Pillow Talk

| March / April 2006

A conversation with Stephen and Ondrea Levine about lust, the meaning of marriage, and true intimacy

What is a good long-term relationship? When we asked the question around the office and among our friends, we heard a lot of fear and even more relief. Fear because asking questions inevitably rocks the boat of marriage and family. Relief because after we admit that there are few long-term relationships to emulate, we can begin an honest exploration of how to do it differently. Stephen and Ondrea Levine, with three marriages behind them, have made their marriage work for 26 years and have raised three children. They work as counselors and writers, with a focus on death and dying as well as relationship issues. Good relationships are entirely idiosyncratic, they say, but self-respect, clarity of intent, and commitment to growth are the key elements. Ondrea says each of us has to start by answering the question "What do you want out of this very short life?" But ultimately, Stephen says, it's about "when you get to just loving the ass off that person and you still don't know what love means."

Nina: We hear a lot about how relationships begin, and plenty about how they end. But there's not a lot of honest talk about how to make them last -- or, for that matter, why they should.