Love Is Negotiating Differences

Lo, There Be Snares along Love’s Garden Path

Jay and I learned love’s lessons slowly.  One of the first is that who you are in college and who you are as a married person are vastly different facets of the multi-dimensional self.

College Campus Loving

We met and fell in love while we were college students at different schools. For both of us, campus life focused on studying – going to classes, reading, researching, and writing. Tension and anxiety built up around exams and grade reports.

Campus couple on bency
Photo by Mojor Zhu

College can also be a time of great financial strain, but we were spared that anxiety. Jay’s parents handled the cost of university education for all five of their children.  And I had been fortunate to be accepted at St. Mary’s College on a work-scholarship program that covered tuition and dorm fees.

Due to such good fortune, the time Jay and I shared was “downtime.” Social life was our release from the relentless march toward a degree.  We got together to have fun. It could be low-key – coffee, cigarettes and long conversations.  It could high excitement – a big football game or extravagant ball.  To be together meant winding down, de-stressing, relaxing.

Living Together Reality

Becoming married radically altered our way of being together. We stopped dating.  We didn’t even realize that we had done it. Because we came home to the same place every night starting with our wedding night, the necessity of meeting somewhere simply slipped away.  And stealthily with it went the perks of actual dating.  At first, about half the nights in the week, one or the other of us was working or at school. But even when home, we were no longer necessarily ‘together’ in the way we had been while dating. We shared space, but not time.

Couple in small apartment
Photo by Soroush Karimi

We did the stuff people do “at home.” – cook, dishes, laundry, pay bills, read, iron and get work projects completed. Going out wasn’t an option because we were no longer supported by our parents or by scholarship funds. Our cost of living was now our own. Our salaries couldn’t be stretched to cover eating out or entertainment.  The responsibilities of maintaining our place and budgeting our money ate into the little bit of free time we did have.  So, even a cheap date like a walk in the park sounded more like a chore than a treat.

As for curling up and having a long conversation over a nice cup of cocoa, we slowly but steadily realized that away from the heady atmosphere of campus life, our most passionate interests were worlds apart – quite literally.

Being Politically Correct
Chicago Picasso
Photo by Solstice Hannan

Jay had cut his wisdom teeth on politics. For three generations, Ward/Brophy family members had been active in the Chicago Democratic party. Passionate about civic involvement, they campaigned for and won elective offices in city, county and state government. Dozens of others in the family, men and women, held non-elective government positions.  Politics wasn’t just their work.  It was their life. Every noon hour they met for two-hour lunches to discuss the “business” with one another and other city and county officials. They went out together after work before returning home for dinner.  They played golf together twice a week. Many belonged to the same Catholic parishes.

Whenever and wherever these gatherings occurred, the topic was always the same – politics.

Jay could hardly be blamed for regularly bringing this same subject to our tiny kitchen table.  Unfortunately, when he did, my eyes glazed over.

I could as easily be mesmerized as anyone by a charismatic figure like John Kennedy, but the day-to-day running of civic affairs could not hold my attention for very long before my imagination had wandered off to faraway lands.

A Land Far, Far Away

France, for instance, with her glittering capital city and romantic wine country, or the fjords of Norway. As much as Jay loved the here and now of the Chicagoland political scene, I loved just about anywhere else.  Who should run for Alderman of the 29th precinct just couldn’t hold a candle to my daydreams of an African safari.  Any time I passed a travel agency, I slipped in to scoop up any free brochures.  The vivid photos of high waterfalls and deep valleys, barren deserts and tangled jungles entertained me as I rattled along on the bus ride back to our apartment.

When I tried to get Jay to look over the brochures with me, he’d smile, give me a kiss and remind me that the electric bill was due.  Often this slightly chiding remark preceded an announcement that the next evening we needed to pass out election pamphlets to commuters as they crossed the Jackson Avenue bridge toward Union Station.

I sighed, but I met him on the bridge at five o’clock the next evening because deep in my heart I was very proud of his earnest engagement. I knew that being politically involved was honorable and that I needed to do my part.  But who could blame me if, while I smiled and thrust leaflets into reluctant hands, I pretended that the Chicago River was the Thames?

Have you had a time when you and someone you held dear had vastly different dreams?  What love lessons did you learn?