“Love is hard.”
“Love *is* hard. And sometimes lonely.”
A snippet of conversation between two friends about marriage, caregiving, and family. Most everyone knows that love is hard. Not always, of course, but there are moments, days, and multiples of days in which love is very hard. The hardness generally comes from difference. All couples/families have them to some degree.
- Difference in politics.
- Difference in expectations.
- Difference in desire.
- Difference in ableness.
- Difference in ability.
- Difference in perception.
- Difference in wellness.
- Difference in strengths.
- Difference in power/position.
And so on. There are no limits to the differences possible. Most of the time there is probably never an issue, but sometimes the differences bubble to the top and conflict evolves. If we don’t learn to handle conflict effectively it can get out of hand create more conflict.
There are times though that the differences seem almost insurmountable. Times where the gulf between two people just seems unimaginably large. This can easily happen in a caregiving-based relationship where there is great a differential in the partnership role. It can be lonely doing all the work that *should* be shared between two people (recognizing that in most households there is nothing close to an equal distribution of housework and child-rearing).
That’s one type of loneliness. Another form of loneliness is that of waiting as a part of caring. Waiting at a clinic, practicing patience, perhaps alone with your thoughts of hopes and fears for the future. Waiting as a parent for your child to return home late at night. Or more acutely, waiting by your child’s bedside for the fever to break, waiting for them to cry out. Waiting for a loved one in a hospital to draw a final breath, to say a final goodbye. Waiting for your partner to make the decision to live and be well. Love can be a very lonely vigil.
It’s fun to focus on the excitement, the joy, the goodness, of love. We talk about the hard work of love when we get frustrated if things go wrong or get icky, or we have to do the truly hard work of love. We rarely talk about how lonely love can be. Probably this is because the loneliness is only there when we are doing the hardest work of love – keeping a small light burning in a largely silent vigil.