It’s Complicated. Why Old Relationships are Worth Every Tear

mother-baby relationship

The newborn, eyes still puffy from the exhausting experience of entering this world sleeps skin on skin with his mother. Something wells up inside me at the simple intimacy of it. A young couple walks hand in hand completely absorbed in the giddiness of new love, the rest of the world disappears from their sight.

In just a few years that precious newborn will be a teenaged boy angry at the disappointments in his life and the restrictions on his independence.

The young couple will be not so young. They will be weighed down with jobs, debts, children, or perhaps the heartache of not having children, and a long list of roles and responsibilities. The relationship that was once intoxicating develops a bitter aftertaste.

“Every relationship seems simple at its start…and then how swiftly, how inevitably the perfect unity is invaded; the relationship changes; it becomes complicated, encumbered by its contact with the world. I believe this is true in most relationships, with friends, with husband or wife, and with one’s children.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Relationships, even friendships if they endure long enough, move from simple to complex. Most relationships hit a crisis point. Each person feels they give much more than they receive, the cost is high and the return on investment low. It is tempting at that point to cut ties, give up, try to go back, make new friends, switch to a new life partner, distance ourselves from parents, and try to begin again, to recapture the simplicity, and the endorphins, of new relationships.

Time moves only forward. So does human life.

This, it turns out, is a good thing. Hearts would break if a solemn-faced doctor sat down and explained to the new parents that their child would never mature into one of those independent teenagers. It is equally true of romantic relationships. If romantic love never progressed beyond twitterpation, it would lack the depth that comes from hanging on tight through hard times. The sandpapery rub of conflict, the stress and pull of maturing relationships shapes and smooths us. Friends who can tell each other the truth and love each other dearly anyway are much better friends than those who are guardedly safe and nice.

I savor simple new relationships. I inherently dislike conflict.

Conflict, stress, and other dangers are necessary to achieve deeper beauty, strength that is hard to describe.


1 reason old relationships are worth the tears

The weathered man sits side by side with his wife, looking forward. Many years stretch behind them, only a few in front. They could tell stories of their own difficult middle years, but they rarely do. They prefer to just be, comfortable in the intimacy rooted deep in the decades they’ve spent together. They annoy each other immensely some days, yet when one of them lays the other in a grave, the loss will leave an emptiness, beautiful and painful, stretching all the way to the core.

Soon enough the newborn baby will be a man welcoming his own child into the world. His once-young mother’s heart will ache with joy again. The tiny new person is miraculous, she will marvel. Miraculous too are his new father and mother. Once, not so many years ago they were tiny babies. Now they are strong, unique reflections of the image of God as they gaze with wonder and love at their baby.

Friends who have forgiven each other countless times, bear each other’s burdens with much love and few words.

These relationships, multifaceted, refined, and polished are worth every tear they cost.

This is post is a my reflection on chapter 4 of  Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. For other posts in this series see recent posts or click here.



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3 Responses to It’s Complicated. Why Old Relationships are Worth Every Tear

  1. Katie Sturm August 9, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

    So true…I miss you.

  2. Merrie Lea July 29, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    So well said. I used to think if I did everything right, my kids would not have to struggle in this world. I know now ups and downs in life will happen.


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