When the Light Goes Out


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A while back I was at a buddy’s birthday party.  It was for a guy I’ve known for a long time, but our friendship is more casual than it is close.  We share some interests, and we talk those things; but I don’t really know him on a deeper level.

Often friendships and relationships are like this.  We have a small window into that other person; maybe through work, through seeing each other in our neighborhoods, or through some sort of social setting.

We probably know bits and pieces of their personal life.  Maybe they have a picture of their family on their desk, or they talk about their weekend and mention their wife, their husband, their parents, their kids.  And over time these things help us build a picture of who we believe them to be.

If we connect with them through social media, we probably get a bit more of a view into their lives.  We see pictures of vacations and special events.  At some level we realize that they choose which pictures of their lives they want to show to the world, and that the window we see through social media is not an accurate picture of their lives (rather it’s a sanitized version, showing the “good times”).  Even still, this window allows them to become more “real”, and not just someone we see at work, or while out for a walk in the neighborhood.

Sometimes in a social setting I will take moments to sit back and observe, and to watch people’s interactions and their body language.

At that party I watched my buddy and his wife for a bit, and honestly, what I saw was beautiful.

This is a couple that has been together for around 20 years, and has teenage children together.  Yet when I watched them, there was a tenderness in their interactions – little touches and signs of affection when they were together.  Smiles, and shared looks when they were apart and would see each other across the room.  When they would make eye contact you could see a light in both of their eyes, a light that was meant only for each other.

I don’t know much about their relationship.  I’m sure they have their struggles and their bad days.  I’m sure they argue and fight just like anyone else.  But based on watching their interactions I have no doubt that after 20 years they are still very much in love.

 

 

To me, that’s what relationships are all about.  It’s about that energy between two people, and that light they get in their eyes when they see each other or even just think or talk about each other.

That connection is what relationships are all about, and are what LOVE is all about.

It may not always be the passionate desire of new relationships, but there always has to be desire in the sense that you still WANT to see the other person and to spend time with them.

 

Relationships can be hard.

They start about the couple, about learning each other and sharing and building something together.  Something where the two of you are more, or better together than you are apart.

Over time though, relationships often break down into resentment and apathy.  When that happens, and the connection has broken down a couple often feels more alone together than they do when they are apart.  And often a part of them knows what they have lost, and mourns for that, but they don’t know how to find it again.

 

When you look at your partner and there is no light in your eyes, or there is light in your eyes but all you see are dead eyes in return, then what do you have left?

History?

Shared material things?

A family?

I’ll admit family is a tough one.  But I have never believed in staying together for the sake of the children.  I think that does more harm than good to everyone, including the children.  If you want to use the children as a reason to actively rebuild, great.  But if you (or your partner) don’t TRULY want the relationship anymore?

Then there’s no point.

There’s nothing left to hold onto.

 

When there is no light left in your eyes, it’s time to let go.

Because once you are at that point, it’s almost impossible to turn things around.

 

The trick is to not get there, and for that to happen you need to understand that long term love doesn’t happen by chance.  It’s a choice, that we can nurture.  It’s built into your interactions each and every day.  The looks, the touches, the signs of affection.  It comes from wanting to be there, and waking up and actively CHOOSING your partner, each and every day.  From celebrating them for their strengths and appreciating what they ARE, instead of focusing on what they are not.

Life will always get busy.  There will always be times that it’s hard.  But you need to always prioritize each other as must as you can.  And be there to support each other, and promote growth both individually and as a couple.

I think you can ensure connection never fades with three simple (though not always easy) steps:

  1. Actively love each other – each and every day.  No one should ever have to question if their partner loves them.  They should see it, and feel it through the little things.  Looks, touches, and signs of affection.  I don’t care if you are newly dating or married for 50 years, these should never go away.
  2. Don’t be selfish.  It’s easy to get caught up in ourselves and all the things going on in our world; and there are times when we will need to put ourselves first.  That’s alright.  But it shouldn’t be a pattern, and it shouldn’t happen over an extended period.  Relationships are a balance between “we” and “me”.  And if the focus is usually me, then maybe you shouldn’t be there.
  3. Communicate.  This is probably the hardest part.  As humans we are always always interpreting things through the filters of our own experiences, so misunderstanding is always a risk.  So communication is the most important skill you can ever learn.  When you are with your partner, if there are things that are difficult to talk about or you don’t want to talk about; then those are probably the things you NEED to talk about the most.  Don’t keep things in.  Be willing to grow, and learn each other, each and every day.

 

In relationships, connection is the most important thing there is.  But it doesn’t just happen.

Working on it, and growing it (or at least maintaining it) is the key to keeping your relationship alive.  You need to look forward to seeing each other, in both the exciting times and the quiet moments.  You need to WANT to be there, to see each other and support each other even when times are hard.

You need to keep that light in your eyes alive, by actively choosing each other each and every day.

Because when that light goes out, then you really have nothing left.

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14 thoughts on “When the Light Goes Out

    • Thanks. I love it when I’m out and you can “see” connection between people. Even total strangers.

      I remember waiting in line at the grocery store and there was an older couple in front of me, and the way they interacted – joking, little gestures of affection (she put her hand on his shoulder and in return he put his arm around her waist). Simple stuff, but to me SO important. And the sort of thing I hope to one day have.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. My husband and I don’t see eye to eye about a lot of things, but we still stay together, mainly because we both understand that we were never alike to begin with. Just because my passion is different from his, we have to break up. I suppose your three suggestions work. Not totally easy to follow but not impossible either. You need those basic things to keep the relationship going.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think there’s any magic formula really. Each couple has to find what works for them.

      You mention your husband and you being different. I think it’s good to have some similarities, and at the very least hopefully your core values are pretty close. Beyond that, shared interests are valuable in that they give you things you can do together. At the same time though, our differences are what can keep things fresh. They cause conflict too :), but a nice balance between similarities and differences is probably important for a healthy relationship.

      I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure all of this out for myself. Sometimes I think I get it, but then other times I see things that don’t seem to make a lot of sense to me, but still seem to work. Love and relationships seem to be an equal mix science and art!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • But the differences can also hurt. I would like to do things with him but he doesn’t enjoy the things I like. I like to travel, he no longer enjoys flying. I like to go hiking, he doesn’t seem enthusiastic when I ask him to go. Not even the foods we used to eat together. I get really bored staying home but he likes to stay put. It’s almost a miracle now go find a common ground. But I am thankful that he is a really good dad. He is faithful and doesn’t cheat. He is there during tough days to give support. He is not abusive. He is a really decent person. So I suppose those reasons are enough to keep the marriage. And I honestly think I would be lost without him, not because I am still so deeply in love (I love him as a husband and friend) but because he’s become my other half. Someone I can’t easily live without. Am I making sense?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that makes sense. That’s a tough (and in my opinion, potentially dangerous) spot to be in. It sounds like you’ve hit that spot where you love each other and have built a life together, but are starting to lead fairly individual lives for whatever reason. You say it’s almost a miracle to find a common ground – is there anything the two of you could do together? Take a class together, or start a hobby together? Something, anything really to continue to keep the connection between the two of you strong?

        One thing I believe is valuable is visioning together – trying to figure out what some of your goals/hopes/dreams are, and then working on the similar areas together while trying to support each other for the individual ones.

        Like

      • Drew and Boots,
        I don’t know if it’s a necessarily dangerous place – unless there really isn’t any intersection/connection. I mean, a few moments over coffee and a warm hug between two is a really great thing. I don’t think one person can fill every social role. My interpretation is that what is missing is someone to have fun with (the wholesome kind…). That is a legitimate need that he may not be able to fulfill at present, but is there deep knowledge about each other? Is there warm comfort? Is there still sharing of inside jokes? I think those have value. If there is distance and coldness between a couple that is a different story. But if the relationship is really ok, except some personal need isn’t being fulfilled, I think it’s OK that a spouse wouldn’t be able to meet that every time.
        It’s always nice to go a little further and do something you don’t get a lot of enjoyment out of just because you enjoy being with that person. But that can’t be an everyday or everytime thing. I think it’s part of letting each other be themselves.
        What do you guys think?

        Liked by 1 person

      • As long as the basic affection is there, and you still enjoy each others company – I think all is good.

        I’m a touch/quality time guy though, so for me it’s also important to be able to do things with someone I care about.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lindsey, you’re absolutely right. A couple doesn’t need to spend everything together as long as they have respect and love each other. But it would definitely make it easier for the relationship to survive if they are doing things together. I find myself doing what I love to do alone but we still go out to lunch or happy hours together. And I think that helps a lot!

        Liked by 2 people

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