It’s a dark and rainy day here in the woods, I’m home sick with some flu-like misery. And it is our 25th Anniversary. At ‘our age’ many friends have been married at least a decade or longer than we have, we married ‘late’. Still, on this, our “silver” anniversary, I’ll indulge myself by sharing a few reflections of the journey.
When I met Mike a mutual friend said to me “what you see is what you get”. He went on to say Mike was not pretentious. With a slight air he implied Mike was not an intellect, nor very sophisticated, just a guy living in the woods. Our friend was right, Mike is not pretentious, but he was also wrong, what I saw was not what I got. I ‘got’ so much more. I’ve had the privilege of spending the past 25 years with someone who, having no pre-conceived ideas or expectations about me, or marriage, has been the perfect mate on this uncharted voyage.
We joke about how Mike was indeed a ‘bear’ living in the woods, working in the woods, emerging to play long games of Pac-Man on one quarter (to the amazement of the on-looking young boys) at Penny Saver (the corner store), and hanging out at friends’ houses, often showing up at dinner with a carton of ice cream under his arm, to the delight of the children of the house. Seemingly the quintessential ‘bachelor’, he kept his own counsel. Few knew of Mike’s profound sense of loyalty and perseverance, qualities that make him a good worker, a good participant in community causes, and most of all, an extraordinary husband. There is a deeply spiritual side to Mike that, even now, few of his ‘buddies’ know of. When asked, he will say that spiritual quality has been the shared foundation of our marriage.
Like most marriages, ours has been through multiple challenges, and difficult times. Health challenges, financial challenges, family challenges, you name it, we’ve had our share, and recently, perhaps more than our share. I’ve woken up in recovery rooms to see Mike’s face following more surgeries than I can count. For the past 7 years, after she lost her driver’s license and showing the early signs of Alzheimer’s, my mother has been the ‘third’ member of our marriage. Going to Seattle once or twice a week we helped her remain in her home for as long as possible. She spent weekends with us once or twice a month. Many a Saturday night Mom and Mike played a mean game of gin rummy. We took her on mini-vacations. Two years ago, on this day, our 23rd anniversary, we moved mom from her home. Our care involvement continued as we visited her and over saw her new life, while dismantling her old life, emptying her home of 42 years, preparing it for sale.
We’ve literally built our life together, adding a meditation building, chicken coops, and other ‘out buildings’ to our living space. There have been wonderful vacations throughout the northwest, including a ‘big’ trip to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). Our family has consisted, over the years, of 5 dogs, 3 foster dogs, countless ducks and chickens, and a few cats.
So what have I learned on this shared journey?
First, the adages are true.
We do not go to bed angry. Never. We tried it a few times, it didn’t work.
Difficulties in a marriage either make it stronger or tear it apart. An oft repeated adage, I can only say it is a choice. Acknowledging that when going through the most challenging of times it is human nature for some of our best and worse traits to come up, is the first step to letting those times be a time of drawing closer together. It is a time to practice forgiveness.
Opposites attract….thank goodness! Who would want to be married to someone like themselves! Not me! Frustrating as it is at times that Mike constantly does things, hears things, thinks things so diabolically the opposite of what I would do, or say, or how I meant it….I am grateful for the humble reminder that my perspective is just that, my perspective.
Another baseline for us has been the 4 Cs – Commitment, Communication, Compassion and Cooperation. I have these posted above my desk, and recently noticed Mike also had these four words posted above his desk (if you saw his desk you would understand how it went unnoticed by me for years….but that’s another story!). I could write about each of these and why they are so important in a marriage, but most of my readers don’t need the explanations.
John Gottman, and his wife Julie Schwartz, University of Washington researchers, built their careers and reputations being the first folks to look at what makes a successful marriage. They interviewed thousands of people who have been married a long time. They have much to say in their books and workshops about what makes happy, lasting, marriages, but a few basics of their research, not surprisingly, showed four important and consistent components in a happy marriage….humor, forgiveness, respect and friendship. The traits that make for lasting friendships make for successful marriages. I consider these the top four traits of our life together.
I remember reading an earlier interview of Gottman about his work. He said when interviewing couples, if they said “we have a pretty good marriage”, he considered it a happy, successful marriage.
We have a “pretty good marriage”.
Happy Anniversary Mike!
(Once again challenged, plans to go on an anniversary get away were scrapped due to my needing to get an MRI and have doctor appointments due to possible reoccurrence of cancer. Then the “cancer” plans were scrapped by this flu-bug. Today Mike stayed home from work to keep me company while I moan and groan about feeling lousy and my lot in life…….and that is what a pretty good marriage is about!)