There’s this thing many couples do when they’ve been together a long time. It’s kind of a shtick where they roll their eyes frequently and tease each other in front of friends. If by tease you mean mock and if by ‘friends’ you also mean strangers.
Sometimes it’s an affectionate type of teasing, other times it’s passive-aggressive. And occasionally, it turns hostile enough to make other dinner party guests uncomfortable as the couple loudly denounce each others’ foibles and snark about never having sex.
This week, I was jolted by encounters with two couples that behaved in the opposite way; couples that made me stop and notice how in love they were. Neither were brand new relationships so it wasn’t that honeymoon rush of lust or infatuation; one couple had been together a year or two and the other had a few years and a few kids under their belt. So it was something altogether different. Really different.
The first couple was only half a couple; I had dinner with a girlfriend whose partner was away. “How is he?” I asked over wine and pasta one night. And she lit up. At the mere mention of his name, it was as if a pleasure charge went through her. Her eyes widened and I do believe she blushed. A smile cracked open her face as she told me about how well it was going, how happy they were. It was lovely to see her so sparkly.
The next day at a school concert, I bumped into an old mate whose child was also performing. His wife was there with their new baby and as the concert began, they passed her easily back and forth between them. When the Dad left to go back to work, I watched him say goodbye to his wife who was by then standing near the back, rocking the baby. He put his arms around them both and they hugged for the longest time. I was transfixed. It was the kind of hug you see at the departure gate of an International airport. Then he took her face gently in his hands and kissed her. Nothing sloppy, just tender and beautiful. And then another long embrace. I was unexpectedly moved by such an intimate expression of love and affection between two people who are not only married but also deeply sleep deprived (confession: I am not particularly loving when I’m sleep deprived, in fact, I am closer to batshit insane and also a capital P punish to be around).
In the world of couples with kids, you don’t see couples passionately embrace that often. It’s more likely to be a cursory nod or a quick exchange of information as you rush past each other in the kitchen. Like relay runners mid-race: exchange the baton with maximum care and efficiency. Keep running.