What is Love to a Couple of 53 years?

Otherwise know as, how do you love?


Mae Bryant and

I  was in bed reading a book and suddenly, for the first time in my life I wanted to ask someone, someone who is married, if love is really real. I mean the soulmate, once in a lifetime, true love type of love. For whatever reason I’ve always been a person who believes that that type of love is real. But I sat there and wondered, is it really?

I know that love is one of those dangerous ideas that is so vast and overapplied but so extremely necessary to a human life. There isn’t a person who hasn’t felt some expression of love in one of its endless forms. But I mean is there really someone ‘out there’ for me? Will I wait all my life for them? And has everyone who’s married really found that person?

I know a lot of married people. I figured it might be awkward to go around asking married couples if they thought their partner is the love of their life or not, so I didn’t ask everyone. But I do know a couple who have been married to each other for 53 years. Andrew and Dena Boswell. 

They met in the 1960’s and got married before Dena was 20 years old. Andrew was a marriage counselor for over 25 years while Dena raised 7 kids and wrote a book about parenting. 

Now they are retired and have experienced more life together than I can wrap my head around. I felt they were qualified to answer my question. So I asked them.

“Do you think that your spouse is the one you’re really meant to be with?”

Andrew thought out loud, “How can I answer this?” He paused. 

“We didn’t know a whole lot about each other but we were really interested in each other. And then as time went on, even after we were married, we began to see how different we were. At first we kind of thought, oh it’s infatuation, and, you know, being excited about somebody that you’re dating and you’re just thinking about planning things you want to do and places you want to go and all that. And what if I said, ‘we’re just not made for each other, this was just not a good match.’ But we’ve stayed together over the years, even though we had those differences. More and more, we’ll be able to see how perfectly matched we are because of those differences. We both needed to have in our lives what the other one had.”

Den answered simply, “I loved him from the first moment I saw him. I did. I was just–that was it.” She added, “Andrew has a lot of interesting ways, idiosyncrasies. Not wrong, not bad, but just uniquely him. I can get really annoyed at that, or I can find them endearing. I have a choice.” 

 “I’m a person, when I’m doing taxes I get the spirit of recording deductions, and I can find deductions everywhere, and everything is just great. I get all the major stuff done, because that’s the strength I have and I do it fast.”

“Andrew is kind of more detailed and more…legal. He keeps me out of jail. He comes along and launches from that and does it legally. We lean into our strengths rather than knocking heads over each other.”

Andrew leaned over,  “Why not honor the other person for what they have rather than trying to get the other person to be like you. Like forgiving one another, like respecting one another, like considering the other more important than ourselves. Things like that.”

Dena added, “One thing we learned later in our marriage is to really lean into our strengths. Andrew celebrates my creativity and my playfulness. For instance, every so often I ask him to come to the sink and say good morning to the 8 billion microorganisms that are in a septic tank. I feel like he should thank them and recognize their presence. So he will come to the sink and I’ll say, have you said good morning to our 8 million microorganisms in the septic tank? He’ll lean over the sink and he’ll say, “Good morning 18 billion microorganisms. Glad you’re doing your job. Have a great day.”

Andrew laughed, “Even though it’s not so playful to me it’s very playful to her, so I kind of go along with it.”

Andrew said one last thing, something that captures the beautiful balance of diplomacy and love found in their relationship, a balance that each of them desire to have for the sake of the other.

 “As your love matures, one of the things that happens is you stand in awe of the person. I’m just in awe of who my wife is and all of the wonderful things about her. And so I compliment her a lot. Recognizing that there’s no one else in all of human history like her and I get to be a witness to the wonder she is and yes, that’s coming from a heart of love for someone.”