Another great and heartwarming post from my son Chuck Murphree, Chuck and Karen are both in Education, she works with teachers to improve their skills. Chuck works with children, and young adults teaching special education. He is a published author, and speaker on mental health
Karen and Chuck Murphree
Life Lessons For My Students: Lesson One: Love
Many of you have sat before me and asked me about the great mystery of love and companionship. As you come of age it is often on your mind, and I have witnessed your exploration into love in the hallways of the high school, cafeteria, football games, and dances, and for you former students, I get to see you fall in love through social media. It’s a new beginning for you, and I see the glowing, sometimes awkward look on your face.
I have often had one of you in my classroom or office in tears, wondering where love went wrong? Why did it not work out? You feel demoralized by the break-up, and you start to look for blame, or even your so-called flaws, in order to find a reason for why the relationship did not stay strong, intact
I see many of you on social media with a newfound love. In the still life of the photo, I see that same glow and look of wonder I did while you were in high school. It brings a smile to my face, staring at the screen before me, knowing that you are happy. Some of you have even gotten married, and many have invited me to your wedding. I apologize for not coming. A few of you have started your family, having children, and that is when I truly feel my age just a little more. I often think, I wish I could have shown you these photos of how your life was turning out when you were back in high school. I often tried to reassure you that it would be okay, but your teenage brain felt like losing love was the end of the world. My teenage brain thought the same thing, so there’s never any judgment.
Out of curiosity, you have often asked me about my love life. At times, I tell you my story about how I met my wife when I was thirteen, and how we were friends before I finally got the courage to ask her out on my fifteenth birthday. There is always an “awww” following my story, but a few of you say that it gives you hope and something to believe in. I tell you my story because I never want you to lose hope. It’s why I share with you many things about my human experience. I want you to know that life will throw many obstacles at you, but in the midst of the dark clouds, there is much light. Love is one of those lights and the brightest.
In the case of love, I have never claimed to be an expert. I do not have the answers to the mysteries of love and how to solve them. I am far from a perfect husband, if there is such a thing. However, I reflect on love often and the complexities, and more important, the simplicities, of being in a relationship. I have been one half of a relationship that has worked for over thirty-seven years. Thirty of those have been married years, but when you meet the love of your life at a young age, the years are a continuation and it would be remiss not to count them all.
I offer this, be mindful of your partner. Be aware of love and never stop thinking about it. Enjoy your moments and experiences that you have together. Love the other person with all your might and tell them. Tell them often how important they are to you. I believe that something that failed relationships have in common is that they do not express themselves enough to the other person, and we all need reminders that we are valued and cared about. We need reminders of how much we are loved, so say it often and with meaning.
I always want my wife to know she is loved. I do this in many ways, and one is writing her letters, or leaving a thoughtful note somewhere where she will find it within her day, and I hope it brings a smile to her face. I sometimes send or bring her flowers at her work. I am very mindful of telling her how beautiful she is or that she looks pretty before she leaves in the morning. I show her love by listening to her and paying attention to her needs and what she is saying. Other times, I show her my love by holding her and exploring her body with gentleness. I have been doing this since we were fifteen. For those that wonder about that last statement, and how I can put that into a letter to my students, then you have forgotten what it is like to be a teenager. Making love is on their minds as often as it was on ours, and we must understand this in order to educate them on what is appropriate and what is not.
You will have your struggles in a relationship. Perhaps you fear the other person will lose interest in you. Maybe your fear grows so you decide to move on before you are hurt. You have to build resilience in your relationship, and that comes from trust. You must trust that your partner cares for you as much as you do for them. If trust fades, so will your relationship.
Other struggles may come from wanting the same thing from your relationship or even the same thing from your life together. Certainly, it is important to have similar needs and wants, but also be mindful that you are different people, and therefore you will naturally have different priorities. Do not complicate things by expecting that because you have an interest in something, or because it is a priority for you, that your partner should feel the same. This becomes a source of resentment that I have seen many couples go through. I think a better approach is to respect one another’s values and passions, and the things that matter to them, and then give them the support and space to do those things. It could be as simple as them wanting to watch a movie that you are not interested in. The question I have is, are you more interested in getting your way and not watching the movie or do you value your time with the person? That may seem like a simplistic example, but selfishness in relationships are usually from small things that add up over time, and then become unbearable for the other to take.
I have found that when my relationship struggled the most, it has been from my own doing. It is usually because my depression has convinced me that I am not good enough for my wife. I am not worthy of her love. This can cause me to push her away. I have also let my own ego get in the way of me being aware of her needs. I have been consumed with my mental health, the pain my body has gone through, and trying to find a “fix” for it to stop. This strayed me away from her needs. As a published author, I jumped into promoting my books with vigor, and upon reflection, I realized my self-absorption took me further away from her, something I swore I would never do, but ego is a powerful thing. Be aware that in love, you must put your companions’ needs first.
If you stay together long enough, you will have times of great suffering. It could be losing people that you love, or maybe one of you will struggle with your mental health or stress from a job. You may even have money troubles that seemingly feel overwhelming and are drowning you both. Much of the stress that happens in relationships, is outside stress. It is the unexpected things that happen and will feel like it is out of your control. I have seen stress such as this torment couples to the point where they think if they leave one another, somehow the stress will get better. Perhaps, they feel resentment towards the other person and that is when blame sets in. None of us are perfect humans. Our relationships will not be perfect. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. When times of suffering hit you, no matter what those things may be, be gentle with one another. Focus on your love and relationship. Take more walks together and remember what has true meaning in life. When things seem out of control, what you can control is the love you have for the other person that walks beside you. Couples who make it, make it through hard times.
If you stay together for long enough. If you have found a life partner, you will change. Your partner will change. They will not remain the person you knew when you first started. This is often a good thing, I know I would not want to be the man today that I was when I was twenty-five or even thirty-five. If I were, that would be a major problem. We should all want to grow and develop. The relationships that work, the ones that last, are when two people grow and change together. They support one another in that change and recognize it. The other option is that people grow apart. They no longer have value in the other person’s changes and maybe they even refuse to or have stopped growing as an individual. If you notice your significant other has stopped talking as much, going to do things without you more often, leaves you behind as they explore, or stops showing interest in you physically, they are most likely moving further away from you. It is a warning sign. Be aware of the other person and grow together, celebrating your differences, growth, and change.
Some other changes that will happen is your looks. Your partner may start to lose their hair. Perhaps they will have stages where their weight will fluctuate, wrinkles may start to develop on their face, and their bodies will start to look different. Our society is obsessed with youth. It is all around us on social media, movies, and magazines. It is as if growing older has become a bad thing, a flaw, that everyone tries to avoid. We see people trying every product they can to smooth out their wrinkles and keep a youthful appearance. Some go to extremes and get surgeries, which often make them look fake, like plastic. People tend to exercise because of vanity and aesthetics, instead of doing something because it feels good and is healthy. We are tied up in a superficial world where growing older feels like a punishment. If you want to make a relationship last, you have to find beauty in the person before you. It is a privilege to age together. I tell my wife often that she is more beautiful now than she has ever been. I am not just saying this, I mean it. I find that her grace, intelligence, and physical beauty has increased year after year. I wish she could see herself through my eyes because she often feels like she is not beautiful as she ages. Yes, she is growing older, as am I, and all of us should want to. When we stop aging, we die. There are people out there trying to sell you on their way of staying young. I say find beauty in growing old together. I always remember the girl I fell in love with so long ago, but I am in awe of the woman that stands before me.
I will end with this, communication will be the key to your survival when it comes to love. Tell them how much you love them, but go further and tell them why. Tell them your dreams and then listen to theirs. Find out what you both want out of your life together and talk about it. Then, when the tough times come, be honest and listen deeply. Those difficult times may come from you or they may come from something outside of your control, but nonetheless, you must sit across from one another and communicate. I have always told my wife if she loses interest in me, falls out of love, or finds another, please just tell me right away. Even though it might be hard and sad, it would be a tragedy to live a life with someone that you are no longer interested in. I would not want that for her, or for me.
However, a great life is one where you find a compassionate love where you lift each other up above the clouds. It’s the kind of love where you ache for that person when they are not next to you, thinking about them always, waiting in anticipation for them to walk through the door so you can see them come towards you and gently kiss your lips. It is feeling their touch and looking down at their hand in yours realizing that it is the greatest moment you have ever had. If you are lucky, one day you will look down and find that your hands have turned from smooth to wrinkled, with age spots and lines running through them that hold a story within their grasp.