This month, we are featuring Part 1 of Dr. Frank Boehm’s essay on love. For Frank, love is…well, it’s everything. To gain insights into how and why people fall in love and, more importantly, stay in love, he interviewed several couples. Each couple has its own unique story and perspective, but Frank learned some universal truths. In this first part, we share Frank’s thoughts on love, as well as his love story with his wife, Julie. Next month, we will present the others. And we are asking for you, dear reader in love, to share your love story with The Observer. Be brave, be vulnerable, and most of all, be loving. Send your submissions to Editor Barbara Dab at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Frank and Julie Boehm have had a true and enduring love for 37 years.
How Enduring Love Endures
Dr. Frank H. Boehm
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life. The word is love.”
Loving and being loved are the most important human emotions of life and a wonder that can enrich lives in countless ways. There really is not much anyone can write about regarding the subject of love that has not been written by countless others. History is filled with books, poems, sonnets, plays, articles, essays, and music that cover this most important of all human emotions and feelings. Despite this, I decided to delve into the subject for two reasons. The first was that true love was something I had searched for and finally found (after two failed marriages) over 37 years ago when I met, fell in love with and married Julie. The second reason was that I wanted to say something about the fact that the meaning of the word love was being diluted and minimized in our society by its over- use in situations that did not convey the true essence of the word.
Uttering the words, “I love you” should be reserved for that special and singular feeling that true love evokes. I love you needs no other words attached to the phrase. To say, “I love you, man,” or “I really love you,” seems to dilute the intimate feelings and meanings of the three words that should stand alone without qualifiers. “I love you,” are clearly the three most powerful words one can communicate to another person.
Brene Brown, an American research professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host, told of her research on the definition of the word love and wrote the following, “We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection”. This definition of love clearly does not include the superficial and trite usage that so
many in our society believe love represents. The word love as defined by Brown is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection for someone. It represents a profoundly tender, passionate affection, with a feeling of a close and nurturing personal attachment for another person.
There seems to be two types of true love. One is instant, the other evolved. An example of instant love is the love you feel the moment you hold your newborn baby for the first time. It could also be a grandchild that evokes that instant feeling of true love. It is interesting that the first love mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 22 is not romantic, but parental love. “Then God said, take your son, your only son, whom you love - Isaac- and go to the region of Moriah.” The author, Agatha Christie had this to say; “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.” Instant love is a feeling that also translates into a world of action. Humans and animals alike will sacrifice their lives to save and protect the life of their child. It is a sacrifice that we make without thought or consideration. It is a pure act of instant true love.
Instant love can be demonstrated in most interesting ways. Kristin Schoonveld, who donated her eggs in 1994 to help someone have a family, only recently met her biological son. In the fall of 2019, while searching for her biological dad, Kristen, then fifty-two, took a 23andMe DNA test and was stunned when she opened the test result and saw a match that said, “son”. He was conceived via in-vitro fertilization and was looking for his biological mother. She contacted him, and they met in person. “It was just instant love” she said meeting her biological son. “It’s as if I’ve known him his whole life,” she says.
There is no waiting time for this type of love to evolve. It is much like instant pudding. It comes immediately and with a flourish, and it is at that moment that you are infused with feelings that are intense and beautiful.” Instant love came into my life with the birth of each of my three children: It was that love for Todd, as well as Tommy and Catherine who followed, that was to be a part of each day of my life. I was made aware of this true love of my children on many occasions throughout each of their lives. The first steps they took, their first words spoken, their graduation from various levels of school, their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs at age 13, leaving for college, the challenges they presented, continue to present, and a host of other events that brought pride, understanding and love to the surface.
While evolved love may have its origin with a growing friendship, it often begins with “chemistry” that we may confuse with love. Many call that lust. That lust then evolves into what some term an obsession which frequently takes over one’s entire life. One is consumed with intense feelings for another person and a desire to be with that person as much as possible and to have that person become an integral part of everyday life. As time moves on and with the proper person that obsessive feeling evolves into what scientists say is a long-term attachment. It is this long-term relation that we then call true love. The American novelist, Tia Williams has said, “True love is soul recognition. You see each other deeply. The person becomes a part of you.”
According to a 2022 CBS poll, a large majority of Americans believe that true love exists, and most state that they have experienced it at some point in their lives, but that finding true love may not be easy. Evolved love occurs in two basic stages, the first being the act of falling in love with the second being the act of staying in love. Both are required and the longer the first stage, the more intense and secure evolved love becomes. I have been told by several others I spoke with that true love was resistant to the many obstacles that occur in the world of relationships yet being in love may by quite different than genuinely loving someone and could be affected by these same obstacles in a negative and destructive manner. We confuse being in love with genuinely loving someone.
In Brides Magazine, Stacey Laura Lloyd states that, “When it comes to romance, the feelings of love and being in love are separate and depend on the stage of the relationship. Being in love with someone is emotionally charged. Loving someone is not based on a whirlwind of emotions. Being in love can fade over time. Loving someone is long-lasting.”
With a long-standing love relationship, the feeling of respect is a large component of the love that couples feel for each other. A couple, together for a prolonged period, and sitting across from one another at the breakfast table, knows that the person opposite them is someone with whom they have shared many difficulties of life together, while still maintaining a loving relationship. A feeling of respect weaves itself into the fabric of true love. Respect for a loved one is a vital and critical component of true love,
What happens during childhood is frequently mentioned as a reason for how we behave and handle love later in life. I know my early childhood influenced my life. I was born to loving and nurturing parents who absolutely loved each other, and as an only child, I reaped all the attention and love anyone could ask for or receive. That love had a profound influence on me, and I wanted the same kind of love in my life as I witnessed my parents having in theirs. Finding that love, therefore, was my mission and goal. I found out, however, that this was not easy to accomplish.
While I had several relationships as a young man which I believed then to be love, in retrospect, I was immature and knew little about the meaning of true love. I was a third-year medical student at the age of twenty-three when I met Linda. We seemed perfect for each other, quickly fell in love, and married soon thereafter. I believed that this was true love, and our marriage would last forever but I was wrong. The woman to whom I gave my heart and soul pulled away. It was the late sixties and the woman’s movement, ever so gently at first and more forcefully later, tugged at her heart. I could feel her slipping away and there seemed to be little I could do.
Despite the end to this marriage, I continued to believe in lasting true love and knew that someday I would find it. There was a second marriage, which came much too soon. As I reflect on this seven-year relationship and try to understand why I chose to remarry so soon after my divorce, it is clear to me that I was weak. I was also hurt and needed someone to not only help raise my two sons, but to also help heal my damaged pride and broken heart. My second marriage failed in part because it never became a true enduring love and was filled with resentment and significant differences in needs and expectations. Our attempt to blend our families failed miserably, and no amount of counseling helped. I knew there was emptiness in our lives together and that I had to move on. The unhappiness was palpable and I, along with my two sons, were miserable. There was, however, one incredibly positive element to our union, which I am thankful for every day of my life. My daughter, Catherine, was born three years into our troubled union. For several years, Catherine became an anchor to a marriage that should have ended much earlier.
Despite this failed marriage, I was still searching for a true love I knew was possible. My parents had shown that love to me and I knew she was out there waiting for me. How right I was! I was not expecting to meet the woman I would fall in love with and marry, and who would become the true love of my life fulfilling my every need and desire. Yet, that is exactly what happened when I went to the home of a friend on New Year’s Day in 1985 and he introduced me to Julie. She was kind and charming, and she took my breath away.
Incredibly, I learned we had much in common (even that we lived in the same complex only a few houses apart). A friendship blossomed at first and then a love followed that consumed my days and nights and brought me to a place where, once again, I could feel the pride of self and the joy of togetherness.
It has now been over 37 years since that day we met, and our love grows more intense each day. What started as “being in love” became a “true love.” Perhaps what has worked is our desire and commitment to bring joy and happiness to each other, as well as being open and honest with our feelings. Our relationship does not feel as if it is work. It is a pleasure that brings contentment and peace. To love someone and have that love returned is a gift of life that never stops giving. For me, the three most powerful words in any language are, “I love you.” Love is what makes one feel as if life is full and exciting and is more important than any other aspect of life. I was lucky. I finally found that love and it has sustained and nurtured me. It is a true enduring love, pure and simple.
The love stories of these five couples will be in next month’s issue:
Ann and Jobe Bernard were married for 65 years until his death
Libby and Moshe Werthan have been together for 73 years, and married for 63.
Frank Boehm’s daughter, Catherine, and her husband Eric have been married for 15 years.
Liza and Lori Dansky Star met in college and are now married, and the parents of four-year-old twin boys
Tommy and Lucy Goldstein met later in life and are the parents of a five-year-old daughter