Last night I saw the movie The Longest Ride. Silly of me to think it was about a physical form of transportation, like a car or a train. Instead, the movie was about relationships and centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia, a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City’s art world. As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected connection with Ira, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. Spanning generations and two intertwining love stories, The Longest Ride explores the challenges and infinite rewards of enduring love.
The film’s message emerges in a very moving way when Luke’s mother tells him that bull riding may take only eight seconds, but a relationship with Sophia could last a lifetime. Luke tells his mother that bull riding is all he knows how to do and wants to do it to help her keep the ranch.
Many people feel that material things are more worth preserving, than a marriage or a relationship. We look further and harder to assess worthiness than almost any other quality in a lover or spouse. Too often, that means money or other material gain. But I would define worthiness as a gift of time and attention from a person whose presence enriches us. Time is precious and is a gift so full of potential growth and opportunity; we don’t know how to quantify it. To underestimate its place in the greater picture of life is to cheat ourselves out of all the wonderful things that intimacy makes possible.
In my business, helping people preserve their relationships and marriages, time can play a major role. Some of the couples I see have been together for a very long time and others a short duration. What brings them to counseling is their unhappiness together. They usually say that they want to repair their relationship and live a happier life together, but are they willing to give up something to be happy together? Will they trade a selfish image of the future for something more cooperative that allows both of them to become their best and highest selves and create a relationship that will last a lifetime?
In all relationships, there is an element of sacrifice. In The Longest Ride, Sophia gives up the opportunity of landing her “dream” job to be with Luke. Luke, on the other hand, did not want to give up his dangerous bull riding until the potential loss of Sophia and the reality of his mother’s words become real. Fortunately for Luke, Sophia is still available both physically and emotionally. She is still in love with him despite his determination to pursue a dangerous sport, but he still desires the sense of masculinity the sport imbues —rather than wanting to develop the devotion that will make Sophia a priority in his life.
Perhaps it is a topic for another day to wonder why our culture tells men that intimacy and masculinity are in conflict with one another. There are still cultures that tell men they can only win full recognition for their masculinity by accepting dangerous challenges. Masculinity is not about being able to face danger or violent challenges. It is about being strong and dependable enough to settle into a role that makes a man responsible for his families safety, love and daily needs.
Feminism has encouraged us to see that it is wrong for women to be the only caretakers of maintaining a close, healthy relationship. What if women adopted traditional male values and only pursued careers or become high-risk danger junkies? What would happen to relationships? For love to survive both partners need to be present and work on the relationship as well as make sacrifices for each other if need be.
The moral of this blog: What is most important will eventually win out.
You can lose big if you imagine that the things that gratify your ego or ambition will make you happier than being loved. While a certain kind of happiness can be found in a career, setting a record, or making a name for yourself, that split-second of glory cannot compete with the joy of giving love and being loved in return.
More than one mystic has suggested that mortals learn best how to mimic divine love by being tender toward one another. One of my favorite poets of ecstasy and transcendence is a thirteenth-century Sufi scholar, Rumi. He often warns us not to avoid the opportunity to walk the road of love toward wisdom and insight.
You are like a shadow in love with the sun.
When the intensity of light appears, you vanish.
“When the Lover Comes,” The Love Poems of Rumi, translated by Philip Dunn, Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2002, p. 60.
How have you sacrificed in your own relationship to make it stronger? What have you done to ensure your relationship lasts a lifetime?