative to base your life around. Meet someone, remain committed to that person, and then continue to do that for the rest of your life. This way of living counteracts who human beings are by nature. To get to the point we are at now, where unity with one other person is even possible, took centuries upon centuries of evolution before people finally started to say, “I think I could be with just him/her for the rest of my life.”
My point is not to criticize marriage. I think marriage is a beautiful idea, at least for the first half-decade or so. Yet, after sitting down with these people and hearing their stories, it’s not the first half-decade, or even the first two decades that make marriage the beauty that it is. Rather, it’s when couples get to that thirty-year mark, or heck, even fifty-year juncture. There is when I really can tell when two people are in love. It’s not the type of love you see on TV or in the movies; you know, the kind where they can’t keep their hands to themselves and they spend most of their time fawning over each other.
True love is more seen when you can look in someone’s eyes and know their life story, or know exactly what they are thinking, whether you agree with their thoughts or not. True love is being able to put up with someone’s shit, just because you value them as a person. True love is also the ability to put the proverbial blinders on, and to not seek fulfillment in someone else because you know that taking the easy way out is only a temporary solution. The long road, where you work together to come to some form of working agreement, will prove to be more rewarding.
It’s hard to see that now. I know I don’t see the light. I also won’t be able to experience this kind of love for some time, like many of my contemporaries. And this post isn’t meant to take aim at my generation. In fact, I think our generation, personal bias aside, does it best. We operate under the pretenses where we don’t care what others think. As my publicist told me the other day, “Of course we are self-centered. We grew up with people telling us we could be anything we wanted to be.” Now, we use the Internet to find love, sex, companionship, friendship, and identity, and we don’t apologize for it.
Whether my generation chooses to shy away from marriage and increase our participation in the hook up culture is neither good nor bad. It’s just the way it is going to go, one way or the other. We just have to remember that not everything our parents and grandparents did was uncool and passé. They too experienced gratification and formed an identity through their relationships. Sometimes, it just takes a little longer to see how they got there.