"What is this thing called love
This funny thing called love?
Just who can solve its mystery?
Why should it make a fool of me?"
-- Cole Porter, circa 1940
In 1965 Erich Segal's best-selling novel "Love Story" was made into a movie. It has become a classic film romance; a latter-day "La Bohème" where boy meets girl, boy wins girl, girl dies, boy loses girl.
It was an enormous box office success. For millions of teen-age girls (to the despair of their parents), it immortalized the phrase, "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
At the risk of contradicting Mr. Segal and offending that generation of teen-timers, I propose the following: love, true love, authentic love, enduring love, means never having to say "I love you."
That is not to say that we need not affirm our love verbally. Everyone likes to be told they are loved.
However, real, genuine love is not something we say, it is something we do. Love is not some thing; it demands action.
The great philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg said, "If love does not become deed, it ceases to be love." If two people truly love one another, everything they do is an affirmation of that love: commitment, loyalty and trust are virtues that translate into acts of affection.
In any relationship, a loving deed can be as crucial as commitment, or as trivial as taking out the garbage. Perhaps Eliza Doolittle said it best when, in the wonderful musical "My Fair Lady," she sang: "Don't talk of love lasting through time. Make me no undying vow. Show me now!"
If you want an accurate measure of any relationship, it would be prudent to observe what is being done by those involved, rather than what is said. Deeds, not words, are the ultimate proof of love.
With that said, there are no perfect panaceas to the weighty issue of love. Perhaps Cole Porter's query bears pondering: "Who can solve its mystery?"
We are each left on our own to solve its complexities. However, after 60 years of marriage to the same wonderful woman, I feel qualified to suggest to anyone who aspires to a successful, long-term relationship that it would be wise to brush up on the phrases, "I love you" and "I'm sorry." And don't forget to take out the garbage.