Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Love for All Time

by Kirsten

After an incredible week of guest bloggers, I'm struck by how different all of these books we call "romance" can be. We've got paranormal, historical, contemporary...you name it. But they share one thing, right? The happily ever after. Or as we call it in the business, the HEA.

But what does it REALLY take to live HEA? My husband's grandfather passed away this winter. He was 98. His widow is 87. They were married 73 years. (Yeah, they got married when she was 14. But he promised not to have sex with her until she was 16. And they moved from Old Mexico--today Arizona--up to Colorado in a covered wagon. So they were pretty amazing folks.)

Let's take a moment to digest that. 73 years. A lot happens in 73 years. People change, develop, grow. But somehow those two not only grew old together, they grew more in love all the time.

Sometimes, you read a romance and say to yourself--these people will never make it. No way. You might as well sign the pre-nup because the divorce is just around the corner. Sometimes, you know in your heart they would live to celebrate their 73 wedding anniversary. But how do you know the difference?

They say opposites attract, and some long-lasting marriages fit into this boat. I'm an introvert, my husband's an extrovert. It not only works, but it makes us both better people. But you put some opposites together and they wear each other down, rub that sore spot until they're ready to explode. What's the difference?

So tell me, can you predict a HEA? Are there heros and heroines you know will make it--or those you know are destined for divorce court? What makes love last?

43 comments:

Christie Kelley said...

Wonderful post, Kirsten. I have also read a few books and thought there was no way that couple would make it past the seven year mark.

Then again, I'm sure people said that about my marriage too. Now, twenty-three (and a half) years later, I hope they're eating those words. My husband and I are opposite in some ways but very similiar in others. I think that really helps make a marriage last. And like your marriage, he's the extrovert and I'm not (although, he'll try to convince you he's not really an extrovert--yeah, don't believe it).

There is no formula for HEA. It takes work! And lots of it. But it is very comforting to sit next to the man you married over twenty years ago and laugh about things that happened so many years ago. A lot of couples can't do that.

Kirsten said...

Congratulations, Christie on your marriage! What an amazing relationship you must have. :-)

I wonder if there are certain types of traits that work to compliment each other (like the intro/extrovert thing) and others that don't? What about conflict-avoiders paired with conflict-seekers? I'm thinking that kind of pair isn't headed for an HEA...

doglady said...

I think Christie hit it - laughter and shared memories. My mother and father knew each other for one week, they had one date before they got married. They were married 40 years when my Dad passed away. My Dad was stationed with my Mom's brothers in Germany. One of them had a photo of Mom on his desk. Dad asked if that was his girl and my uncle said "No, that's our sister." My Dad said "There is no way you have somebody that pretty in your family." This was the 50's and writing to soldiers was a thing to do. Dad got Mom's address, wrote to her and she wrote back. They corresponded for a year. Dad shipped home to PA May 3rd, drove to Alabama May 4th, met Mom, dated her once and they were married May 11th. I am sure they argued and fought, but we never saw it. He never forgot her birthday or their anniversary. They dragged three kids all over the world. I think the thing I noticed most was that they genuinely enjoyed each other's company. Maybe that's it.

Claudia Dain said...

Hi again, Banditas. Like you're not sick of me!

What a sweet post, Kirsten, and so very thought provoking. I think that you can and probably should be very different from your spouse since it inspires balance. But, to be content and to continue to really cherish that person, you have to delight in the differences.

My DH and I are very different, most people thought it wouldn't last, that we should get to know each other better before we married...and it's been 27 years. What's more, it's been 27 blissful years.

As I teased him once, "I don't want to change you. I love you just the way you are. Just don't get any worse." LOL

Kirsten said...

doglady, I really wish they would start publishing WWII romances so you could publish that story. What a beautiful romance. Did they inspire your writing at all?

Kirsten said...

Hi Claudia! Thanks for popping back over and congratulations to you as well--27 years! Wow, were you 14 when you tied the knot, too?

BTW, I really can't say your name without sticking "the Incomparable" before it. Caren has us well trained. ;-)

I like the way you said it-delight in the differences. If you can take joy in your spouse and his differences, you're destined for an HEA.

Buffie said...

As each of you have already said, a good marriage takes work, commitment, and a joy for life. My hubby and I have been married for 17 years (we dated 3 years before we got married). Yes, we were young and stupid when we got married (19 years old), but we grew up together. We are different in several ways, and so alike in some that it is scary :) I know that we will make it many, many years -- we even like to grocery shop together!!!

Joan said...

I've never had a hero and heroine in a book make me wonder "will it last." I might have thought "the story isn't so great" but I've never doubted the HEA.

It's the journey they take to get to that HEA and the commitment...even if it appears superficial...to getting there together that leaves me believing.

Though, I do confess, I'm a big fan of epilouges ESPECIALLY if I've fallen in love with the the hero :-)

Kirsten said...

Buffie, I am feeling like such a baby here, only married for 9 years (so far)! And you like to grocery shop together? Now that is one of the sweetest thing I've ever heard! And I think having a mix of ways you're different and ways you're the same is essential. My husband and I are both bossy. ;-)

Kirsten said...

Joan, I think you're right--their journey together does mean alot. I think that's why my husband's grandparents were so strong. They'd lived lifetimes together by the time they were 20!

And I'm a fan of epilogues, too. I love to see their HEA come true.

Claudia Dain said...

Kirsten, the Incomparable Claudia Dain???

Now why do I find this so appealing?

As to when I got married, I wasn't 14. I was 10.

Kirsten said...

TICD (you know who you are), ten sounds about right. As for me, I got married when I was still in the cradle. I'm having a big bash when I hit the big 2-0.

Donna MacMeans said...

What makes for a HEA? The same thing that makes a marriage last - a good sense of humor *g*

Next month we'll hit our thirty-fourth wedding anniversary. My parents never thought it would last because we were young and lived 250 miles apart. (Yes, it was a long distance relationship - we wrote letters to each other. No wonder I loved the guy,) My in-laws never thought it would last because of different religions.

But we did - and still do. Lord, I love that guy and plan to stay married another 34 years.

Caren Crane said...

Kirsten, I think those who said lots of work and a sense of humor determine longevity of the relationship were right on. My husband and I are about to celebrate our 15th anniversary (4-1/2 years of dating before that), so we've had nearly 20 years of together.

Neither of us wanted to be joined at the hip, thank the Lord! We are both independent and enjoy our solitude, but also time together - when we're ready for it. The odd thing for us is the way our couple dynamics are changing now that the youngest is 13 and the oldest grown and out of the house. We were "instant parents" and are having to learn to date again. Just enjoy each other's company and remember how much we like each other.

The cement in our relationship is that, deep down, the same things are important to us. We have the same views about major expenses, charity, religion and what is really important to us as people and in our lives. That is the bedrock of marriage. Romance and spending time together are things that ebb and flow. The important things remain the same. Oh, and we enjoy much spirited debate. *g*

jo robertson said...

Great conversational thread, Kirsten!

If I'm not pretty convinced the hero and heroine will make it beyond the sunset into the forever, I probably won't finish reading the book.

My husband and I are alike in many ways -- alpha-type people, with the potential for lots of conflict. Our rule was always -- who feels stronger about this issue? Is it something you can let go of or is your entire moral center based on this?

It's funny how much of what we quarrel about is . . . well, silly and unimportant.

And laughter, laughter, laughter. I have no use for a man who can't make me laugh.

Kirsten said...

Donna, I think you've got the rest of us beat! I love that it's humor that you pick out as the most important thing. I know one of the things I miss the most when my husband and I get busy with work, kids, etc, is just sitting around and being silly. That is definitely something to cherish.

Kirsten said...

Caren, I'm with you, I can't imagine being on top of my husband 24/7! And it must be very exciting to rediscover your relationship in a different way now that the kids are older. As I hover over my sick little boy (home with a nasty cough that has his momma beside herself with worry), I can't imagine what that would be like...

Kirsten said...

Jo, I agree that you've got to pick your battles. Knowing when an issue is worth fighting over is an important skill. Having the strength to overcome your own pride and let go of something when you KNOW you're right is even harder! But ultimately makes for a better marriage, I think.

Aunty Cindy said...

Hey! TICD, great to see you back in the lair this morning! ;-)

I have to agree with what has already been said about being able to laugh together, and sharing some of the same ideals, but also being able to express your differences.

I think the most important thing that distinguishes my current relationship from my previous is the respect the DH and I have for each other. When I told DH how happy I was because I always felt I was his equal, he was shocked. He said he could never think of me as anything BUT equal. Too bad the ex never caught on to such a concept, but you know what they say about old dogs...

AC
P.S. And I'm sure doglady will agree, dogs are MUCH smarter about giving and getting respect.

Aunty Cindy said...

Forgot to say, my SINCERE congrats to any couple who can make it over 20 years! That is a monumental achievement and you deserve recognition and many kudos!

AC

Kirsten said...

AC, I can't imagine ANYONE not giving you the respect you deserve! That man must have had a death wish. Seriously, though, it's so wonderful that you've found something better the second time around.

Oh, BTW, should I be calling you Loucinda? ;-)

Aunty Cindy said...

LOL, Kirsten. only if you work for the IRS! They are the only ones who have ever called me Loucinda (except my mother when she was very very angry). Guess I better start getting used to the name.

And yes, the ex is still alive and kicking, proving once again that "only the good die young!"

AC now and 4-ever!

Anna Campbell said...

Kirsten, lovely post! Thank you.

Claudia, of course we're not sick you. We've got a velvet draped corner of the lair that you're most welcome to any time. There's lots of wardrobe space too ;-) Hey, and you've even got a nickname - TICD

Congratulations to all the Banditas who have kept wonderful marriages going so long. You're an inspiration, girls!

Aunty Cindy, you beat me to my theory of what makes a relationship last. But of course, you're so wise, you would! We didn't give you that crop for nothing, lady! I think mutual respect is the thing. I agree about humour but I think it's a humour based in respect.

This is great stuff for a romance writer to read! Sort of like real life case studies!!!

Kirsten, hope the little guy is up, healthy and causing havoc again soon!

Kirsten said...

Thanks, Anna. I hope Claudia knows that around here, nicknames are a sign of love. :-)

Christine Wells said...

Kirsten, fantastic post! This is a very interesting subject and a difficult one to get right as a romance writer.

I think it's a few indicators that convince me. The 'down time' in a novel often does the trick. If there's just one scene, maybe two, where the major internal conflict is at bay and the H/h just enjoy each other's company, that's like a window into what life will be like when the trouble is over.

They also have to be kind to one another or *want* to be kind to one another even if they might have do rotten things because of outside/internal forces. And Donna's right, a shared sense of humour will take a couple far:)

I'm interested to read everyone's take on this. It's something I've never consciously thought about when writing but I hope I get it right!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

As Jo and several others said, I have no use for a man who can't make me laugh. :> My dh of 8.5 years (we've know each other 10 years this month) is just that way. I know too, that unlike many women, I can't wait for him to retire (5 years) so I can hang out with him all the time. We just have so much fun being together. And as wise AC said, the equality and respect deals. He is so incredibly supportive. I asked him why, once. He too looked surprised that I would question it and replied, "Well, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt if I came home and said I wanted to quit my job, move to Maine and be a lumberjack, you'd laugh that big laugh and start packing." Of course, sometimes, when I get weird on him (think Halloween weird) he just gives me that look, and I tell him he's stuck with me. To his credit, he says he wouldn't have it any other way. Snork. I think, as TICD said, he just hopes I don't get any worse. Kirsten, I love that picture you posted, and the story of your G-parents-in-law. Makes me go awwwwwwwww. :>

Kirsten said...

Christine, judging by SD, you DO get it right. Starting as friends certainly helps! I love your point about "down time". I'm making a little note to self about that one.

Kirsten said...

Jeanne, love the story about your husband! What a great symbol of support and respect--and knowing it goes both ways. I can't imagine how other writers (or any other women) get by without that. I spent a few minutes this morning crying on my husband's shoulder because I was worried about our boy. He (much wiser than I) knows this is a cold and will pass. But he doesn't make fun or suggest I'm being silly. Just gives me a hug.

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Christine, I try and do the 'down time' thing too. I want readers to think that my characters have more going for them than great sex and the fact that they're drawn together in a dramatic situation. Even with Claiming the Courtesan where they're opposed to each other for so much of the book, I tried to give hints that there was an affinity there in terms of wry sense of humour. Not that the jokes exactly overflowed in that book ;-)

Helen said...

Very thoughtful post Kirsten I have been married 30 years I was 15 and he was 17 when we started going out together and got married 5 years later a lot of people said it wouldn't last but it has. We have had to work at it of course as I think you need to work at everything we have had our ups and downs we respect each other and depend on each other there has been a lot of laughter and memories along the way and still more to come. We both took our wedding vows seriously and have truly enjoyed each others company but know that we need our space as well.
A good romance book you can tell early on that the hero and heroine will make it, through a lot of trials of course all the more fun and I love epilogues as well.

Have Fun
Helen

Trish Milburn aka Tricia Mills said...

Fun topic. And fun tidbit -- Caren and I both got married on the same day 15 years ago, though we didn't know each other then.

Hubby and I are very different in several ways, but we're alike in others. I think we complement each other well. He's extremely introverted, and I can be either introverted or extroverted. I like car trips, but he's not so hot on them. But he doesn't mind if I take them. And I don't mind if he spends all of Sunday watching football. I think that's the thing that can help a marriage -- be aware of each other's differences and respect them. That applies in the bigger sense that men are just different than women. I see so many women get upset when their husbands don't do things or think like they think they should. Those women are expecting the men to think and act like women, but they're just not wired that way. The thought processes for men and women are very different, and it helps if each realizes that.

Kirsten said...

Helen, what a beautiful story. You must be so committed to each other. If anyone ever says that our books are unrealistic, we can direct them to this blog and say, "See? It does happen. So there."

Kirsten said...

Trish, you know, with all the attention to the "Women are from Mars, Men are from Venus" stories, you would think people would take the differences between men and women seriously. But many still don't seem understand how deeply rooted those differences are. Little things, like whether you make eye contact (women do more than men--for women it's a means of connection, for men it can be sign of confrontation), or whether you talk about feelings or not (just because they don't say it doesn't mean they don't feel it, right?), can be so different from men to women. Good on you for trying to make sense of those differences!

(I soooo want to be from Oz!)

Caren Crane said...

Ha, ha, ha...Kirsten said "good on you"! I love that expression and think we should adopt it as an official Bandita slogan: Romance Bandits - good on you! Wow, now that might start some interesting conversations in the baaaaa.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, don't Americans say, "Good on you"? I think it's a great saying! And Kirsten, I'm trying to talk AC into moving down here - perhaps we could start a Banditas colony. A bit like Butch and Sundance setting up in Patagonia. Although hopefully with a happier ending!

Anna Campbell said...

And if you don't say 'good on you', what do you use for sort of general approbation that's not too sloppy? And Kirsten, 'good on you' flowed from your lips perfectly naturally! Perhaps in a former life you were from Oz!

Aunty Cindy said...

It's all in the preposition, Foanna. We say Good For You (more like goodfer you), which is booorrring. I'm with Caren, let's make Good On Ya an "official" Bandit slogan!

And it wouldn't take much to make your old Aunty emmigrate to Oz, esp. this time of year when lovely Spring is almost upon you. Of course, the fact that 2 of my 3 Chief Lust Objects are Australian (Eric & Hugh) doesn't figure into the equation at all... Okay, maybe just a wee bit.

AC

Joan said...

Kirsten,

I was talking to a patient's son the other day and there was something on TV that brought up the differences between the way men and women communicate.

I commented that male doctors will talk differently to their male patients. Instead of "Good Morning blah blah" they'll say stuff like "Hey, buddy, how you doin?"

He told me his 5 year old daughter was listening to him talk to some of his male employees on the phone and asked him why he talked different than when he talked to the ladies at his work.

Kirsten said...

I definitely want to be from Oz, even if it was only in a former life!! You know, I buy swim gear from the Aussies because they make the really good high SPF stuff--long sleeve rash guards and whatnot, even for the little ones. The last one I got says "Good On Ya" across the front and I love it. :-)

JoanieT, that's a very perceptive child! There's a great book called "Talking 9 to 5" by the esteemed Deborah Tannen (author of "You Just Don't Understand," another one about men and women talking) that looks at how men and women communicate at work. I think it should be mandatory reading for everyone who works with the opposite sex!

doglady said...

Sorry to be so late to get back to this. Darn day job is really cramping my blog cruising style, not to mention my writing time!! I think my parents' story had to have influenced my writing and my decision to write romances. The really funny thing is that I did not know their story until I was in college. My cousin remarked on it and that is when it all came out. I should have known. My mother's engagement ring and an entire set of silver engraved with what would become her married initials were bought in Germany BEFORE my Dad shipped home and had his one date with Mom. I guess he was kind of sure of himself or extremely optimistic. And yes, Aunty Cindy, dogs are MUCH smarter when it comes to giving respect and treating each other with respect. At least my nine rescues are that way. The senior dog is 17, a little deaf, has cataracts and no teeth, but she is still given the best spot in the sun on the patio and first shot at food and water. And what do I say when a couple of the younger dogs lie next to her if it is cold? Good on you, boys. Good on you! Learned that from my Aussie pal FoAnna! Lets all move to Oz. I hear Anna's house has an ocean soundtrack to lull us all to sleep!

DownUnderGirl said...

This is a great topic.

I never for a minute doubt the heroine and hero will go on to fully explore their HEA. Never. Hmmm, I must be a romantic ;-)

As to what makes a HEA after the white dress and the party - thats more diffiuclt. I've been with my husband since I was sixteen - married at 20 and I think it gets down to the one basic fact. Do you still love him/her? If the answer is yes then you work it out, whatever it is. Like friendship. Friends can argue and disagree and sometimes they can be major but for me it always gets down to - do I like this person still, how much does them being a friend matter to me.

And I guess I'm going to be completely crass again and ask Kirsten did your grandfather keep his promise about abstaining? Sorry - it must my convict blood but I'm dying to know!

Amy Andrews

Kirsten said...

Amy--You know, it's hard to say what happened out there on the prairie, but they didn't have babies for a while, so odds are good he did! :-)

What you say about love is really powerful--but what if there's some huge difference between them? I knew a couple once who were seriously dating and they were deeply in love, but she was an orthodox Jew and he was not (he was Jewish, but not orthodox). They ended up making a choice to break up, even though they both loved each other, because they knew it would be too hard later on, especially after they had kids, to try to mediate that different. They went through hell when they broke up and I always wondered if that was the right decision, or if they could have made it work anyway...

DownUnderGirl said...

Yes Kirsten I think there are some problems that not even love can surmount. How sad for them both.
Maybe, one day, they'll get their HEA. Life and time can change perspectives. I dont think anything can ever be ruled out.

Amy