Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Joni Mitchell’s Insightful Quote on Long-term Relationships

Last week, I came across a quote about relationships from Joni Mitchell (whose music I played all the time when I was pregnant with Joanie after we decided what we were going to name her and who remains Joanie’s favorite) that I thought was particularly poignant and totally insightful:

“I recently read an article in Esquire magazine called ‘The End of Sex,’ that said something that struck me as very true. It said: ‘If you want endless repetition, see a lot of different people. If you want infinite variety, stay with one.’ What happens when you date is you run all your best moves and tell all your best stories — and, in a way, that routine is a method for falling in love with yourself over and over.

You can’t do that with a longtime mate because he knows all that old material. With a long relationship, things die and then are rekindled, and that shared process of rebirth deepens the love. It’s hard work, though, and a lot of people run at the first sign of trouble. You’re with this person, and suddenly you look like an asshole to them or they look like an asshole to you — it’s unpleasant, but if you can get through it, you get closer and you learn a way of loving that’s different from the neurotic love enshrined in movies. It’s warmer and has more padding to it.”

I’ve been with Drew for almost twelve years — not an eternity but long enough that this sentiment really rings true for me. On our first date, Drew gave me some of his best material, and I was really charmed. Since then, I have heard his stories many, MANY times, and while I still find him charming and funny, it really is in the shared process of getting through the shit life throws at you and reconnecting when that shit starts pulling you apart that we’ve deepened our bond, gotten closer, and learned a way of loving that is different “from the neurotic love enshrined in movies.”

Thoughts? Have you experienced this too in your long-term relationships?

11 comments… add one
  • GertietheDino April 9, 2018, 1:20 pm

    My parents have been together for 42 years. They say the key is that at their age, they’ve forgotten the other’s stories so they seem new when they tell them now.

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  • Lianne April 9, 2018, 1:31 pm

    Yes. This resonates so much. The way I have looked at my relationship with my husband (we’ve been together almost 6 years), is that it’s the most intimate relationship I have had with anyone in my whole life. Sure, there are things I don’t share with him – like how I named all of my one night stands with nicknames. But overall, he knows me better than anyone in the world and vice versa. He has seen me at my absolute best and absolute worst. And vice versa. We learn new things about each other, evolve as we age and as our life circumstances have changed. We are a real team and partnership. It’s not stale or old, and keeps changing. It’s so wonderful, even with the ugliness of life.

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  • Kate April 9, 2018, 1:46 pm

    Hmm. I’ve been in 5 what you could call relationships, from several months to several years, longest being about 10 years. They have all been really different from each other. Not only have I changed a lot as a person over the last 25+ years, but pair me up with different people and the dynamic is very different. So I’m not sure about the first part of Joanie’s observation. I think that would be more true if I was meeting and dating lots of new people over the course of any given year or two.

    The second part, yeah, I think that’s true, though it having only been 6 years with this one, I know I haven’t really seen full cycles play out, beyond, I think, the first year or so of dating and what followed that. We’ve just always been on the same page, and we continue to be as life circumstances change. I hope that will be true long term. I really believe it will.

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    • Lianne April 9, 2018, 2:03 pm

      That’s actually how I read the quote, Kate – dating lots of new people over the course of any given year or two…

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    • Kate April 9, 2018, 2:20 pm

      Like, he saw me in pretty bad shape during say the first year, and I saw some stuff from him too, but he didn’t see me at my absolute worst until like 5 years in, during the time I was laid off from work. I had an episode one day where i was horrible. And I’m sure there’ll be more like that to come, as challenges arise.

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      • Lianne April 9, 2018, 2:27 pm

        yeah, I’d say mine saw me at my absolute worst during this pregnancy. As much as I don’t want to be at my absolute worst ever, there is comfort in knowing he can handle it and is compassionate about it.

      • Kate April 9, 2018, 2:35 pm

        Right, like you don’t have to be scared about it. But also you don’t want it to be a pattern, so you have to figure it out and move past it, which I think is what JM was talking about…

      • Lianne April 9, 2018, 2:47 pm

        I mean, if shit like that is happening a lot and it becomes a pattern, that’s bigger than the relationship and you need to get your ass to therapy.

  • Cinna April 9, 2018, 1:58 pm

    I never thought of it like this, but I agree. This year marks 20 years since my husband and I became a couple, and our 16th anniversary is this month. We been through some major stuff – the death of a parent, the raising of a child (now 9) and made some mistakes (some very big) along the way. Yet I think we’re stronger now than we’ve ever been. It certainly isn’t a fairy tale and I don’t know where we’ll ultimately end up when our daughter is grown someday, but I do know that you simply can’t come this far without growing into the other person and all these years later, I still find out things about him that I didn’t know. ♥

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  • MaterialsGirl April 9, 2018, 3:16 pm

    I would say my husband has seen me at some of my weaker moments but the worst and most awful were definitely a product of the ex husband. However, he has had to deal with the aftermath of all that, and I can say picking up the pieces requires more care and patience than dealing with the initial blowup.

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  • anonymous August 16, 2019, 10:01 am

    Long marriage = monotony

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