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Love is a Verb

Our parenting columnist shares lessons about love and surviving a break-up and un-break-up.

People say I’m “in love” as if it’s a place, like, say, Hawaii, where I wish I were right now.

But I think of love as a verb, an action word. Love requires action … it’s the true test of measurement.

We show our kids we love them by showing up to their important events, by letting them voice concerns without judgment, by giving consequences for misbehavior that teaches them how to make better choices in the future.

We tell them we may not always love the things they do, but we will always love them. For most parents, this is the easiest profession of love we’ll ever make in our lives because most people love their children more than life itself.

Loving our significant others is trickier, especially when your children aren’t his children.

My boyfriend of the past four years was the kind of partner who stood up, who showed he cared through actions.

He helped with household chores without being asked. He came to my kids’ sporting and school events. Showed up on time, even helped carry things, something every single mom especially values.

When he said he would be there, he was. I could count on him.

Once, a stranger found my cell phone and offered to return it to me at a BART station. She asked to meet me there before work one day, and I agreed.

Though my boyfriend usually drives straight to his work each morning, on this particular day, without telling me, he chose to be a little late, not a small deal in his line of work.

Instead of heading straight to work, he drove to our meeting place, just to make sure this stranger wasn’t a crazy person, just to make sure I was OK.

That’s love. And that’s why the news that he no longer wanted to be with me and my kids  struck so hard a few weeks ago – because I knew the weight of what I’d lost.

Only now, in a startling turn of events, he’s changed his mind.

He wants to un-break-up with me, he says – despite the fact we’ve already told the kids about our separation, despite the fact that I’ve already signed a one-year lease on an apartment, a lease I have no intention of breaking.

Our agreement to reunite came as quietly as our agreement to separate. No yelling. No breaking of dishes. The break-up transpired over just a few sentences.

First he couldn’t commit to being part of our family. Now, he says he can.

It will be harder to trust his words from now on because his action — leaving us, if only for a short time — said everything words cannot.

Sad for a writer to swallow the idea that words are often meaningless in matters of love. But as Oprah might say, this much I know is true.

Love is such a squirrely thing. People think they are in love when they are infatuated. People think they can commit when they cannot.

Being part of a family — especially a blended family with kids — requires a greater level of love and trust and listening and actions. And not everyone is up for the challenge.

My kids and I are still moving to an apartment by ourselves as my boyfriend and I figure things out.

My focus, now, is more on my kids — making sure they survive the transition from big house to small apartment relatively unscathed.

I know they are relieved he’s not leaving our lives completely, and they’ll still get to see him.

Right now, they seem most excited about the hot tub at our new apartment.

They don’t seem to realize that when we get out of the hot tub, it will still be winter, and we’ll have to endure a freezing, wet, drippy walk up three flights of stairs before we can be warm again.

They truly don’t care. All they want is that hot tub. I admire their optimism and hope some of it rubs off on me.

So for now, that’s the goal. Getting to the hot tub, where the three of us can sit and soak after a long day of work and homework.

A place where we can float on foaming, bubbly clouds — and in the warmth of the unwavering, irrevocable love that binds us.

A place where frustrations, aches and sorrows can escape into magical swirls of steam, rising, disappearing into a dark, starry night. Our own little version of heaven.

Dan Taylor February 07, 2011 at 04:03 AM
Julie - I stumbled across this article and then, of course, read the previous one immediately. Your openness and fearless honesty is an inspiration to those going through life's everyday struggles (everyone). Thanks.

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