dog friends

The Love Continuum

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Our late senior dog, Jazz, lays in front of River, our youngest dog at the time. Perhaps because they were both poodles, they were friends. They were not best friends, but they were friends nonetheless. Their relation ship is somewhere in the middle of the love continuum.

A few years ago, a young man interning at my office went to lunch with another older woman and myself. It was an odd threesome, but I could see that he was trying to make the best of it. Seeing that we women had been married to our husbands for a reasonably long time, he asked us what our husbands do that keeps us loving them. His grin and sparkly eyes implied that he thought he was going to hear what they do in the bedroom; clearly, he was seeking out some performance tips.

cat friends
Nami (left), our senior cat, is peacefully ignoring Gracie (right) or youngster cat. This is the look of cat friendship – nearness without fighting. They are somewhere in the middle on the love continuum.

I was up to the task! “When the kids throw up in the middle of the night, my husband cleans it up while I take care of the child. The smell of vomit makes me vomit, too, so it is a great help to the kids and me. And he very often pulls out the steam-cleaner and cleans the carpet before we go back to bed. He’s wonderful!” The intern was flabbergasted and a bit confused by my answer. “That’s it?” I shook my head. “He also washes the dishes.” The intern looked like he thought I was talking in code.

My coworker was similarly honest. “My husband cleans the litter box every week! He has done it our entire married life.” She has often portrayed her deep loyalty to her husband and their abiding love. They were married just a few years after Woodstock, so, he’s kept that up for many years. They have three cats, too; that’s a lot of litter box action. The intern looked a bit shocked.

dog friends
Tribble (left) is Garnet’s (right) daughter. These two are best buds and spend all their time together. Wherever there is one, the other is nearby. Their relationship is very high on the love continuum

Trying to salvage the situation, he asked us, “How do you know you are in love?” My answer was apparently not very helpful. I explained that with everyone, there is a love continuum. Your friends, relatives, companion animals, and lovers are on there, each at a different level of “love.” The question is how much love is enough to consider being “in love?” And then, for each person, there is love fluctuation depending upon the circumstances. There’s a minimum threshold, probably, but there’s a fluctuation based on events. Most long-term relationships have an ebb and flow. I don’t think he considered that an answer to his question since it didn’t mention attraction, sex, or whatever a young man in his 20’s thinks love is.

bird and dog
The bird, Sugar, looks like he is mad at the late Jazz (dog) and will bite him. However, he only pulled Jazz’s hair. They were actually friends. Their love was somewhere in the middle of the love continuum. Probably lower rather than higher.

The intern thought it’s either “love” or “not love.” But after many years of marriage, I can say that I may always be in love with my husband, but there are times when the full spectrum of our continuum gets pegged. But if we’re at a low spot and he cleans up the kid barf or washes the dishes, I see his dedication to our relationship is real. Solid. And his place on my love continuum starts creeping up again.

dog kiss
This selfie is a little blurry, but I love it because it shows Garnet kissing me. Although her love is strong, she isn’t likely to be over-do the PDA, so I cherish this picture. This relationship is at a high place on the love continuum.

By the end of the meal, the young intern looked confused and a bit disgusted. He wanted to think that love was about sexual prowess, which benefited him, more than doing chores that no one else wanted to do. And if someone’s love for him could fluctuate based on his actions, then maybe he’d need to put out some effort. Oh gosh, who knew it could be so hard? I’m not sure he’s figured it out yet. It’s been a good ten years since our lunch, and I’ve heard he’s still single. Well, at least my friend and I know that we gave the best advice we could.


  1. I love your wisdom, gleaned from years of practical marriage. If that intern is still unmarried I suspect that’s a good thing. Perhaps he wasn’t meant to be in a relationship that lasts?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am very impressed with your thoughts on what makes a good marriage and that you
    include that it changes over time….not only up and down, but the expectations, the giving and taking, the comfort. Sharing is supporting and a marriage really needs that.
    Love isn’t a commodity; it is a bundle of traits all of which total a blessing. As a person matures and their capacity to give grows, love grows. I think it is the reliability of it that contributes so much to a marriage.
    I think your young friend is afraid if he gets married he will have to clean up the vomit!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The continuum is real! There are many things that impact our moods and feelings, including how we feel about ourselves. A marriage has to be flexible enough to accommodate all of that. It can be a strong relationship while experiencing ebb and flow.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like you gave him excellent advice. Love is unconditional. Through the good and bad.

    There is no real right or wrong, only change. Ebb and flow. Perhaps the changes in one’s marriage are what keeps it alive. I wouldn’t know as I’ve never been married 😀

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  4. What an awesome post! I grew up in a home where the women did all of the work, the son was raised to have the same attitudes too. I found a man who helped out when we got together, with making meals, doing laundry, etc. Unfortunately, once we got married and he spent time around my family and saw how neither my father or brother ever lifted a finger to help, he saw the light, as it were. Then when I had my son and really needed the help, he had converted to the other side and would do almost nothing. It was a part in the ending of the marriage (along with bigger issues). So it is very important in a relationship if it is to endure. He’s also gone thru a rebound marriage as well, unsurprisingly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Men often overlook the value of shared work. I had two marriages like that before I found my current husband. We just celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary, and his attitude of sharing the work went a long way to making the marriage viable. I’m sorry your husband didn’t understand that.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, that wasn’t my intention. Perhaps I thought he was a bit spoiled – still living with his parents in his mid-twenties with no responsibilities and pretty self-centered. I hope things have changed for him.


  5. My husband is my best friend and partner. Sadly, he doesn’t see dirt (or happily, if I jut don’t feel like cleaning) but gladly helps when I ask. You told that clueless fella right. Hope he “gets” it before some hapless lady marries him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess everyone is entitled to a learning experience. But I’ve seen many women who stay with men who don’t help out because that’s what their mom’s did. When they got married, they became slaves for life. Sad.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. It’s my third. It has lasted 24 years so far, which is far longer than the first two (learning experiences) were. The first two didn’t share the work, so I think it’s a critical component to success.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh yes! I have always said there is nothing sexier than a man who helps with the house work or child rearing. My wonderful partner also cleans up vomit for me, for the same reason and I am forever grateful for that and many other small kindnesses.

    Liked by 1 person

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