I can only write this because we are now far enough away from the hard times, and even then I write this with trepidation. I worry that by even suggesting my hypothesis, love deepens, I may be engaged in a practice that is too hubristic for my own good. I worry that in three weeks, three months, or three years, I might look back and regret these words. Still I will write them. Love deepens.
By that I mean, over the course of time together two people in love find that in addition to being challenged and tested, often painfully, love deepens. The reward for staying around during the fights, during the indecision, during moments of meanness and unkind words, is that the emotional, erotic, and spiritual connection that is shared becomes deeper and more meaningful. There is a reward, even a pay off, to staying with one person for more than a few months or a few years. There is a different type of love that emerges after a substantial time together.
I’ll be honest. This surprised me. Yes, I’ve heard people describe such a thing, but as a younger person, I thought that was all verbal blather designed to promote mythic heterosexual monogamy. It may be and now I may just be engaged in the myth-making myself. If so, I hope to be slapped soon into a more radical perspective. First, however, let me suggest that this notion that love deepens is not part of hegemonic heterosexism, but rather a part of our human condition that we can celebrate from a queer perspective.
I’ve been reading the letters of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. They had a friendship that extended over thirty years, and, despite some early uncomfortable suggestions that they should marry (an absurd notion—Bishop was, of course, a lesbian), they remained friends, close friends, in spite of the miles that separated them for much of their life. Reading the letters, I’m struck by the same insight that I see in my intimate relation (and I might add other relationships): love deepens. Bishop’s love for Lowell and his for her deepens as the time passes, as the pages of letters become filled with words and images and poems.
Time does something to us in relationships. It softens some edges and hardens others. The shared experiences accrue to greater meaning. Things that were once annoying become predictable in and in that predictability reassuring and even delightful.
I don’t want to argue for us queers to all gallop off into long-term, committed relationships. I chafe at the presentation that we’re making in order to sway our heterosexual counterparts in supporting our right to marriage. To me, being a lesbian is still at its core about challenging patriarchy and sexism and homophobia and demanding that we have more models, not fewer, for how we might live our lives with greater joy and opportunity and passion and service.
Yet, I’m aware at the power of relationships between people as they grow older. Those relationships need not be intimate partnerships; they may also be friendships as with Bishop and Lowell, they may be familial relations or companions or cohorts or confidantes. We don’t have enough language to describe the matrix of relationships that we can imagine for ourselves. We do know that time invested in people, in building relationships with people, delivers rewards.
My greatest hope is that this morphing of love with time continues. I want love to deepen as time marches on. When I look back on year three, when I never imagined year twelve, I couldn’t imagine the experience I have now. I want it to continue. Perhaps the transition from fifteen years to twenty, from twenty-five to thirty, from even thirty-five to forty if I dare to imagine that long, will be that love to deepen further. This seems to me one of the joys of growing older and sticking around through the hard times. I also want love to broaden. I want more space for it in my life and in my world. I want my queer love to be broad and deep and celebrated by me, and everyone.
Word count: 707
Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.
This is column #24 dated November 23, 2008 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION