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What Byron Pitts’ Mother Taught Him About Love

This week [March 18-22, 2013] JETmag.com is giving away copies of Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African-American Community. The new anthology contains personal stories from celebrities and major public figures on love, relationships and marriage in the Black community. Click here for a chance to win a free copy and read below for a brief excerpt. 

By//Byron Pitts

Byron PittsMy first recognition of love was that it was something that is tough, solid and unbreakable like steel. I learned that from my mother, who was the first love of my life. In looking for a mate, I’ve always sought out women with whom I could enjoy the kind of “durable” love that my mom taught me was important. From my mother I understood early that while the romantic notions of love are important, that it was equally special to find a partner who would be an asset in my life in every way. She taught me that my spouse should be someone with whom I would be stronger than I could be on my own. Someone who can help push life forward; who could help shield me, and someone that I could help shield from the ups and downs in life. So I define love in many parts. There is certainly the physical part of it, but equally important to me is the spiritual aspect of it as well.

My high school sweetheart was my first experience of “being in love.” She was an honest, earnest girl, with a good soul, who reminded me of my mother. I learned a lot from her and we dated until I left home for college. I became very focused on my career after college, but eventually got married when I was 27. As foolish as this sounds part of my motivation to get married when I did was that my mother got married and had me at the same age, so my thought was that if she was ready at that age, then I should be as well.

The woman that I married was actually a good friend. We were together for 10 years before our relationship ended. That experience taught me that there are a lot of components to a strong marriage, but friendship alone is not enough to make it work. Fortunately, my ex-spouse and I have remained friends as we raised our lovely daughters.

There is a power in first marriages. My parent’s divorce when I was 12, but I sometimes romanticize what “might have been” had they not. Although I know that my parents would have killed each other had they stayed together, there is still a part of me that see a real beauty in getting it right the first time. I wish for my sake, my ex-wife and our children that we could have gotten it right the first time but I am grateful and humbled that I was able to get it right the second time. My first marriage was a reflection of not knowing myself well enough. You have to know yourself before you can recognize what you need and what you don’t need in a mate.

I got it right this time. My wife, Lynn represents all the things that I recognized and felt as a child about what love is. Certainly, there is a physical component and my wife is an extremely beautiful woman — more beautiful now, than when we met. Like my mother she has a toughness that helps us to balance the good times and bad. In life, during the bad times you need steel to hold things together.  You need steel in the good times as well because it helps to remind you of what is real. My wife is very capable of communicating her feelings: what pleases her and displeases her — how she sees me, what her goals are and what our goals should be. We have a partnership on every level.

I respect my wife tremendously. It is her voice that I hear more than anyone else’s when I have to make a career or a personal decision. With the career that I have as an international journalist, I often didn’t make time for relationships. It wasn’t until I met Lynn and saw how deserving she was that I made real time for our love in my life.

I think the way most people live their lives today contradicts what it means to be in love. People have a tendency to be selfish and self- centered and want to receive love, but not give it. Life is complicated and in the course of any given day there is a lot that we have to deal with that consumes our time and energy. Most of people spend their lives in front of a fire hose, so love may be hard to recognize and embraced, especially when you have so much to manage right in your face. What I’ve learned is that love is slow and steady, and I think society needs to slow it down a little bit. My wife and I have purposefully slowed it down a bit. We have simple meals and we may do one activity a day instead of nine. This has made our connection to one another better and stronger.

My career has taken me into war torn areas around the world, and as I’ve covered tragedies and talked to the survivors of these events, what they often talk about is the last conversation that they had with a loved one. Because of those experiences I have become more sensitive about expressing the feelings that I have for the people who are most important in my life. I now tell my wife each day how much I love her. I know that sounds like a small thing, but it’s important to me that my wife knows that she is loved by me and that she is the most important person in my life. Through both my words and my actions, it is important to me that she completely understands that she is loved.

Byron Pitts is a correspondent for 60 Minutes and chief national correspondent for The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.