My first love
It was my very first interview with a couple at the same time on their love for each other. They struck me with the statement "We were our first love for each other. And we have been together for 40+ years". Wow! Their love is even older than me, how incredible!
Having got a chance to stay with them for 3 days at their home really gave me an amazing opportunity to experience their love in actions and not just the beautiful words they told me in our various conversations.
Apparently Anne fell for Mark first and she made the first move. Mark seemed to agree with this statement with his cheeky smile when Anne shared with me on how they met. They both met and fell for each other in Bruges, a beautiful medieval city in northwest of Belgium. They were in their teenager years. While they went to different universities in different parts of the country, they still kept in touch and eventually they reunited in Leuven, the city where one of the oldest universities in Europe located and it was also where Mark did his study.
"40+ year! First love! It's unbelievable! I so admire and respect both of you! What are the tips?" Immediately, Mark said. "It wasn't always easy and we have had a fair share of obstacles and challenges too." Mark immediately came across to me as a very direct, no bs kinda guy.
Surprisingly or not surprisingly, at the dinner table, both of them shared with me the tip for their love and somehow both of these advices are one. Mark told me that both of them are confrontation avoider so whenever conflicts arise, they both retreat to their own place until they feel better before they can talk to each other again. Sometimes by that time, the conflict is already gone and so they with a clearer head and open heart, can talk easily to each other.
Anne shared a similar point in her tip. Communicate, we have to communicate but there's not point of arguing right there and then. We need to calm down before we can talk to each other.
Mark added "As we grow older, we communicate more and the frequency of conflicts also reduce significantly and so does the number of conflicts. We are more calm I guess".
Not sure if it's because both of them are reading the same book "On Dialogue" of David Bohm. It was so sweet to know that both of them could debate passionately on various topics at the intellectual level, including the books they are both reading. I guess it's also a tip right there for everyone, while we are 2 different people with diverse hobbies and passions, it's worthwhile having some common interests to connect both at a deeper level. Mark made a remark that he was reading few more pages of that book on the train ride back home from Bruges and how this book was also very relevant for his work as a consultant in organizational development field.
Anne made a simple yet super delicious dinner on my first night at their home. And Mark was the one doing all the cleaning. Sharing is caring indeed, including the workload at home.
Before I left their home for Paris, Mark told me that he had been thinking about my question on advices for keeping the relationship going for 40+ years and he had an additional tip to share. Clearly he took this topic very seriously and he truly cared about this cause. I was elated. Mark continued to share " In relationship, don't ever try to change the other person. Everyone is unique in their own way. And if there is someone who needs to change, it will be ourselves. We need to adapt ourselves so that we can connect better with our significant other."
I left Lueven with a happy heart and renewed hope in love, that true love does exist and it can truly last. Thank you Anne & Mark (& Django) for showing me what true love is and what it takes to keep it going.