Painting by Belynda Wilson Thomas
A happy man marries the woman he loves; a happier man loves the woman he married. Susan Douglas
I sit here a day before my wedding anniversary thinking of the wonderful husband, and children I have been blessed with. No matter what else in life we accomplish bringing a life into the world at times seems like the smallest and biggest accomplishment.
As mothers, we felt if we worked outside the home we neglected our children. If we stayed inside the home we sometimes felt we neglected our self. We let down the sisterhood who fought for emancipation and women’s rights. At my vantage point, I believe the fight was for choice. We need to find balance in our lives. Balancing our hopes and dreams with responsibilities isn’t always easy. There is a price for everything when we make one choice we eliminate another. Our children and families can’t be the most important thing in our lives if we don’t make time for them. We give our time to what we feel is important.
When my mother was widowed at twenty-five with two children and a new baby she was told to give up the baby and build a life. She said, “My children are my life.” This, the truest statement of motherhood is still true today.
Once our children are grown we may appreciate them even more. Seeing them take their place in the world, get married, and start their own families is bittersweet. We see them as we once were, the young couple with stars in our eyes, hope in our heart, and dreams to make come true. Now we know how a lot of that turned out, often keeping body and soul together, and raising children took up most of our lives, energy, and resources. We were busy, happy, seeing progress in ours and our children’s lives.
When our children get married it really punctuates we have moved into a new role. We don’t love our new role yet. We don’t have grandchildren to love, teach, and see the world through their eyes. It will be an adventure being grandparents. No pressure kids, but can’t you please hurry up?
My daughter and her husband attended a wedding yesterday in The Dominican Republic. Another family is formed, the hopes and dreams of another couple going forth into the world to build a life, and maybe a family.
We rally around as another family is formed. I smile at the hope and joy shining from the faces of brides and grooms at their weddings. I say a silent prayer hoping that love will still be shining in the years to come. It’s never about the day, no matter how extravagant and beautiful. It is always about the relationship. It is about bringing our best self to the marriage and bringing out the best in someone else. The magic of marriage is it transforms two people into a couple. If it is a positive marriage all of society benefits, the chemistry and compatibility evident over the years.
Freud said, “It’s a cornerstone of our humanity; only love protects us enough to grow and change.” Love is a verb and if we think of it as something we do instead of something we find, or fall into it has a better chance of standing the test of time. Building a life together that has meaning, with an ability to laugh at life’s challenges and obstacles, and a willingness to get through the tough times and know this too shall pass is what is required. The highs will pass and the lows will pass, but there is another high coming and another low. We need to learn to surf the highs and lows to enjoy our marriage. It’s a wild ride and if we are in it for the long haul it is both beautiful and the biggest growth opportunity of our life.
Marriage is I believe the cornerstone of society. I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been bringing up our two children without my husband’s love and support. As a shared goal raising children is one of the best. Not a goal that will fix a marriage. Raising children is a stressful endeavor. The accomplishment like any difficult challenge is rewarding. We watch our children take their place in the world, and we know their accomplishments aren’t ours, but we feel pride.
Kalil Gibran said, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”
The advice I’ve written in wedding cards over the years is; marry the right person and be the right person. If we want our marriage to work we need to look for the best in each other. If we spend our time looking at our partner’s shortcomings, we will find them, if we look for their good points we will find them also. The lens we look through makes all the difference. It is as easy to recount our partner’s good points as their bad. Expecting better instead of worse often gives us better. We get what we expect.
Nobody knows what goes on in someone else’s marriage. Sometimes we don’t even know what is going on in our own. The reason is that we aren’t always straight forward in our communication. Kalil Gibran said, “Between what is said and not meant and what is meant and not said, all love is lost.” It is easy to fall into this trap, and it can be as hard to take back unsaid things as said things. But, if we truly want better communication sometimes we have to say it. “I don’t think you understand what I meant, or what I said. I apologize for not being a better communicator, I love you, I value you, I don’t understand you but I appreciate you and am happy that we are on this journey together. I’m in for the long haul, the ups, the downs, the good, the bad, the funny, and the sad.”
In our marriages, the two of us may not have the same dreams and aspirations but everything that is good for one of us should be good for both of us. Sometimes it may be time for the wife to shine; sometimes it may be time for the husband to shine. If we have each other’s backs and give each other enduring support and encouragement we can’t help but be in the world feeling lifted up. As Dr. Phil says “Marriage is a safe place to fall.” Relaxing in our husband’s or wife’s arms after a good or bad day feels better than being alone in our joy or sorrow. Some people talk about chemistry as though sex is the most important part of marriage. If we have good sex it’s five percent of the marriage and if we have bad or no sex it might become ninety percent of the marriage. So as Nike says, “just do it.” Then we can get on with building a marriage.
After thirty-three years of marriage, I believe it is not lack of love, but lack of friendship that makes an unhappy marriage. After all, we spend more time talking and being together than anything else. If we can’t ask our husband or wife out for coffee or ice cream and not spend all our time on our cell phone it might not bode well for our marriage. If we want a better marriage we should have more coffee, ice-cream, long walks or drives in the country. Too often we focus on the big things, but if we want a better life we should enjoy more of the little things. That’s where the magic is. I said to my husband the other day as we sat in Second Cup. Even if we travel the world it’s still just the two of us over coffee whether in Milan, Paris, Singapore, or the coffee shop down the street
Where ever we go there we are. If it isn’t good between us it doesn’t matter if it’s a place on our bucket list or Tim Horton’s down the street.
Sometimes I think we forget what marriage is. It’s just two people sharing a life. It’s better when it’s a happy life, but that is where the choice lies. We can be happy or we can be unhappy that is our decision. To make happiness our goal is a good way to be unhappy. If we make meaning our choice it is much easier to pursue meaning than to pursue happiness. We might not be happy putting our children’s needs ahead of our own but it’s meaningful and something we will be proud of over the years. Every day we can move forward in pleasure and purpose, there is a lot to savor, food, conversation, laughter, sex, and companionship.
Isn’t marriage worth the time and effort needed to keep it interesting, fun, and progressing? Do some of us get out of a marriage to look for another one when we probably could have worked on the old one? Is it that different from moving from one house we’ve let run down to a new house, which will eventually run down if we don’t maintain it?
A happy marriage is about three things: memories of togetherness, forgiveness of mistakes, and a promise to never give up on each other. Surabhi Surendra
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