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I didn’t understand how much I loved her.

She had a husband, but she needed help. Everything was falling apart. She had three young children and she was exhausted almost past the point of return.

She didn’t know she was looking at death.

She was an unusually attractive young woman married to a football hero who had a host of psychological problems that no one understood.

It was a difficult and rocky start; we eventually made it work, but I had to grow into it.

I started growing in that direction, forming a real family relation to those kids, who don’t remember when they didn’t know me.

At this point, we’ve been together for thirty-five years and we’ve all evolved. I confess that I almost gave up waiting for her to fall in love with me, but now the question is moot. I expect to die one day still in love and still married to her.

Her ex asked her a few years ago what was the secret of our long term marriage. She said very simply, kindness; it’s just kindness. Kindness, regardless what righteous demands you think you must satisfy. Kindness, by foregoing the cutting words and the smart comeback.

Restraint is kindness, looking to understand instead of judge is kindness, tone of voice, a look in the eye — it’s all kindness, or a lack thereof.

That question was important to him — how do people stay together, he puzzled — but it’s obvious to us, really, because of the couple we have become, a couple that works together through the challenges, a couple whose life together is founded in kindness.

What else could it be?

I had no idea how much I needed to grow up then, and how much our union would help me do so. And it probably took her ten years to recover.

That’s how we started.

We made mistakes no doubt, but we all lived through it and still love each other, so we consider it a success. How did we do it? We moved to a tiny village in France, lived very simply and worked on our ancient house and garden.

A common project, difficult as it was, the beauty of the French countryside, the sense of community, the old customs, the massive learning curve, the slow tempo of life in that old culture, all this and more let our wounds heal enough to go forward in life with optimism and creativity. Any container would probably work like that.

That was a life that held us in its embrace when things got rough. You couldn’t bolt and run away no matter how furious you were. You stayed. You worked it out. Or you just waited for the emotions of the moment to calm down, which they always did.

Gradually we learned the landscape of love. Simple kindness and forbearance count for a lot more than we expected in the beginning.

I recommend it.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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