Love is Not Smothering…with a Pillow

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????People like to write a lot about love and romance. Not I. One of my goals as a writer over the next year is to write outside my comfort zone, no matter how awkward or sappy or…no, just awkward.

No one has ever accused me of being overly romantic or sentimental. And frankly, you just don’t know, when push comes to shove, if you will make it through the endless night of the man cold without rolling over and gently, but firmly pressing your memory foam pillow to his face, until the tuberculosis-like hacking and wheezing of snot becomes a blanket of comforting warm silence. You just never know.

I’ve spent most of my life getting this love thing wrong. I’m an impatient person, so I rarely waited to be asked out on a date. As soon as I spotted the most unlikely suspect for a love match, I was on the case. A drunk? Awesome – I could work out my daddy issues. Religious zealot? Super – we could have wildly guilty premarital sex. A polygamist at heart? Fan-tabulous- really adds that competitive edge that we women lack.

Even at 46, I’m pretty sure I’m still relatively clueless in the love department. Getting married and having a child seems rather accidental to me and on occasion, a little surprising. I stopped believing in the one after I met a couple or ten of those. As much as I’d like to re-write the narrative of my courting and marriage, it was a linear story, if not slightly awkward. Sounds unromantic, doesn’t it?

If you’re young and gravity hasn’t taken its toll, your love is unwrinkled, shiny and new. I didn’t marry young. By the time I even remotely imagined settling down with one person, I was quite cynical – and tired. My future husband was easy – even-tempered, kind, consistent, sober, funny and smart. I felt happy when I saw him and while I worked out all my relationship angst, he remained a calm and generous partner.

When I hear love songs or read the occasional romance (just for the sex scenes, of course), I wonder at this idea of fiery, sustained passion – this desperate feeling of not being whole or being a sacrificial lamb to love. And now that I’m at the mid-point of life, I’ve forgotten what that felt like. And it’s a damned good thing. Like the flip side of any emotion, passion involves drama and I just cannot do drama. It’s exhausting.

Lately, we’ve been trading off maladies, neither one of us ever in top form. My eyes, the flu, work irritations, scheduling conflicts. Our daughter is flourishing, although suffering from the micromanagement of people parenting an only child. We discuss house projects and schedules and relatives’ health. We laugh a lot. We drift in the tide of daily trivialities, closer and farther, farther and closer.

On occasion, I’ll look at him as if from a stranger’s eyes and my heart fills with gratitude and warmth and yes, love. Our life is a smorgasbord of joyous times and dull moments, tedious conversation and that of two people who can’t wait to tell each other something. Familiar sweatpants-wearing couch potatoes and formal, polite strangers. People in their 50th year of marriage or awkward newlyweds.

There are always those occasions that make me wonder if we are supposed to be more intense, more romantic, but those gestures, those sentimental soliloquies happen throughout the year. I nearly wept with joy when he fixed the washer last week, flinging my arms around him in a spontaneous gesture of gratitude. We thank each other a lot – not just for big moments, but for the little kindnesses that make our life together easier, more pleasant and more enjoyable.

canstockphoto5793629As I’ve grown older, although not exponentially wiser, I like being with someone who makes me want to be a better version of me. Not because he’s critical or judgmental, but because he’s a good person who deserves to be with someone who doesn’t take him or our life together for granted. Maybe that’s what love is for me. It’s not a sacrifice or a roller coaster ride or fiery, exhausting passion. It’s how I show gratitude for this fellow traveler who likes walking next to me, no matter where we journey.

52 thoughts on “Love is Not Smothering…with a Pillow

  1. I’m a firm believer in love being one of those things that none of us ever feel we quite get right, regardless of the number of people we love or for how long. Perhaps it’s the inherent awkwardness of love which keeps us from ever really feeling comfortable in its throes. As with almost anything, Hollywood and Madison Avenue never help. As for your post, I lov…I liked it, a lot.


    1. I think, too, that much of the marketing of romance, love and relationships is geared towards the very young, whose disposable income is being spent on the mating dance – from the dressings to the wildly exhausting social outings to the over the top attention getting gestures. I’d hate to cite laziness or exhaustion, but I think enduring love ends up being a lot more subtle and complex. Although I find it hard to describe without it sounding like it’s an ad for a comfortable pair of shoes!


  2. That last paragraph belongs on a Valentine. I seriously thought about stealing it to tell my husband exactly why I love him. Because he truly does make me want to be a better person. And I’m glad our love isn’t a roller coaster ride of fiery passion, because frankly I just don’t have the energy. Excellent writing, Michelle. Excellent.


  3. In every traditional musical there is one song that is an anti-love song that is really a love song. In “Oklahoma,” it’s “People Will Say We’re in Love.” Don’t throw bouquets at me
    Don’t please my folks too much
    Don’t laugh at my jokes too much
    People will say we’re in love!
    That’s what this post reminds me of, except that it’s not set to music. What a lovely Valentine’s Day piece, Michelle. And hilarious–the MAN COLD!


    1. Time has never passed so slowly as during the night of the man cold!
      I love “Oklahoma!”, but forever remain bitter that I only got the part of the storekeeper’s wife in our school musical. Storekeeper’s wife? I don’t remember her. Exactly.


  4. I have enjoyed this Valentine’s Day with so many blogs about love and what it is or isn’t to that person. This one really resonates with me – thanks for sharing.


  5. Forget the romantic cliches, and guidebooks for a happy marriage. You’ve described it perfectly, and exactly what I have with my wife.

    Plus, she has an extra pillow nearby.
    It keeps me in line…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautifully written, Michelle. I’m with Honie … that last paragraph was exquisite.

    “As I’ve grown older, although not exponentially wiser, I like being with someone who makes me want to be a better version of me. Not because he’s critical or judgmental, but because he’s a good person who deserves to be with someone who doesn’t take him or our life together for granted.”

    ^Yes. I’m so lucky to have reached that point in my marriage. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.


  7. In my 40’s, I feel that love is something that definitely grows as you go along. Though apparently I knew enough to pick right in the first place, and it’s still working. Now, however, love means that person that makes you feel safe, happy, needed and feels like they actually “get” you.

    Your title reminded me of a friend’s comment – when I complained one day that my husband’s snoring had been out of control lately, she said “if you can still hear him snoring with the pillow over his face, you aren’t pressing on it hard enough”.


    1. I don’t know if my husband and I necessarily “get” each other, but that is part of the fun of our relationship. We know each other well and accept our differences. Most of the time.

      Very funny joke about the snoring. I’m the snorer in our duo. To be fair, I probably deserve each and every night of the man cold!


  8. Sounds pretty good (and relatable) to me! In the love department I’m also pretty much a realistic non-romantic with both feet on the ground (in comfy shoes) and both hands on the pillow. Loved it!


  9. A good one. The only movie that comes to mind that had a romantic feel to it that I liked was “Last Chance Harvey”. It had such a realistic feel to it. Finally two people just getting to know each other. And it was not boring at all.


  10. Loved every syllable of this. I just finished watching all 11 seasons of “As Time Goes By,” a British series with Judi Dench. Gosh, it made me so *hungry* for my own hound-dog-faced grump with a secretly kind heart. I hate being single.


    1. I love that series (own it and have seen it 75,000 times)! I could come up with some cliche here, Sandy, that would make you want to punch me. But I won’t. When I moved to Minnesota and only knew one person here, I didn’t want to wait around to have a social life, so I ran an ad (before all the dating web sites existed) to meet people. My husband was the 25th response I received. This is how two introverts met.
      I’ve been single longer than I’ve been in a stable relationship and there were times I really hated it too. On the other hand, I was never more miserable than when I was in a bad relationship.


  11. Yeah, I know all the clichés. I was married for 24 years and made all the mistakes a wife can make. I almost signed up for Match.Com last year, but the thought of all that dating business made me take a Xanax. Oh, well.


  12. “And frankly, you just don’t know, when push comes to shove, if you will make it through the endless night of the man cold without rolling over and gently, but firmly pressing your memory foam pillow to his face, until the tuberculosis-like hacking and wheezing of snot becomes a blanket of comforting warm silence. You just never know.”

    Laughed out loud at this! Wonderful stuff.


    1. I actually had a moment, writing that bit, when I wondered if you could actually suffocate someone with one of those memory foam pillows, since it would conform to all the breathing passages rather than just blocking them. Yeah, I’m a writer…


  13. This has to be the most romantic thing I have read in a long time that was not mush. It is real, the way I imagine love to really exist. The way I hope my relationship with my future spouse will be. I have had the super passionate crazy drama kind, and what I really want is to find someone who will let me be me and I can let them be them. Thanks for the inspiration.


  14. Sounds more like the real deal to me than any hundred romance novel versions of love. I think our version of it here is not too different from yours, and I’m grateful every hour of every day that I don’t have that high-maintenance, unreliable hot-and-cold silliness that other people struggle to keep alive and ticking, but the steady warmth and camaraderie and deep affection that makes it a pleasure just to sit side by side reading, or to go grocery shopping together even when there’s not much to buy, just because we like spending time in each other’s company. I gather that you, too, value intelligent and good-humored companionship and supportive daily actions above bouquets and frills. That stuff fades; kindness and mutual admiration don’t. Thanks for this delightful post.


    1. Thanks, Kathryn. I think I would find the kind of relationships I had when I was younger quite intolerable these days. In a way, I liken it to the flash and brilliance of annual flowers compared to the durability, the deep-rooted foundation of perennials. Can you tell I’ve been gazing longingly at seed and plant catalogs? It’s been a long winter – only a solid, warm relationship could survive seasons like this!


  15. Hi Michelle – I found your blog via 23thorns and am pleased to click follow. Where to start? Which of the dozens of phrases catch my eye? Introvert, learning curve, and, ahem, the snorer of the household. Unlike you, I haven’t allowed myself to be single for very long as proven by my multiple marriages and relationships. I have only now found a stable partner. When my single friends who are searching for a mate claim that they want the spark, the sizzle, the sis-boom-bah of romance, I bite my tongue. It’s not only over-rated, I think it’s a lie. I look forward to reading more!


    1. Thanks so much for reading and the follow! I have heard of relationships that have sustained passion, but like a unicorn, I’ve never actually witnessed one! Relationships are always a reflection of the needs of the people involved, so I know they can vary widely. I need to be mellow, so it finally worked out when I met someone who was also an introvert and low-key.There’s such a tremendous difference in what one thinks they want with someone else, as opposed to what they really need. And it gets further confused by how love is represented in entertainment and in a commercial sense.


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