My husband and I just celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary yesterday. I noticed, during my Facebook morning newsfeed scan that a few others were celebrating their anniversary as well. So I thought to myself what have I learned? This last year has been particularly tumultuous for us and our marriage. Yet, we are still together, in some ways stronger than before. That comes from a decision to stay together. Now, the younger me might have been more resistant about making compromises to stay together more likely to say “If you’re not happy just bail and find someone you can be happy with.” With age comes patience and the ability to step back and say “Is this problem temporary?” Many times it is. I have a three-day rule. If I am really mad I cannot make any permanent decisions for three days. By the third day I often cannot remember what I was mad about, but if I can remember, I am calm enough to talk to my husband about it without being so overly emotional that communication is no longer possible. I focus on what specific behavior or incident bothered me and luckily I am with a man who is willing to listen and who also wants to stay married so we work it out.
This is not to say that we don’t blow our top from time to time. However, one thing we know how to do is to say, “Hey, I was out of line and I’m sorry.” That is an important skill to have, in any relationship, especially in marriage.
The final, piece of advice I’ll write about today that really came to my attention this morning when I asked myself the question “What is different in the way I relate to my relationship now, compared to when my husband and I first started dating?” I wanted to isolate that which makes someone so wonderful in the beginning and then at some point I find my husband reminding me that he “is not the enemy. We are on the same team.” I think this happens a with women who have children and responsibilities around the house in addition to what she had before she came into a relationship. She has career responsibilities for example. Women can begin to feel overloaded and overwhelmed, especially when children are very young. It is the constant demand to place others first and share monetary resources which happens in a marriage and not during dating that can wear on a relationship. It’s important to be vigilant and not let these little things pile up in a memory bank that gets played over and over because it’s not healthy for the relationship. In the beginning the couple looks only for the best in one another and gets amnesia about the negative things. After a few kids it seems to be the other way around, and the couple gets amnesia about the good while focus turns to what the partner isn’t doing “as expected”. That is where marriages start to fall apart. But it’s simple to fix, just start concentrating on the good things again.
I think this is why the tradition of anniversaries continues. To remember the day that we wanted to get married. To remember how beautiful she looked, how handsome he looked, the magic of the day. To get back to that time when our partner could do no wrong. It’s a good thing that keeps a marriage healthy. We re-create that energy and bring it into the present day. That practice is what makes marriages last as intended.
Some songs throughout the ages, as well as poems and sonnets speak of a love so strong that someone says to another “I would die for you.” It is indeed a strong declaration of love, to place his or her life in harm’s way in order for one’s beloved to live. At the same time and in some ways a more grandiose gesture of love could be to say, “I will live for you.”
A promise to preserve health to the best of one’s ability and to say I will take care of my health so that I may be with you for many years to come when you need me most. I will live so that we can face what the world has to offer––good or bad, together. I will live for you.
There are challenges offered by life that can make living seem like more of a challenge than dying. Getting up everyday trying to figure out the little nuances of life, the questions of life like “Where’s the food going to come from today?” “How is the myriad of things that must be done going to get done?” This reality coupled with the stresses of life that can be so prevalent today that makes living for someone so much more of a declaration of love than dying for them.
This is not to take away from the awesome sacrifice made by a soldier or first responder. People that place themselves on the front-line to protect those they love or die for honor. Yet to forgo the indulgence of destructive vices and excessive behaviors rather than to fight for one’s health in order to be there for those you love when they need you most also holds the hero’s reward that comes with acts of courage and fortitude.
So, if you really love someone, perhaps saying “I’ll die for you” is not the greatest proclamation of love. Maybe that greatest oath of love a person can make is “I’ll live for you.”
I would like to address a myth of the modern world that I feel is prevalent. With fairy tales and romantic comedies there is this assumption that once you are in a committed relationship you will never be alone. Yet in today’s world of business travel, long work hours and transfers to other places for work it is rare that a couple be together all the time. Those who attempt to be in a relationship in order to fill a need that they are not able to fill independently of their partner have a great chance to set themselves up for disappointment.
It is interesting to think about military families in history. Men would go to war sometimes four or more years without seeing their family. There are the modern warriors, not just the military but the business warriors that are away from their families on the road around the globe getting the deal done.
Entertainers, athletes, and others are constantly on the move on tour or promoting their work and their partners need to be strong and complete on their own. This allows a person to be able to enjoy the time they have with the one they love instead of feeling they must be punished in some way for not being present to fulfill the needs of the other.
In order to live a fulfilling and satisfying life one must have a parallel path to the one they love. There are great times when the paths intertwine and are in harmony. Yet, inevitably there will be times when paths become parallel but separate for any number of reasons. That’s why the key to happiness inevitably comes back to self.
Before a person can become a part of a strong relationship, they must first be strong as an individual. They must have an independent sense of place, of self, be able to provide for themselves should that become necessary. This ability changes the dynamic of a relationship from needing to be together, to wanting to be together. Something that often adds the spark and confidence people crave from the dating phase of a relationship. That is a very powerful distinction.
Relationships are a lot like running a three-legged race. The person not only needs to be capable of running quickly on their own, they must also be able to run tied to another which involves communication and team work. When both partners know they can count on the other to hold up their end of the team and keep moving forward together the more successful the couple will be in staying together throughout the journey of life.