“Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.” ~ Simone Signoret
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin
Today is my thirty-seventh wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe that my husband and I have been married that many years, but then his parents celebrated their sixtieth anniversary last month, so Barry and I have a long way to go to beat that record.
For obvious reasons it feels appropriate to look back and reflect upon all the things I’ve learned from being married.
First of all I should say that we have no children, so the things I might have learned from being a parent I’ve had to learn in other ways, or not at all. I don’t regret that decision one bit. It was right for us.
The way Barry and I realized we were in love was right out of a movie script. We were in one of the college choirs together, and were preparing for a tour during Winter Term. It was January in Iowa. One evening at the end of rehearsal, the director told us to go ahead and put on our coats and other winter gear while we sang one of our encore songs, which happened to be “Let It Be Me”. Barry and I were goofing around pretending we were in a play singing to each other, when all of a sudden, looking into each other’s eyes, something changed. We both felt it. That was the beginning of our romantic relationship.
Relationships can begin like that. But romance is only the spark that brings a couple together. I was naive and thought that that tingly all over feeling was love and would last forever. I assumed that Barry was supposed to be my everything, meet all my needs, and I was in turn to be that for him. It was a shock when I understood that that is not realistic. A marriage where the two people are completely dependent on each other is not healthy. That couple is codependent and for awhile that applied to Barry and me. However a few years into our marriage, I learned one of the most important lessons of my life. I had to take responsibility for myself and make sure I did the personal work necessary to bring my best self to my relationship with Barry.
This led to another huge realization. Barry is my beloved and I rely on him for many things. But now I know that if something were to happen to him, I’d miss him terribly but I’d be okay.
Learning the above lessons started the day Barry and I were having an argument and I said to him, “When you say that, I feel …” The look on his face told me he was appalled, and he told me what he had intended by what he said. It was completely opposite to what I assumed he meant. What I assumed and what he intended were two completely different things. That was a big revelation. I learned that day that we hear one thing based on our past experiences, when in fact the other person might be trying to say something else. From that day onward, I checked in with him when we were having a discussion so that I understood just what he intended before getting all bent out of shape.
Over the years, I learned another vital lesson; that every day I must make the choice to commit to making our marriage work. For several years, I was sure that Barry would realize that I wasn’t worth his time and would leave me. So to protect my heart, I held back. I didn’t fully share my thoughts, or my affections. No relationship can work if one or both people are hiding behind their fear. When I was able to love and accept myself as I was, faults and all, I was able to open up and allow Barry his imperfections, and not try to change him.
My relationship with Barry has changed me in other ways. When he came into my life, I was an extremely serious person. I saw the world as a scary, hostile place. He, on the other hand, has a fantastic sense of humor and most of the time sees life as fun rather than a chore to get through. I’m forever grateful that he taught me how to laugh. Because of him, I now see life as an adventure. There are so many people to connect with, love and compassion to share, and beauty and wonder to experience everywhere. If it hadn’t been for him, I would never have had the courage to follow my dreams and try lots of daring new things. I hate to think what might have happened to me if I hadn’t married him. Though I do remember saying months or maybe even a year before Barry and I got together, that I deserved to find a true and lasting love and I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. I guess I was on my way to trusting that I lived in a friendly universe after all. Falling in love with Barry was confirmation of that fact.
In these last few years of our marriage, I’ve learned the largest lesson of all, that each person is much more than all the outer things we associate with being human. At the core of each of us is a shining, creative, loving human being full of talents to offer the world. Most of the time we get bogged down by self-hatred, or the things we own, or by seeking the house, job, or education we think of as necessary to live a happy life. But none of those things are the true essence of who we really are.
Since we’re both artists in our different ways, there have been times when Barry and I have found common ground struggling to find our place in the world. Much of the time people don’t understand or appreciate that artists and creatives look at the world in new and different ways to come up with their theories, or inventions, or artwork. Having so much in common with Barry has given me the freedom to explore and create. These thirty-seven years are ones I’m extremely grateful to have lived. I look forward to many more wonderful years of creativity and self-discovery with my beloved husband, Barry.
Post Script: A couple of days ago I went to the dentist. I mentioned our upcoming anniversary. Since he’s a former student of mine, he knew me well enough to ask what was the secret for such a long and happy marriage. Without thinking I said that each couple needs to figure that out for themselves, that there isn’t one right answer to that question. I did qualify that statement by saying that I think good communication is a key component to all good relationships. He and his assistant agreed.
I added that little story to say that I’ve shared what I’ve learned, but those are my lessons and realizations and might not necessarily apply to you and your relationships, so happy discoveries to you all.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, a historical, time-travel, magical realism women’s novel. It’s available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and will soon be available in a print-on-demand version at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.