Twenty years ago today I married my husband, Keith. A friend of mine recently said that by today’s standards, 20 years seems like a long time to be married to the same person. She asked me what makes our marriage work. I told her that of course there are many things and there is no “secret.” But, honestly as I thought about it more I truly believe there are two very important elements to making any relationship work, especially a marriage. Those are authenticity and letting the other person be the other person.
Keith and I met in 1991 at a church Bible Study. We dated for two years and then made the decision to get married. We both had been married before. We both were blessed in many ways by the previous unions including by having our children. We both had been deeply hurt and disappointed in love as well. We both brought friends and family from different walks of life. Some friends and family accepted the union with great joy and others … well not so much. As we embarked on a second marriage we both were certain, uncertain, delighted, scared, confident and insecure. In other words, we came to a holy union wholly human.
Over 20 years there have been times and situations when we have indeed seen things differently. I learned a long time ago that it is vital in relationship to let others be well……. others. I never had the words to express this before until reading it recently in a book by Dr. James Hollis called “Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life.”
Dr. Hollis, who has been married to the same woman for many years, says that when we go into relationship expecting the other person will change to be like us, we end up disappointed and usually embark upon a course of miserably coping or separating from union with that person. This is paraphrase of course, and I encourage you all, even if you are not in the second half of life, to read Dr. Hollis’ work.
How simple huh? We fall in love with someone or fall in love with being in love as it were and after the first year or two we begin to move from the hot blooded, can’t be without a person into a richer, deep, companionship of completeness. But what does that completeness look like? I am sure it is different for every couple. For Keith and me it has been acknowledging that we are opposites in many ways, we have grown because of our differences, and that neither of us has the prescription for “right and wrong.” We have no need to change each other and in fact delight in and learn on a daily basis from our union.
Now, do we disagree? Yes. Do we sometimes get frustrated with one another? Yes. Do we sometimes become irritated with the little habits of the other person? Yes, of course. In fact, some days I wonder if Keith would like to put me in a box outside the King Soopers with a sign around my neck that says “Free to a good home. Doesn’t tolerate gluten. You will need a large truck to transport all shoes, jeweler, CDs and clothing along with various panda and Mickey Mouse paraphernalia. I will personally pay for hormone replacement therapy as a form of apology for teaching her how to shoot a gun.” Naaaa. He wouldn’t. I don’t think. Just in case, I destroy most boxes that could serve this particular purpose.
We realize that our differences on many issues, from politics to music, have served to grow us into people richer and more diverse in our abilities to navigate this ship of matrimony through this sea called a shared life. To say that at 61 and 71, after 20 years of marriage, we hang on every word the other says, float starry-eyed through the day while awaiting the other’s return, never have a lively discussion where we each need to take a break for a few minutes is just plain crap. It is being unauthentic to the hilt.
Here is the good part. We have learned to treasure instead of feel threatened by our individual authenticity and are grateful for the trust needed to bring our true selves to the relationship.
Perfect this marriage? No. (Whose is?) Perfect these two people? No. (Who is?)Willing to totally become someone else in order to be in relationship? No. (Talk about courting resentment.) Willing to work, work, work to let other be other, especially on the days when love just does not seem to be enough? Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes!
Here’s to us, baby. I pray God grants us another 20 but if He chooses to call one of us home before another 20 years together – what a great time He has given to us. He handed us abundant blessings in our sameness and our differences, as well as the tools to keep going. But it is up to us to stay authentic and to keep doing the work individually and with each “other.”
Copyright February 2013
Lakewood, CO 80401