True love is in the air. Or, at least Valentine’s Day cards and gifts are in the air or mailbox or grocery cart. For those of us who are single like me, Valentine’s Day can be a mixed bag. Of candy hearts, lonely hearts and everything in between. Hey, I know, I’m the one with the brand message: “The heart bends—it does not break.” Yes, we all know what it feels like to have a broken heart. But the reality is, our heart is a muscle and is designed to bend and flex under stress and duress (and breakups). Our hearts were created to come back and beat on when we’ve been jilted or jostled by love or simply infatuation. true love

So regardless of our marital (or non-marital) status, I hope none of us feel down and out about love, relationships, and romance this time of year. Years ago, I heard one of the best talks ever about love and relationships and singleness and marriage. The speaker pointed out that so many single people are wanting to be married and so many married people are wanting to be single. His advice: Learn to be content in your current social status. Bingo! Being with a significant other, life partner, spouse, or not, does not define you and does not dictate if you’ll love the skin you’re in.

True Love Is not for Wimps

A healthy long-term relationship takes effort, sacrifice, and no-matter-what commitment. And, well, toss in loads of forgiveness and learning to let go of disappointment. The same can be said of our truly lasting friendships. True love is not for wimps. Case in point comes from a couple I photographed few years back.

I could hardly believe my eyes. The antique car right in front of me zipped along with its charming older passengers sitting closely side by side. I sure hope there was a padded bench seat in that dark Dodge because the white-haired woman was snuggled right next to her man. (If you look at their license plate, you see the auto classification as “horseless carriage.” Clever.)

Back in the day, I’m sure horse-drawn buggies and later automobiles with bench seats surely saved many a marriage. Conversely, I remember when a dual-control electric blanket saved my parent’s marriage. Dad was always chilly and mom a balmy 98.7. (Thanks, Dad, for your cool-bloodied genes . . . well, honestly, not so much.)

Can This Marriage Be Saved?

So in our day of glamorized love stories, how do elderly couples end up nestled next to each other while taking a spin around town? Growing up, I relished reading “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” in my mom’s monthly issue of Ladies Home Journal. I found myself fascinated by the professional counselor telling each marriage partner’s story. I soaked in the pointed advice for each partner to work at issues to revive their love and commitment. Each article concluded with a fast-forward review of how the husband and wife turned around their marriage. (I don’t recall any breakups recorded by LHJ in print.)

As a young girl, I always believed the marriages I read about in LHJ could and would be saved. After all, this was the era of dual-control electric blankets. But today, even with dual-control heated car seats and dual-control mattress firmness settings, I realize that not every marriage will survive. Some marriages wilt when the heat is on or crack when a major cool-down sets in.

Love Through Thick and Thin

So what’s a couple to do when their marriage is weary from life’s thick and thin or they are stuck in bucket seats driving around town? Here’s a well-tested answer from the Bible’s “the love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13: “Love . . . isn’t always ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. . . always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end” (v. 5, 7, The Message).

This doesn’t just apply to married people. Maybe every one of us, marrieds and singles both, could strengthen all of our relationships if we simply put the other person first. If we looked for the best in each individual. Maybe we’d benefit by not looking back on how our loved one messed up by saying hurtful words. Or how he or she adjusted the wrong dual control.

May I suggest that the next time this happens, just hop in the car with your honey. Add a thick, folded blanket over the center console and create your own bench seat. Then tool around town like you’re seniors out for a little joy ride. Or plop a good friend in the front seat and head to the store to buy yourselves some candy hearts and Valentine’s chocolates (they’ll be on sale soon).