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  • Toni Burns

A Lovely Business

41 years ago, at the tender age of 17, Scotte asked me to marry him. It took me several months to respond, even though I already knew my answer (teenage girls can be so mean). Three years later we were married. Even before the “I do’s”, there were those who shook their heads, clucked their tongues, and sung the “It Will Never Last” chorus. After all, statistics show that couples who marry young are 50% more likely to get divorced. Scotte and I joked at the wedding of our intention to stay married even if we couldn’t stand each other, just to poke the naysayers during our 50th Wedding Anniversary toast. That strategy has worked so far. Nearly four decades in, and we still like (as well as love) each other.

When we first formed the idea for Love in America some seven years ago, we heard a similar sentiment. Riding across America to collect and share love stories? Cue the head-shakers, tongue cluckers, and stats on how many start-up businesses fail. With my competitive personality, I could certainly interpret this as a dare or a challenge, and I’ll admit, the prodding of “I told you so” drives me a bit. But the reason we keep working at this crazy little thing called Love in America is that it is important and worth the effort.

Love in America and loving each other both developed a bit haphazardly, organically, without road signs, ten easy steps, and no clear foresight on where we were going, just the determination to get there together. Like marriage, and people in general, Love in America is unique and doesn’t fit into a neat little box - we’ve proven this by reducing more than one SEO specialist to tears.

Certainly, we’ve been given advice by experts. But it seems to me that many self-proclaimed experts know a whole bunch about what works for them, which is great, but not interchangeable with what works for others. I have yet to hear one-size-fits-all advice, in business or in love, that actually fits everyone. I won’t even buy clothing with that label, why would I hang a long-term commitment on it? Along the lines of outside advice, I have come across a plethora of quotes and sound bites. Some are pretty good, inspirational and, yes, I use them as well when I want to get a point across in just a few words. Besides, I believe we all need a feel-good piece of advice once in a while to tide us over until we get to the meat of the matter - kind of like an appetizer for life. For instance:

If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.

Oh, so sweet, and so not accurate. I take this quote to be representative of both life and love, though it is used predominantly when speaking of one’s career. But love, like a job or a business, can be work. Do all artists like doing the books for their business? Do all spouses like cleaning the toilet? How about making compromises or sacrifices for the health of what is being built? Successful relationships, whether business or personal, will involve tasks that may feel like work - especially if you don’t have the means to hire out those bits.

I may not be a big fan of spending time on our finances, especially when I could be doing something fun, like interviewing fascinating people or working on web design. But, I set aside time each week to do the books. Scotte may not be a fan of dancing, especially when he can be doing something more enjoyable, like having a root canal. But, he learned a choreographed piece for a Love in America music video. Neither of us wants to argue, but we don’t always agree on politics, home repairs, priorities. We engage in difficult conversations in order to clear the air or gain a better understanding, (and maybe to change each other’s opinion), even if the end result is to agree to disagree. And there is the key: getting past the mundane and viewing it as a piece of the whole rather than as work, a chore, drudgery.

One couple in North Stonington, CT, told us that marriage is the toughest job you’ll ever love... and it’s worth every minute. Whether you are working at love or loving your work, remember:

I never said it would be easy. I only said it would be worth it.

- Mae West


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