I believe in taking a chance on love– not just the emotional or physical attachment I’ve felt for others over the years—but also on the love one man has shown for me, the man I call my husband, lover, and friend.
Recently I came across a letter I wrote to him in 1983 when I was trying to figure out how deeply committed I felt towards him. We were juniors in college, and I felt very inexperienced and uncertain about the future. I had fallen in love many times, but I’d never had a serious relationship until this one, and it was so different I didn’t know what to make of it.
Here was a young man who seemed absolutely certain he wanted to marry me and start a family. “How could he possibly know this?” I wondered, when I myself seemed so full of doubts, not just about our relationship, but about myself and my ability to love anyone for a lifetime.
I was twenty years old, distrustful of men in general, a newly minted feminist, and ambitious to have a career. I could barely imagine myself married, much less with kids. That was my mother’s generation’s dream- not the future I imagined for myself.
But if I wasn’t infatuated with this man, I was fascinated by his determination to woo me, his tenderness, his thoughtfulness, his absolute commitment to creating a family like his own.
His mother and father had married young, had children right away, and then traveled to the U.S. from Chile in the early 70’s to make a new life for themselves. I was a third-generation American, born and raised in Detroit my whole life, the baby of the family but by far the most rebellious of four children. He always wanted to get back to his family every chance he could get; I couldn’t wait to escape mine.
So I wrote him in December 1983, “I don’t know yet if the love we share is enough to last a lifetime, but I’m not afraid of the future and of finding out more about you and about myself. Whatever happens, will always be close friends as we are now, and if we are both sure of what we want, perhaps we may always be lovers.”
What made me finally decide to take a chance on this man’s love? Was it rebellion against my family and their fear of this “stranger”? Was it my attraction to another culture, an attraction that made me spend my senior year in college learning Spanish so I could talk to my new relatives? Was it the narcissistic pleasure of seeing myself reflected in his eyes as so much smarter, more beautiful, and loving than I had ever felt myself capable of being?
Perhaps it was a little of all of these. At least that’s what the cynical part of me still whispers to me after nearly twenty-five years together. But the residual idealist in me counters that I always knew I could trust him, even when I felt I couldn’t trust myself.
Together we’ve bickered and bargained over the balance of family and dual careers, compromised and comforted one another, and trusted each other to know each other’s strengths and to learn to live with the inevitable mistakes, flaws, and frailties the years have revealed
I still believe in taking a chance on love because accepting the love of others forces you to find that those reciprocal sources of love, tenderness and patience that you never really believed you had.
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