I find writing about marriage almost as difficult as actually being married. Given concerns with a terrible two or teen-age angst, and I’m all over it, but, marriage is a different matter. It is so complex it’s hard to know where to begin. I did not want to attempt a “how to” because every marriage is different and requires different counsel. There are many categories for a couple to explore, spiritual, financial, demographic, esthetics, children, families, pets, jobs, on-and-on. Recognizing the complexity of the subject and the fact that I barely know how to manage my own marriage is reason enough to proceed with caution.
I finally decided to make a list of intellectual, scientific, and philosophical thoughts based on my own experiences. Keep in mind I have been married twice, once at seventeen-years-old, for seventeen years and once at thirty-five-years old, for twenty six years in July. Since I have been married for most of my sixty-one-years I have tested most of the traditional marriage vows, sickness and health, richer or poorer, honor and obey, well, maybe not obey, but I will get to that later.
- There are thousands of books about marriage, its success and failures, which partner gives a greater percentage to the effort and what causes its demise. But, the truth is, there simply is no right way to be married. Marriage is a private creation sculpted by couples, successful or failed, it is their monument.
- Unnecessary tensions are created by allowing others to unduly influence the shapes and properties couples mold into marriage. When chiseled furrows and ashen brush strokes constructed over the years are questioned comparisons occur, as if creating a workable marriage is a competition rather than a beautiful sculpture.
- Certainties do not come easily at any stage of life. When I was seventeen I was certain about everything-happily ever after. When I was thirty five I was certain there were no certainties-no white knights. At sixty one I am certain that I have never worked harder at anything than I have at marriage-there is only now.
- I love being married, I love my husband, my children (five of them,) my grandchildren (five of them,) my two dogs, five cats and a partridge in a pear tree. But there are days when I fantasize about having a bright little apartment, alone, clean and tidy, and kept just so. Even in my fantasy, in the gray dawn of morning, when I look in the bed next to me there is comfort in reaching out and finding the hand of my husband, locking fingers, just for a moment to say I am here and I love you.
- Sharing hard times after twenty five years is a given, sharing small moments in time is why there will never be enough years to spend together. I have always wanted to see the Grand Canyon. I drove within twenty three miles of the park, but refused to go any closer, my husband was not there to share the long awaited spectacle. Had he been there, when I turned to look into his face, his eyes, like mine, would have glistened with tears, our hearts bursting at the beauty. The glory was in seeing it together, I would wait.
- Open communication is the most difficult, frightening, and vulnerable place a couple can place themselves in. To ask for what is needed or explain what is not wanted, takes strength and courage. There is no time one feels more exposed than when divulging fears or intimate thoughts about the future, sex, children, moving, feeling tied down, transitions, or that you hate Brussels sprouts. The connection comes in realizing one has been heard, without judgment or anger; rather, when solicited, concerns are met with reassurance, candor, and solutions.
- Shared interest is mortar bonding individuals together in the quiet hours away from children, family and friends. John Wayne movies, amateur radio, Chicago Cubs, bird-watching, hiking, and Gregorian chants; previously unexplored interest I learned to appreciate. That is not to say I by-passed pursuits of my own, it is rather a broadening of experiences, an appreciation for something beyond my-self, cementing hours spent together sharing, talking, anticipating, strengthening the structure that is marriage.
- Marriage vows are symbols of love and commitment but from an early age I resisted the idea of obedience to a spouse. In fact, at seventeen, in 1964, I refused to keep the word obey in the traditional vows being recited at my wedding. The families were scandalized. It should have been a clue to my young husband. The term obedience has long been replaced with respect, consultation, thoughtfulness, and equanimity. The only obedience I ever expect to embrace is obedience to God.
As frustrating as it can be my marriage is solidly sculpted. Each chiseled notch and dusty brush stroke has added to the strength leading to our twenty sixth year. At sixty-one I am blessed with a spouse, who tells me daily that I am beautiful, talented and loved; believing him, is safe, satisfying and very, very sweet.