I've been down helping my oldest with his wee ones while his wife was in Italy on a trip with the company she works for. An amazing trip I might add. Right now the train whistle blows as I roll into another small Central Valley town on my way home in Northern California.
I have a lot of time on my hands to think as my body gently rocks side to side. I think especially about marriage. It is June, after all, the most popular month for weddings. Today also marks the marriage anniversary of my deceased parents and Mark's very much alive parents. Woohoo! Congrats are certainly in order as they are celebrating 60 years of marriage. This is a great accomplishment.
I found this photo in my phone. I love these two old oaks. I regularly pass them on my evening hike at home.
They always remind me of what it takes to have a good marriage. They stand side by side with branches touching each other and reaching out. They connect, but they don't lean heavily on each other. If one were to fall the other would still stand. Lonelier, but capable.
I've also heard types of marriages described by letters of the alphabet:
An 'A' marriage is the type Mark and I had in the beginning. Perhaps all love starts this way. You are deeply connected and lean heavily on each other. Your identity is tied up in the other. You are not just intertwined, you are enmeshed. If one falls the other does too. It's not healthy in the long term. A marriage needs two individuals standing on their own two feet to be healthy and long lasting. You need space as well as time together. You need to know yourself before you can know someone else.
A 'H' marriage is two individuals side by side but doing their own thing on parallel paths. Busy parents with careers sometimes fall into this style of relating. You are more like roommates than married lovers.
The best marriages look a lot like the letter 'M'. Each part can stand on their own but the connection they share makes the sum of their parts better. They have space between them and a rooted connection. If one falls the other has enough balance to help pick the other up.
Mark and I have grown our 'A' into a'M'. It hasn't been easy, but it is good. It is worthwhile. It is real. It is fun. We are both happier for it and stronger as a unit and as individuals.
Mark and I have been married since I was 18 and him 21 and many times old friends, usually divorced, tell us how they envy our relationship. "It must be wonderful being married to your soulmate", or "You two have it so easy". Rubbish, I say. Marriage is not a Cinderella story. Get that out of your head or your marriage will be destined for failure.
Marriage is committed love. Period. We chose each other, over and over again. It is not fate.
Don't get me wrong. Marriage is good, soaringly good even, but be prepared. There are dangers to it ahead.
We think of it as a wild adventure and everyday full of new territory to cross because each day we are slightly different people. (That's why the sex doesn't get old!). The first thing to throw out of your pack is expectations. They will weigh you down and make the journey less fun. Carry along a lot of humor and love. The Corinthians kind of love. Keep your compass of commitment handy so you don't lose your way. If one stumbles off course, and we have a few times, help each other out. ( AKA: kick em in the butt by speaking truth). The trail is sometimes smooth and other times rocky. Help each other along. Have each other's back. We've had to ford a few rushing rivers too and thought we would drown, but instead learned to just float through the roughest water.
We've been over 35 years on this trail and we are both stronger now. I plan on continuing on this path until death do we part and Mark says he does too. We've got this.
Pearl Buck wrote, "Nothing in life is as good as the marriage of true minds between man and woman. As good? It is life itself."