It Was An Old Love

It was an old love.

I don’t know how I knew it. I just did.

Maybe it was the way they held hands, less with a spark and more with a sense that their hands belonged together, that to separate them would be like severing a vital organ. Or maybe it was the way his arm went protectively around her as they left the subway station and walked up crowded stairs, holding firm against the onslaught of bodies that bumped and jostled.

They passed by a news stand featuring glossy magazines with covers that guaranteed sleek, well-chiseled bodies, amazing sex, and “real love”  but while others were sucked in like dust in a vacuum, they were oblivious. It was as if our world’s obsession with “young lust” and “young love” did not faze them. They traveled in their world; a world that knew better.

Her – graying hair and a nondescript shirt, still agile but a careful agility.

Him – balding with the salt and pepper remains of what had once been a full head of hair. Taller than she, protective, aware, solicitous for her well-being.

Perhaps it was their wordless communication, their comfort, their lack of self-consciousness that told me it was an old love.

I have seen this kind of love in my parents and have observed in wonder. The look my mom will give my dad, a look that whispers so confidently of care and shared understanding that even strangers would know this was borne of a lifetime of loving. Or my dad, his strong body subject to the inevitable aging process yet always looking out for my mom’s safety.

My eyes misted over as I watched the couple, these with the old love, going their way. Misted because an old love is evidence of sacrifice and trial; hurt and healing; misunderstanding and forgiveness. A love that limps but still shouts of strength.

I turned away, thinking that as I age and my marriage ages with me, whether they see us on busy city streets or ocean rocks, I hope they will say “That is an old love.”

Related Articles: For a beautiful and complementary post take a look at Young Love from Simple Life of a Country Man’s Wife. 

26 thoughts on “It Was An Old Love

  1. Thank you, Marilyn, for that sensitive and observant commentary on “old love.” Yes, I notice those couples every now and then, when one of them occasionally appears. Sometimes, people will comment to me or my husband that they perceive us that way, now that we are “of an age.” However, most people seem to take us as somewhat younger than we are. After continuing-on, adjusting, growing, forgiving, loving, failing and trying again, letting go, forgetting, helping, comforting, sustaining, caring, laughing as well as crying or screaming, without bolting or running away, or shutting down communication or isolating, one begins to sense that this whole experience is about something much, much bigger than we ever thought starting out. It is a spiritual experience that we do not fully grasp, the implications of which we do not really understand. But the lessons we have learned by remaining together through everything have expanded each of us spiritually. The love has gained a greater depth by being tested and tried. The failings and forgivings have created a deeper tenderness, and broader understanding. The precious joys shared over the years have created a greater closeness. And now that there is a glimmer of the end of the tunnel, and a growing realization that we will not always remain together, there is the impulse to take greater loving care of one another in the time that remains. It is a special season, and we are blessed to experience it……..and to grow from it, too.


    1. This is an exquisitely lovely comment Kathy! Thank you. Your picture and articulation of the “spiritual experience we don’t fully grasp” is so true. It’s the reason to have a high and uncompromising view of marriage.


    1. Thanks Lori. The fun of this post is that I ended up sitting next to an “Old Love” on my plane ride. So much fun and wisdom! She with a sparkly cane and he with a dull!


  2. I know several couples, including my parents, who say that their marriage is better than ever. That means that at one point, usually when the kids are young and everyone is exhausted, their marriage wasn’t so hot. This is encouraging to me because I think we sometimes get sucked into the idea that when people have a loving marriage at age 70, it signals that it is the result of 50 years of uninterrupted happiness. If we have bumps in the road at 5 years, 10 years or 20 years, then we will never be like that couple – but that is not true. If you saw them 20 years ago they may have been annoyed at each other, but they stuck it out, God blessed their faithfulness and now their love is stronger than ever.


    1. I agree with Anne’s insight. Making it through, over or under the inevitable “bumps” which may last for years, is partly what goes into creating “old love.” Maybe the bigger the bumps were the deeper the love grows? Perhaps the point is: hang in there because the “old love” will be worth it!


    2. I echo both of you Anne and Jennifer – This is what I feel as well. The NY Times did a thing on marriage last year and the comments were the best part.. One guy said “Sometimes she scores a zero and other times she scores a 15 on a 10 point scale – I’m glad I don’t decide to leave when the score is low. Love the idea that you don’t get the old love until you’ve weathered storms.


  3. I’ve been away from this blog for over a week and I’ve missed it! Once again you’ve observed and preserved a rare, sweet thing. Thank you Marilyn…


  4. Beautifully said, as always Marilyn! One of my favorite moments at a wedding is when family and friends are invited to join the new couple on the dance floor. Sure, the newlyweds grab the spot-light; as they should. But there is such a glow from the ‘oldy-weds’. Old love truly radiates in the comfort of their embrace, in the unity of their movement. Sigh…

    And, thanks so much for linking to my blog. The consistency and regularity of your writing continues to amaze and inspire me. :-)


  5. What beautiful visual images you painted, Marilyn, with such lyrical words! And although some marriage relationships may not endure for valid reasons, I share your deep respect and honor for those that do. No matter what any glossy magazine or vaunted expert may proclaim, marriage requires dedicated, committed effort — more than worthwhile, mind you, but considerably more effort than I anticipated on my wedding day! To all the sacrifice and trial, hurt and healing, misunderstanding and forgiveness that is evidence of an old love, I would add uncertanty and faith, challenge and kindness, and timeless comfort and caring.


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