Lost in the words on my screen, I felt a presence from my past. Faded pain welled-up in my heart as a casual conversation with the woman at the café table beside mine shifted. Hesitantly I turned the conversation, aware it could be too much for both of us.

Her familiar story began with, “I’m in the middle of a divorce.”

Those words catapulted me back to the afternoon I approached the door to my house. Planted solidly on the steps was the steel-like body of my husband. His face was resolved as he coldly uttered the words that untied what we had painstakingly woven together years before.

Snapping back to the conversation at hand, I recognized my former self in her brave face and attempt to hide the fear of starting over, of hoping her heart could heal. Beyond the blame, past the anger, just below the surface of her brave brown eyes were a torrent of pain, bewilderment and contemplation. How had things turned out as they did? Why had our marriage ended?

When love is silent.

None of us committed to our partners by force; we wanted to build a together life. New love goes out of its way to prove solidarity and coaxes unyielding loyalty. It is triumphant over everything in its path. But sometimes building together creates a “divide and conquer” habit.

Rifts begin quietly in the building moments of life. It seems sensible to trade together time to finish college or work late to build a career. When kids come along, sleep lures weary bodies to slumber and meaningful conversations vanish.

Gone is the boost intoxicating new love brings—the juvenile love that sustains life on three hours of rest. Love grows silent when we nurture the establishment of our family more than our partner. When calls are declined and responsibilities become lopsided, when dinner grows cold on a lonely plate, the fabric of a relationship begins to fray. There is an impossible ache that comes when love fades to silence.

Desperate for affirmation…

Hearts grow desperate when love wears thin.

Once upon a time she was content with scraps of paper that proclaimed his love, but the most eloquent words on the finest cardstock now leave her heart longing for the love of the past. She’s not alone.

Today’s woman is desperate for affirmation and validation from her romantic partner, and the average man isn’t prepared to meet her heart’s void.

Corporations capitalize on a man’s desire to slay the biggest dragon to prove his love. Leading into holidays such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day, men and women are bombarded with advertisements. Suddenly, the currency of love shifts to the value of tokens and trinkets. A currency is only valuable if the person you wish to exchange with accepts it. Men buy these items because women are willing to make the trade.

Earrings he sacrificed life’s little extras for to buy early in the relationship are too small now because the new currency proclaims bigger is better. When love continues to divide in spite of glamorous vacations, the finest dining, and couture purses, the man is left confused and the woman feels invisible.

I see you, I hear you, I know you, I love you.

It’s not just the men who don’t realize the sacrifice is what made those earrings sparkle. With every skipped lunch out and pint passed, she was at the forefront of his mind. Women want to be remembered, and today’s social trends leave women wondering even more: Does anybody care? Does anybody see me?

A simple text message “I’m thinking of you” or quick call on the way home to check-in are the equivalent of screaming, “I see you and I want to know you more.” Remember that? Remember desperately wanting to know more about each other? Swapping favorite music and debating characters felt safe and left a longing for more of each other.

Nothing of value was on the line, but the greatest gift was birthed: love.

Wherever your relationship is today, love will never completely die. Whether you need to resuscitate love or simply stoke it a bit, step-in. Literally, spend a few days learning your partner’s natural routines and notice what you can do to help each other. Find time to be present mentally, physically, and emotionally to listen fully, and remember to be gracious to each other. Every stage of life has a unique set of fears, desires, struggles, and triumphs. How well do you know your partner during this decade?

We can turn the tables and change the currency.

Intrigue and teamwork are where most relationships began and returning those to the forefront of the relationship will shift the tide. Women, stop comparing the gifts you receive to Facebook posts or that of your “friends.” Men, a little vulnerability will do more than save you money, it will renew a relationship.

Be willing to continually tie life together, to sit at life’s loom daily, especially when your lover is struggling. The story won’t stop until both of you stop. This year, go retro and enjoy the holidays in an old-new way.

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