Do relationships have an expiration date?

October 8, 2014

I‘m on vacation and my friend and former client, John Smith (yes, that is his real name) wants your input on a provocative post about relationships. More about him at the end, but he’s getting famous and you want to know him. Not just because of that. Because he’s a fascinating guy.


Do All Love Relationships Have An Expiration Date On Them?

By John L. Smith

When Carol first asked me if I wanted to be a guest blogger, I had just finished replying a snarky comment about an aspect of relationships that she had posed. I don’t know if I even adequately expressed my feelings about the subject she had thrown out, but I couldn’t resist adding in a long-evolved cynicism I had about long-term relationships.

I grew up in an era where Ward Cleaver came home from work and continued to wear a suit in the evenings after dinner as he read the newspaper. June was in the kitchen, still wearing her apron and string of pearls. She was apparently all alone and doing the dishes by hand, even though dishwashers had been invented, and Ward’s hands appeared to not have been broken. Wally and the Beave were upstairs doing homework using sticks of graphite lead to write with on paper. If the phone rang, it was always Eddie Haskell. Wally then had to come downstairs, take the receiver from his father and talk to Eddie in “public”.

I know that things change. Relationships between adults certainly have as well.

But I nevertheless can’t help thinking of the Cleavers today. Of what they would be like. Assuming Ward and June weren’t both dead from heart attacks or had been bitterly divorced for decades. Instead, I wonder of the days when Ward and June were retired… (Well, when Ward was retired, let’s say. June had done housework her whole life, so she had been sort of retired all along. Hey, I’m kidding, folks).

But I still can’t envision Ward, now heavily obese and bald, snoring like a commercial aircraft in his tilted-back Lazy-Boy downstairs. June upstairs with her gravel voice from 60 years of unfiltered Winston’s and wagon loads of wine. June would look down the stairs at Ward and think, “You disgust me”.

That light thought brings me to my questions I pose to Carol’s astute and enlightened audience:

Do all love relationships have an expiration date on them?
Are they bar-coded from the beginning to start spoiling just because of human nature?

Is it because people change over time? By time, I mean decades upon eons of decades… when our ancestors would’ve been dead from the Plague or eaten by mastodons, we’re still married to the same person. Is it because society expects… no… puts unrealistic demands upon couples to remain together… no matter what. To stay married long after the relationship should’ve been taken back to where it was bought, receipt or no receipt.

Can two people even coexist in the same universe if he constantly watches FOX News and always stays pissed off, while she’s always going to book club meetings and adopting feral cats?

Is it inevitable that just over time, two people who used to love each other and have their hearts do spasms if the other person entered the room, now just barely accommodate the other? Or even recognize the existence of the other?

Do all love relationships eventually go bad?

Thoughts on this one? Anyone?

John L. Smith is a retired corporate communications manager for a Florida energy company who, after retirement, reinvented himself as an actor. As an active SAG-AFTRA member, he has appeared in many films, TV shows, commercials, and corporate training videos. In spring-summer of 2014, he was Robert Redford’s stand-in and photo double for the filming of “A Walk in the Woods”. He’s busy writing a “factual, but funny” book about the American Revolution. Excerpts have been published in The Journal of the American Revolution, Knowledge Quest, The National Review, Smithsonian Magazine and other publications.

14 comments on “Do relationships have an expiration date?
  1. Why @johnlsmith, I thought you were going to give us some revelation at the end of your very intriguing commentary. Having been divorced twice, I can assure you that things change. My experience has brought me to being okay with what is. And what is, is that, my marriages transformed into a different state. One of friendship and gratitude for all that they were, no more resentment for what they were not, and no more longing for how it could have been different. Great topic, great presentation. Thank you.

    • Rosie – your reflections from each of your marriages makes me smile that you see each one in its positive light of what goodness it brought into your life. That’s an important point and I love that effect that you refuse to be pulled into the quicksand of anger and regret. Thank you for saying what you said. It gives me great hope for LT relationships!

  2. Heather Cariou says:

    “Do all love relationships eventually go bad?”

    The short answer is NO. And I think it’s a waste of time to give you a longer answer, because I don’t believe for a minute you are truly interested in any other response to this question except your own. I’ll bet you guard this point of view with your life so you won’t have to make yourself vulnerable to anyone. In my experience, your kind of cynicism is fed by nothing more than fear and self-interest, and lacks both imagination and maturity. Having heard it expressed by any number of men any number of times over the years (I grew up in the same era as you), it bores me silly. In fact, asking this question at your age is disingenuous, and that angers me. Put up or shut up. Or grow up.

    PS – I’ve been with the same man for 33 ABSOLUTELY AMAZING years.

    • Not everyone is lucky enough to have your experience; reasonable people can disagree respectfully. I know John well and he happens to be one of the most wonderful, loving men I’ve ever met.

      • Heather Cariou says:

        No disrespect intended, but at my age I no longer mince words, and I stand by them. And a loving relationship requires more than just “luck.” And there are plenty of loving, wonderful men who remain, on some counts, disingenuous and/or cynical for whatever reasons. Some of them are MY friends too, and I don’t allow THEM to get away with this malarkey either.

  3. Hi John (and Carol)! I had to respond because I can’t pass up the chance for being part of the ‘astute and enlightened’ crowd. 😉

    My thoughts on your question– Death or severe illness aside, I believe not all love relationships expire/have an expiration date. To say that is to say that love ends. I don’t want to believe that and can’t believe that because I’ve seen cases where it never ended, in spite of death. To be annoyed at the other’s habits or be disappointed and hurt don’t necessarily mean that the love has gone away. Infatuation and illusions do have very short shelf lives. But I’d like to believe that the same isn’t true of Love (authentic love). 🙂

    • Joy – thank you also for your words and reaffirmation on the eternal durability of love. I had been concentrating on the physical relationships too much, I think. I had kind of forgotten about the positive glow of love that transcends things. It reminds me of the last line in “Ghost” where Patrick Swayze, in the past-over form, tells his wife, “Its amazing, Molly. The love inside… you take it with you.”

  4. Elizabeth Lee says:

    I don’t think it’s inevitable that love dies while the people are still alive. My parents have been married for 57 years and they still love each other. My mom sees Dad dozing in his recliner and is glad he’s still there. Dad brings her coffee in bed and is happy to serve her. They accept each other’s faults and believe the best of each other. It’s beautiful. It’s also highly unusual.

    • Elizabeth – the story of your parents is reaffirming to me and we both agree it’s unusual. Thanks for sharing it. Maybe the moral is that if one wants a good, nurturing, and accepting long-term relationship, then you have to keep trying for it. ?. The old axiom: You for sure will never win the lottery if you never buy a ticket. Both the lottery and relationships are a form of gambling, aren’t they? 😉

  5. D. A. Wolf says:

    You had me at the title… and my own recollection of a reference to “expiration dating” on Sex & the City.

    Of course relationships change, as we ourselves change! As for all love relationships ending, we would have to define “love” (a catch-all phrase that few bother to parse), we would have to explore expectations (of both parties), we would have to delve into the (foolishly) over-ambitious view of marriage in 21st century America – if marriage is in fact what we are considering.

    Some of us know that a particular relationship will have shelf life – and it is precisely what we need, what both involved need. This is not a problem, unless one has other expectations or desires.

    As for Fox News versus (anything else reasonable?)… whatever… if only we were wise enough to consider the character, values and other belief systems of those we choose to live with (and marry)…

  6. Lana says:

    I certainly hope not! My husband and I are unusual – we met at 16 and married 24 years ago. Neither of us has had another serious relationship. We are still in love, physically and emotionally. Of course it’s not perfect, and there are definitely things that annoy us, but in our case we have grown and changed together. And, I still get excited when I see him – most days!

  7. I read this yesterday but felt like I wanted to let it simmer for a while before I answered. It didn’t work, my answer is I sure hope not. Yesterday I said how much I had changed in the last year. For instance, before this year I had never been on Facebook this year found me jumping into a damn lake in my pj’s then put up for the world to see. I had five or six friends, two really good ones. One committed suicide, this changed me some more. Now I know hundreds of strong independent women that I call “friends”. Some have made me laugh but some have made me whole. I’ve been upclose and personal with Alzheimer’s for a whole year now. I’ve been married for 23 years very happily. If I continue to change will he still love me? I don’t know, I hope so. Even if there was a chance that he wouldn’t, I wouldn’t change the direction my life is heading. That scares me more than anything. I think the trick is for you both to change at the same time and only time will tell if we were magicians or not. I sure hope so.

  8. Kim says:

    You’re a funny guy, John Smith! I don’t know how any couples with completely opposite political views can co-exist in the same house. It would drive me nuts!

  9. Yudith says:

    Not all love relationships end. There are couples that sustain a loving, caring, kind, mutually supportive relationship for life. On the other hand, some love relationships are not meant to be for life. There are couples that grow apart or they were never compatible in the first place.

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