My husband and I were musing today on relationships and what we, at our "lofty" ages know now that we did not know in our twenties. The reason? The daughter, who has been bitten and is wondering… We decided we did not know what to tell her. We cannot define, in words, what love is.

For instance, when we were younger, we both had thoughts that one of us might try to control the other. And we did, I suppose. But more than that, we tried to please one another. I don't think that is control, really. I think it is part of what love is about.

I was listening to David Jeremiah on the radio today, and he quoted a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox called "An Unfaithful Wife to Her Husband." You can read the whole poem here if you wish. The poet starts out describing happy days:

You must recall
Your wild pursuit of me, outstripping all
Competitors and rivals, till at last
You bound me sure and fast
With vow and ring.
I was the central thing
In all the Universe for you just then.
Just then for me, there were no other men.
I cared
Only for tasks and pleasures that you shared.

She then goes on to explain how the world got in the way of the husband's desire to please her:

a thirst
For conquest and achievement in man's realm
Left love's barque with no pilot at the helm….

…Abroad you were a man of parts and power–
Your double dower
Of brawn and brains gave you a leader's place;
At home you were dull, tired, and commonplace.
You housed me, fed me, clothed me; you were kind;
But oh, so blind, so blind.
You could not, would not, see my woman's need
Of small attentions; and you gave no heed
When I complained of loneliness

Then temptation entered the picture:

I spoke a little, and he listened much;
There was attention in his eyes, and such
A note of comradeship in his low tone,
I felt no more alone.
There was a kindly interest in his air;
He spoke about the way I dressed my hair,
And praised the gown I wore.
It seemed a thousand, thousand years and more
Since I had been so noticed. Had mine ear
Been used to compliments year after year,
If I had heard you speak
As this man spoke, I had not been so weak.
The innocent beginning
Of all my sinning
Was just the woman's craving to be brought
Into the inner shrine of some man's thought.

The poem ends plaintively:

You might, you should, have saved me from my fall.
I was not bad, just lonely, that was all.

A man should offer something to replace
The sweet adventure of the lover's chase
Which ends with marriage, Love's neglected laws
Pave pathways for the "Statutory Cause."

The idea of Jeremiah's message was that there was much a husband or wife can do to keep love alive. In keeping with this, he also quoted this poem by Roy Croft:

I love you,
Not for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.

I love you,
Not only for what
You have made for yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.

I love you,
For that part of me
That you bring out;
I love you
For putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can't help
Dimly seeing there.
And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.

I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple:
Out of the works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.

I love you
Because you have done
More than any creed
Could have done
To make me good,
And more than any fate
Could have done
TO make me happy.

You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.
You have done it
By being yourself
Perhaps that is what
Being a friend means
After all.


Croft's poem certainly seems closer to what my husband and I have experienced. We both think that friendship is a huge element in married love. In addition, Croft's love is closer to what the Bible says love is in I Corinthians 13:4-8a (courtesy of Bible Gateway):

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Now, I must be truthful with you and tell you that my love has failed. Too often. But somehow, I was able to see beyond myself (eventually), and I wonder if that would have helped the wife in Ella Wheeler Wilcox's poem. As I have written about before, I do sometimes feel that I am not as important as my husband's job is. But pretty much every time that has happened over the years I realize, sooner or later, that I am looking out for myself. If Becky is being patient and kind, if she is not keeping a record of wrongs, things on the marriage front go a lot better.

So how do we tell the daughter all of this? She comes to relationships with a different background than her father and I had. And we both agreed that, when we were her age, we probably could not have put these things into words. We did not have enough experience.

SO…the husband and I have no easy answers , although we can point our daughter to the Bible and hopefully give her a good example. Somehow I think she knows what she needs to know,although she, like her parents, may not yet be able to put her knowledge into words. When she was still in college, she found a recording of "Grow Old Along with Me". Mary Chapin Carpenter sings the song, and it is based on a poem of the same name by Robert Browning. She, the "baby," had moved out, and she thought this song described what her dad and I had to look forward to. It does, but I think the poem describes it more:

…Ay, note that Potter's wheel,
That metaphor! and feel
Why time spins fast, why passive lies our clay,–
Thou, to whom fools propound,
When the wine makes its round,
"Since life fleets, all is change; the Past gone, seize to-day!"

Fool! All that is, at all,
Lasts ever, past recall;
Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure:
What entered into thee,
That was, is, and shall be:
Time's wheel runs back or stops: Potter and clay endure.

He fixed thee mid this dance
Of plastic circumstance,
This Present, thou, forsooth, wouldst fain arrest:
Machinery just meant
To give thy soul its bent,
Try thee and turn thee forth, sufficiently impressed….

This is not the best piece I have ever written, and it is hard to form a conclusion. It is hardto be asked for advice when your listeners don't have the experience to understand what you are saying. Nevertheless…

Relationships are like clay on a potter's wheel. Each takes a different shape. Each may encounter difficulties in its forming. Yet each, in some respect, has value, both in its being and in the shape it takes.

Too bad I don't know how to tell the daughter that.

Click here to listen to "Grow Old Along with Me."



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