Last month, we are featured Part 1 of Dr. Frank Boehm’s essay on love. Frank wrote in detail about his beliefs about love and the difference between falling in love and nurturing a true and enduring love that lasts a lifetime. He also shared his love story with his wife, Julie. To gain further insights into how and why people fall in love and, more important, stay in love, he also interviewed five couples in different stages of life and from varied types of families. Below are those stories. And now, 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.
How Enduring Love Endures
Dr. Frank H. Boehm
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life. The word is love.”
I wanted to listen to what a few others had to say about this complex emotion of love and what makes that love an enduring and true love, and so I chose to interview two couples who had long-term marriages, one couple with a shorter length marriage, a couple with a same sex marriage, and a couple who had experienced love and marriage later in life.
Ann and Jobe Bernard were married for 65 years until his death
If love was to be placed on a spectrum, then the love Ann Bernard and her late husband, Jobe, had for each other would be on the extreme end of that spectrum, under the category of maximum true love. Sitting in her favorite lounge chaise in her Nashville bedroom, Ann, a lovely and spry 98-year-old, told me about the love affair she and Jobe shared in their marriage of 65 years.
Precocious, mature, and only 16 years-old Ann told me, “I was in love at an early age or at least that is what I thought at that time, but then I met Jobe Bernard. There was instant chemistry between the two of us and the feelings I had when we met were intense. I was young and evolving and suddenly had feelings I never had before. After our first date, that was it for me and we married three weeks after he returned from the war. I was only 19 years old and he twenty-three”.
“Our love for each other was a love that was more than a love. While we had the usual disagreements, we never fought or said a cross word to each other. We had a beautiful marriage, one that was full of passion. Our physical attraction never ceased to amaze us, and it certainly enriched each day we were together.” Pensive for a moment and with tears in her eyes, she said, “There was absolutely nothing about Jobe I did not like.”
But then tragedy struck! While celebrating Ann’s 65th birthday at a dinner, Jobe suffered a severe stroke which left him paralyzed and without the ability to speak for the rest of his life. “That changed our lives, but not our love for each other. Jobe had only three short phrases he could speak after his stroke, one of which was “love you.” When he uttered those words to me, he would emphasize and prolong the word love. It was so incredibly special for me to hear him continue to express his love for me until the day he died 19 years after his stroke”.
“The intensity of our love continued after the stroke until his death, and it was that intensity that allowed for a marriage filled with true love. His stroke did not create emptiness in my life. I was truly blessed to have experienced that kind of intense love.” Ann and Jobe’s marriage took a major turn following Jobe’s stroke and life for both was never the same. Yet, Ann told me that her love was not affected in anyway. “I still loved him with all my heart, and I was always happiest when I was with him, even in his compromised condition. The love I felt for him has helped sustain me for these past 16 years since his death.” As the late Queen Elizabeth ll once said, “Grief is the price we pay for love.”
Ann and Jobe’s life together, prove a point that obstacles of life, even severe ones, can be overcome with the power of true love. True love is not fragile. It is strong and nurturing and allows for joy to remain in life and as the Roman poet Virgil stated, “Love conquers all.”
Libby and Moshe Werthan have been together for 73 years, and married for 63
You could say that Moshe and Libby Werthan’s 73-year love affair was written in the stars, or as Jews would say, “bashert”, and if you said that, you would be right. Both were born at St. Thomas Hospital by the same Obstetrician within months of each other in 1937 and both grew up in Nashville on the same street. It was on a hayride at the age of twelve where Moshe first met Libby and noticed that he felt something suddenly stir within him. “She was really cute and had a ponytail and I knew I had to call her the very next day.”
Moshe and Libby talked for hours every day and on Hanukkah that year, Moshe had his family chauffeured driven car deliver a bottle of perfume to her home with a card that read, “Happy Hanukkah, Boo Werthan.” “It was so romantic, and I loved it", Libby told me the day I went to their home to ask for their definition of love. I wanted to know what they considered were the basic elements of making love a true and enduring one.
Over the next few years, Moshe and Libby’s friendship grew. At the insistence of their parents, they occasionally went out with others, but they held each other in their minds and hearts. Libby told me that Moshe needed a friend as he had a difficult childhood. “He was reserved and shy and needed someone he could trust, and I needed him as well. In some ways, we became co-dependent.” In Libby, Moshe found someone he could truly trust and that was so important to him. Moshe and Libby dated through high school, and even though they went to different colleges (Northwestern and Yale) they dated others, wrote letters every day and could not forget the friendship, bond, and trust they had developed over the years since they first met.
Then, once again, “bashert” happened. While both were on a vacation trip to Europe, not knowing the other was also in Europe, they surprisingly ran into each other at a watch store in Lucerne, Switzerland. Libby told me that, “We had some rocky moments during our college years and so it was a Hashem moment for me when we first saw each other at that store, and I realized how much I cared for him.” Moshe told me that while he also felt the bond he shared with Libby, he had some growing up to do and became insensitive to her needs and they did not communicate for nine months.
It was at the end of those nine months at a party in Nashville, when he was twenty-two and Libby twenty-one, that they saw each other from across the room. Moshe walked over to her, took her by the hand leading her to a back room and without even kissing her, looked her in the eye and asked her to marry him. Libby did not hesitate. She said yes. They have now been married for 63 years and together for 73 years since that first encounter on that memorable hayride.
We finally got around to their definition of love. Moshe told me that, “it was chemistry at the hayride that made me realize that this was something more than just love at first sight. Clearly love involves a physical attraction that started at that hayride and persists to this very day.” He then added that, “Trust is a big, big issue for me and is based on the many experiences of our togetherness that over time helped convince me that I can trust and depend on Libby to do what is best and right for the two of us. Love also involves liking each other and that has been a significant factor in our love. When we moved to Israel in 1990, we knew no one and began spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week together and this brought us even closer. We never grew apart, we just grew closer and learned how much we genuinely liked each other and while there have been obstacles in our lives, they never eroded the love we feel.”
Libby then added, “We are still madly in love with each other. In many ways we are like two sapling trees planted close together and whose roots are entwined beneath the soil, and so I do worry what will happen when one of us is no longer here. How will the other survive? We continue to learn new things together and that has been an important part of our relationship. Being different in many ways has helped us and has also been a challenge.”
Enduring true love for Moshe and Libby started with chemistry at age 12 and slowly morphed into feelings of friendship. That stage of being in love resulted in a trusting and caring relationship that for them became a true and enduring love. At the end of our time together, Libby turned to me and with a warm and embracing smile said, “Overall, I can honestly say, we were made for each other. “After listening to their story, I absolutely agreed with her.
Frank Boehm’s daughter, Catherine, and her husband Eric have been married for 15 years.
I also wanted to hear from a couple who had not been married as long to hear what they had to say about love. I turned to my 41-year-old daughter, Catherine and her 42-year-old husband, Eric, to whom she has been married 13 years, for their thoughts and comments about love.
Catherine and Eric met on J Date, a Jewish site for meeting potential mates and both knew after only a few hours on the phone that there was a real possibility for finding love. They arranged a meeting several days later and realized when they met that they shared so many opinions and desires and had quite similar backgrounds. In addition, there was real chemistry in their feelings for each other, chemistry which to this day some, 15 years later, still exists and is stronger than ever. They have two young girls, Lucy, who is eleven and Eden who is seven. I sat down with them at their home in Deerfield, Illinois one spring day in 2022 and asked both to give me their definition of love.
Catherine emphasized that true and enduring love for her was a total feeling of trust, support, and security. It was not just a physical connection. “We get each other; can laugh together and at each other. For Eric, love was a feeling of longing for Catherine as well as a feeling on internal connection. “I always feel connected to Catherine, and I am always thinking about how what I do impacts her. We have a wavelength that unites us. We work together as a team and as partners and we feel comfortable in each other’s presence.” Eric went on to say, “Love is a constant heartbeat for someone, and its foundation is about respect and a balance in who we are and how we treat each other.” Catherine stated that she was in total agreement with what Eric had just said.
Both also agreed that true love is not fragile but highly resistant to the many obstacles that life brings forth in any relationship. They agree that the word love has been diluted and needs to be more selective in its use. To listen to my daughter and son-in-law discuss their feelings of love for each other was quite reassuring for me since I love them both and am so happy that they have found in each other, a feeling of true love.
Liza and Lori Dansky Star met in college and are now married, and the parents of four-year-old twin boys
Choosing a couple to interview about love in a same sex marriage was an easy one for me. Thirty-three years ago, I delivered a small bundle of joy named Liza Dansky and six years ago, I attended her marriage ceremony in Santa Fe, New Mexico to 29-year-old, Lori Star. The ceremony was utterly beautiful and so very meaningful (especially since the US Supreme Court had only one year earlier ruled that same sex marriage was legal).
Liza and Lori are the parents of four-year-old twin boys, and both are active in the community. Liza works as an information security officer for a healthcare company and Lori is a nurse practitioner. Neither one of these bright, energetic, outgoing, and wonderful young women thought of themselves as gay as they grew up. Both had had boyfriends, and both were living happy and fulfilling lives. They met each other in college and a strong friendship evolved, which slowly turned into a relationship that was more than just a friendship. Lori was quick to state that, “It took a long time for both of us to understand what was happening.” They now have been together for fourteen years and the bond of love is a strong and loving one.
I sat down with Lori and Liza in my home last spring and asked for their definition of love. Liza responded first. “I felt more comfortable and safer with Lori than when I was dating regularly and that made me wonder what was happening and after college, we decided to live together. I soon understood that I had never experienced love before I met Lori and that I had never felt this way before.” For seven years, however, neither shared with others their feelings nor that they were in a same sex relationship.
Lori told me that she felt, “Love is complex and complicated but that the one thing that felt most present was the feeling of desire. When I see Liza dancing, I feel desire and want to hold her in my arms. That desire, however, is not just physical, it is a desire to be with her each day and to experience life’s unfolding together. I want to be near her, to listen what she has to say, and to know that she is listening to me as well.” Lori also added that she, too, has a feeling of being safe with Liza. “She understands and accepts me in ways that only love can define.”
I asked both if they felt that love was fragile, and both said that it was not. “When you love someone, you desire that person and no issue, small or large can easily erode or destroy that desire and love.” Lori added, “People use the word love all the time in quite frivolous ways and I believe that the type of love I feel for Liza should be reserved for the intense feelings we have for each other.” That intense feeling of love often takes time to understand and realize. Both Liza and Lori told me that it took six months of their evolving relationship before they said to each other, “I love you.” This is not hard to understand as it takes time for these three words to be spoken.
Liza and Lori both mentioned how important the feeling of safety was in their relationship. Liza told me, “The feeling of safety includes, but is not limited to, knowing that the person you love will act in ways that is not harmful to you or the relationship, and that the loved one will understand you, accept you, and not judge you negatively. The person you love and loves you back will watch over you, guide you, and be honest with you as you live your lives together.” Lori and Liza’s love for each other is emblematic of the axiom that the feeling of love does not ask what sex you prefer or whom to love. Love is a basic human emotion.
Tommy and Lucy Goldstein met later in life and are the parents of a five-year-old daughter
Finding true love late in life was something I also wanted to explore. My brother-in-law, Tommy Goldstein was someone I thought would never find a true love partner. Having reached the age of fifty-nine, Tommy had not experienced true love and was quite comfortable with his active life in New York City as a confirmed bachelor. But then, he met Lucy who was forty. Tommy told me, “We met by accident at an art opening in Brooklyn and later at a nearby café, where we unwittingly planted the seeds of a love neither of us had planned. Before we met, we had each traveled the world and lived as ex-pats abroad. We both had spent a lifetime single, but within a year, we would venture forth and explore the road ahead as newlyweds. Lucy and I were married in 2016 and it was a celebration of two lovers who were ready to embark on a new adventure and experience a new life together.” Less than a year later their daughter, Zoe was born. “Zoe fit right into our active life and travel plans. Curious and preternaturally, empathic Zoe has been an easy child. Parenting is different later in life. Lucy and I have observed we are more relaxed than our younger counterparts.”
Responding to my question regarding their definition of love, Tommy told me, “In Lucy, I found love and adventure later in life, certainly later than most. I found someone who wanted what I wanted, saw the world as I saw it, cared about the things I cared about. I found a best friend who is my equal in every way. The experiences we have both enjoyed over the years have made for a more spirited and meaningful relationship. We have found that love is an act of generosity, whereby we give ourselves to the world and remain open to receiving what that world has to offer us.”
Tommy and Lucy represent those who find true love later in life than so many others, yet that love is no different from those who find it earlier. No matter when true love is found, it is powerful, life altering and meaningful, and adds yet another layer to the joy of life.
For couples who have been married a long time, there are considerable similarities in their definitions of love, the first of these being the chemistry that they all felt when first meeting each other. How does all this happen? Some call it lust, others pure chemistry of hormones and pheromones, a chemical substance produced and released into the environment by animals and humans alike, which affects the behavior or physiology of other animals or human beings. Whatever the explanation, it is obvious to most of us that there is something magical about meeting someone who is special and interesting and arouses certain sexual desires.
As that state of being in love over time morphed into an enduring and true love, these married couples explained that the definition of love now contained elements of dependability, safety, happiness, pride, respect, generosity, forgiveness, trust, contentment, acceptance, and peace, and maintained that they still found each other attractive and desirable.
As a young man, I once wrote, “Love is the selfless expression which manifested itself in the recognition of another’s ego. It is the tireless energy of existence and the tenderness of self and if not managed wisely, can cause immeasurable pain and anguish.” I remain steadfast in this definition of love now that I am in my eighties. A state of being in love that morphs in time into true and enduring love is a gift of life that can bring pleasure, joy, contentment, and peace to one’s life. Love is truly one of life’s wonders and should be handled with utmost care and concern. “I love you” are three sacred, non-fragile words that are the foundation of human evolution and existence and should be given the respect it demands.