Who am I to talk about marriage?
I have been blessed with two wonderful marriages, with two men that put other men to shame, with two men who committed 100% of their lives to our life.
My first husband passed away after a hard fought war with a horrific blood disorder. If I had lived the rest of my life never to marry again, I still would have considered myself blessed. To find another man of the same quality, I know I am defying the odds.
When marriages struggle do you go to the person who appears to have the perfect marriage and probably has no idea how difficult things can be? Or, do you go to the one who absolutely knows how difficult marriage is and what you are going through because their own marriage failed? My answer would be, neither, no-one can truly understand what your marriage is or isn’t about, and nor can they offer advice. In fact, other people just make the situation worse. The two people in the marriage have to work it out, whether that means continuing or walking away.
I do think we have to stop looking at marriage as some sort of badge of honor that tells the world whether we are worthy human beings or not. Relationships succeed and fail all the time. The world is changing and people are doing the best they can. Who are we to question whether two people took things seriously enough, or whether they tried hard enough? There is no blame to be placed. There is no need for hate and fighting. There are simply two adults who are making a decision about their life, that was/is probably the hardest decision they have made in some time.
Marriages only work when you have two people who are equally committed to the idea. They work when you have two people who are right for one another. Being right for one another means that you share similar ideas of what fun is, what work is, what things mean and what the future holds. It doesn’t mean you have to be identical but you have to be able to want to share in the things that are important to the other person. Sometimes that just involves allowing them their own opinion on who to vote for. Sometimes it involves being willing to go camping or go to the ballet when you hate those things but the other person is passionate about them. Sometimes it involves really difficult, tough, life decisions.
Is there more credit to be given to the couple who struggle, look at their marriage, and stay together for religious reasons, for appearances, for the kids, because it is easier? Why don’t we respect the couple that realize they are simply no longer compatible or that they have grown apart and are wanting different things? Is it noble to live a life of misery and unhappiness? Do our children and the people who judge us actually show up at our death bed and thank us for throwing our lives away and being miserable, for them?
I think it is only ourselves we cheat.
The chance to find real happiness, to have a real connection with someone, to live a life of purpose . . . isn’t that a worthy pursuit? Is it so awful to have tried and failed, to recognize that, and to try again?
It seems to me the only awful thing about it is the reaction of others to the experience that causes us to need to place blame and punish someone. If we were to allow people their own lives, without that judgement, could a husband and wife dissolve their marriage BEFORE it came to cheating on one another or the other cruelties that surface on the way to forced destruction? Could they separate more amicably, sharing the kids, and wishing each other well?
I don’t know, but what we are doing currently seems to have only left a huge ugly oozing wound in the fabric of all our lives.
I read the article below today – a beautiful comment on a marriage. For me the message is not about beating yourself up because your marriage doesn’t even come close to this. The message is this is what a marriage can be. This is what you should want for yourself and your spouse. This is the life that comes when you have it right. So maybe you learn to love each other in a way that doesn’t insist you both stay and suffer so you get a certificate on your 50th wedding anniversary. Maybe you learn to love one another enough to realize you missed the mark, and to love each other, wish each other well, and let each other go – as a married couple. Friends is always on the table. Who said we have to get it right first time? It doesn’t mean anything except that people and life are not predictable. We live in the moment. We deal with what we have and as long as we proceed with love and compassion, wanting a good outcome for everyone involved, it cannot mean we are failures, or bad, or evil.
This is what I wish for all marriages. When you have these kinds of successes, the difficulties are doable. There is balance. But when marriage is nothing more than pain and sorrow and unhappiness, your soul dies a little each day. YOU deserve happiness and joy, and so does your partner. Think about it.
The Best Kind of Love
By Annette Paxman Bowen
I have a friend who is falling in love. She honestly claims the sky is bluer. Mozart moves her to tears. She has lost 15 pounds and looks like a cover girl.
“I’m young again!” she shouts exuberantly.
As my friend raves on about her new love, I’ve taken a good look at my old one. My husband of almost 20 years, Scott, has gained 15 pounds. Once a marathon runner, he now runs only down hospital halls. His hairline is receding and his body shows the signs of long working hours and too many candy bars. Yet he can still give me a certain look across a restaurant table and I want to ask for the check and head home.
When my friend asked me “What will make this love last?” I ran through all the obvious reasons: commitment, shared interests, unselfishness, physical attraction, communication. Yet there’s
more. We still have fun. Spontaneous good times. Yesterday, after slipping the rubber band off the rolled up newspaper, Scott flipped it playfully at me: this led to an all-out war. Last Saturday at
the grocery, we split the list and raced each other to see who could make it to the checkout first. Even washing dishes can be a blast. We enjoy simply being together.
And there are surprises. One time I came home to find a note on the front door that led me to another note, then another, until I reached the walk-in closet. I opened the door to find Scott holding a “pot of gold” (my cooking kettle) and the “treasure” of a gift package. Sometimes I leave him notes on the mirror and little presents under his pillow.
There is understanding. I understand why he must play basketball with the guys. And he understands why, once a year, I must get away from the house, the kids – and even him – to meet my sisters
for a few days of nonstop talking and laughing.
There is sharing. Not only do we share household worries and parental burdens – we also share ideas. Scott came home from a convention last month and presented me with a thick historical novel. Though he prefers thrillers and science fiction, he had read the novel on the plane. He touched my heart when he explained it was because he wanted to be able to exchange ideas about the book after I’d read it.
There is forgiveness. When I’m embarrassingly loud and crazy at parties, Scott forgives me. When he confessed losing some of our savings in the stock market, I gave him a hug and said, “It’s okay. It’s only money.”
There is sensitivity. Last week he walked through the door with that look that tells me it’s been a tough day. After he spent some time with the kids, I asked him what happened. He told me about a
60-year-old woman who’d had a stroke. He wept as he recalled the woman’s husband standing beside her bed, caressing her hand. How was he going to tell this husband of 40 years that his wife would
probably never recover? I shed a few tears myself. Because of the medical crisis. Because there were still people who have been married 40 years. Because my husband is still moved and concerned after
years of hospital rooms and dying patients.
There is faith. Last Tuesday a friend came over and confessed her fear that her husband is losing his courageous battle with cancer. On Wednesday I went to lunch with a friend who is struggling to reshape her life after divorce. On Thursday a neighbor called to talk about the frightening effects of Alzheimer’s disease on her father-in-law’s personality. On Friday a childhood friend called long-distance to tell me her father had died. I hung up the phone and thought, This is too much heartache for one week. Through my tears, as I went out to run some errands, I noticed the boisterous orange blossoms of the gladiolus outside my window. I heard the delighted laughter of my son and his friend as they played. I caught sight of a wedding party emerging from a neighbor’s house. The bride, dressed in satin and lace,
tossed her bouquet to her cheering friends. That night, I told my husband about these events. We helped each other acknowledge the cycles of life and that the joys counter the sorrows. It was enough to keep us going.
Finally, there is knowing. I know Scott will throw his laundry just shy of the hamper every night; he’ll be late to most appointments and eat the last chocolate in the box. He knows that I sleep with a pillow over my head. I’ll lock us out of the house at a regular basis, and I will also eat the last chocolate.
I guess our love lasts because it is comfortable. No, the sky is not bluer: it’s just a familiar hue. We don’t feel particularly young: we’ve experienced too much that has contributed to our growth and wisdom, taking its toll on our bodies, and created our memories. I hope we’ve got what it takes to make our love last. As a bride, I had Scott’s wedding band engraved with Robert Browning’s line “Grow old along with me!” We’re following those instructions.
“If anything is real, the heart will make it plain.”