Friday, May 2, 2014

MY REFLECTIONS ON 37 YEARS OF MARRIAGE-or LIFE AS ART

Our Wedding Day in 1977
Left: Our Wedding Day May 1, 1977
Note: I published this as a Facebook note and was avalanched with responses. I thought maybe I should share it more broadly, so here you go!

May 1st 2014 was our 37th wedding anniversary.

My goodness, has it been that long? We chose May 1st because it is Lei Day in Hawaii and brought fond memories of my childhood there. I thought when we hit 25 that was really something, and of course by today’s standards, it was! So here we are 12 years later at #37. Wow. We feel blessed and proud to have gotten here.So how does one manage to hit such a milestone? I’m trying to figure it out myself! It really does not feel like 37 years at all. I know one thing’s for sure, its an adventure and it’s work. Here are my musings on a few things that have worked for us… if anyone cares to listen to an old married lady.

1. WE DECIDED.
We started out as hippies and rebels. Our wedding was not a traditional American wedding. In fact it was a Hindu ceremony. Non-traditional though it was, we’ve always felt we made a promise to each other. We made a firm decision back then that stuck, and we continue to decide to keep it. We took responsibility for one another and decided to see it through. There have been many, many times each of us wanted to change our minds. Many times we thought “Oh hell! That was dumb!”, but we’ve always changed it back. Have we made all each other’s dreams come true? Oh, hell no! But we’ve made many of them come true, and we continue to work together on new ones all the time. Now if my husband had turned out to be a drug dealer or an ax murderer I would have had no qualms in making a change, but thankfully he was no such thing. One cannot expect a good crop if one is constantly wandering to new fields. We planted our seeds and saw to the crops we had sown, then worked new fields together. Everyone has their own decisions to make, but that is what we decided.


2. WE’RE VERY GOOD FRIENDS & WE CULTIVATE OUR FRIENDSHIP.
We agree on enough things to make it work. We don’t agree on everything. There have been times when we actually freaked people out because we’d have a roaring argument about some difference of opinion… politics, money, food etc. We're quite capable of having an impassioned debate. People didn’t always know that we simply did this from time to time and that we are quite capable of having a wild discussion of ideas and then dropping it and happily moving on to the next thing. We do like to spend time in each other’s company. We can drive for hours (and often do) and talk the whole time or simply say nothing for miles and miles. We can have it either way and be very comfortable and secure in each other’s presence. There are many little things that annoy us about the other all the time. So what! Those are small things most of the time. The bigger things we recognize and cherish. After many years together, it’s also quite cool to have a partner who knows your history because he’s been there for most of it. When I say “Do you remember that person…..?” He does, because he was there, and I do the same for him. There’s something wonderful about that, and the sharing of mutual long time friends as well.


3. WE SUPPORT EACH OTHER IN OUR INDIVIDUAL PASSIONS.
Bob has always, always validated and supported my love of and time put into the arts. Not once has he ever said it’s trivial, silly or criticized the area. I made a pact with him years ago on road trips. I said I want to be able to stop the car at any time if I want to photograph, sketch something, or take a side road for the hell of it just to explore. I had a father who would not even stop for bathroom stops and this was a big deal for me. This is just one of many examples of his constant encouragement and validation of what is important to me. In return, Bob’s passion for scuba diving, guns, certain political and humanitarian activities are whole-heartedly supported by me even if I don’t fully understand them at the time. We also allow one another the space to create our individual interests without requiring any input from the other. If I want to go do something that I know isn’t Bob’s thing, I go find someone to do it with or get quite comfortable being alone and vice versa. We don’t expect each other to be our entertainment all the time. There are also things that we do just because it will make the other happy even though it might not be our own thing. This is part of the give and take or “exchange” in the relationship.


4. WE LEARN NEW SKILLS AND DO MAINTENANCE AS NEEDED
For us, this has been counseling and training at our church when needed and airing any transgressions we had against one another or the relationship in a safe supportive environment. Long ago we agreed to make sure we made time to create space to completely and safely communicate anything at all to one another, and this was the best way to do it. This also gave us the experience, stability and training to do it for ourselves when needed. We did courses on communication, finance and other things together to give us stability and make sure we were on the same page. In addition, we made time to have dates even when we had no money. Coffee at McDonald's or picnics when that was all we could afford. Times when we give each other our full attention without any distraction from phones, children when they were little, television, computers etc. etc. It’s amazing what absolute full undivided attention can do for a relationship, and it doesn’t take much time as long as its full attention. People spend time and money to maintain their cars, their homes, their own bodies,their computers and gadgets and forget to run maintenance on their relationships, but it is so very important.

5. WE CIRCLE OUR WAGONS AND GUARD WHO IS ALLOWED INTO OUR INNER CIRCLE.
We don’t talk about our relationship challenges with others unless they are chosen advisers, or trusted family and friends that might be affected. Anytime we’ve violated that it has been destructive. There’s no reason to talk about our personal challenges with anyone who cannot actually help us, and certainly not with people who have no reality on us or our relationship or any experience and expertise to contribute.There are just a very few people that I would discuss my husband with in any meaningful way. Our laundry does not need to be aired and anytime that either of us have felt inclined to do so, or to complain about the other, it has always been because the person wanting to complain is actually the person who has done something wrong. Since we both know that truth, it makes it easy for us to find and fix what is happening. This advice rule especially applied to taking advice on marriage, children, or money.The first rule was never take advice from someone with a poor or non-existent personal track record in the area. I learned early not to take advice on rearing children from non-parents. No offense to my non-parent friends, it was just something we decided that has saved us much time and worked for us. Same for seeking advice on relationships from someone with a poor relationship record-it just didn’t make sense. It is also not cool to offer unsolicited advice to others either when they haven’t asked for it, we try not to do that. Even if the other might be wrong, we do not correct each other in public on important matters. This is one I had to learn, and my husband deserves medals for getting through my learning curve! It is still something I work on. Bottom line is,share only good news about your relationship with most people and keep your own counsel, and choose any trusted advisers or mentors very carefully. Anyone betraying our trust is handled individually, or dropped quietly. We guard each other’s backs and take disputes up privately. We try to broadcast only funny or good news about ourselves.

6. LAUGH & PLAY TOGETHER
We laugh a lot! Even in moments of stress. I laugh at his dumb jokes and he laughs when I burn dinner. I laugh when he forgets to take out the garbage and he laughs when I lose my glasses and has to find them for me. We laugh at ourselves and at each other’s foibles. We cultivate a sense of humor and don’t sweat the small stuff. We don’t cultivate any humor that is degrading or demeaning to one another. We create games to play with each other and have friendly competitions at times. We’re always encouraging each other to smile and laugh, one cannot have too much of that.


7. WE ALWAYS PUT EACH OTHER FIRST, EVEN BEFORE CHILDREN AND FAMILY.
I used to tell our boys, “Your Dad comes first because he was here first. Without him, there would be no you in the family. As long as he and I put each other first then we have the strength together to put the two of you 2nd.” This may not work for everyone, but it worked well for us. We had more to give them as a united couple. We also knew one day our kids would be grown, and it would be, God willing, back to just the two of us. In addition, neither of us put our families (parents and siblings) before the other. That way we’ve been able to have the support of the other in relating to our families. Bob’s support through the deaths of each of my parents for example was absolute and vice versa. Personally I think that came from the strength of our commitment to one another and without that basic agreement things can get a little weird. It’s the same with our grown children, they are not in competition with my husband, which allows us together to make them a priority. I also expect each of my sons to make their own partners their first priority, and we encourage them to do so.We have awesome sons and though we cannot take all the credit, I think the above helped.


8. WE PUT PEOPLE AND TIME TOGETHER BEFORE THINGS.
I always told Bob “I’m a less homes, more gardens & travels kind of girl.” I only need enough home to create a home base from which to operate and leave my things. This might be because I’m a military brat who moved a lot. I have plenty of nice “things” and I love my home filled with family heirlooms and memories, but I’d rather collect experiences than things. Before we had kids I was a clean freak. I drove Bob nuts when anything was out of place. Well that doesn’t work so well with children, and I soon learned that spending time with husband and kids was more important than a spotless home. The dishes can wait until toddlers are in bed, guests leave, or you’ve had that glass of wine on the porch with your mate. We also made it more important to DO things together than to have the newest furniture or gadgets. I’d much rather spend money on a trip to Hawaii or Colorado than have a new sofa or floor, and fortunately he would too. I don’t remember all my sofa’s nearly as fondly as I do time spent traveling together as a family or couple. It’s the same with going out to eat. Though we’ve enjoyed many meals at many fine restaurants, I’d rather spend the money on a couple of tanks of gas and pack a picnic to eat on a mountain trail or sit at the rim of the Grand Canyon.Fortunately he feels the same way. Flowers? Absolutely, but this lady prefers a living plant I can stick in the ground! Adventures? Yes! We’ve had many big ones, in many countries, but it’s the weekly and monthly ones that keep us going. Time and experiences together are the most precious.

9. WE CULTIVATE GOOD MANNERS WITH EACH OTHER.
We say please and thank you. We say hello when we get home, good morning when we wake up, goodnight when we go to bed, and good by when we leave. We acknowledge each other. There are very few meals Bob hasn’t thanked me for, and there are very few chores I haven’t thanked him for. It sets the tone of mutual validation and appreciation and makes daily life so much more pleasant.

10. TIPS FOR THE LADIES:
I’m not a man, so these are merely the observations of a woman with a husband and two grown sons. Take it or leave it as you will.
A. It has been my observation that men don’t generally like unsolicited advice. I learned this the hard way. As wives and moms we’re so involved in solving everyone’s problems all the time that it becomes a habit to tell everyone what to do! since I've been a manager or executive most of my working life, this was especially hard to learn it does not work at home. I had to learn to remove from my vocabulary the words “I think what you should do is…..” and learn to ask instead “What do you think you should do?” or, “Do you need or want anything from me on this?” I actually practiced it in front of a mirror for awhile. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or you have the answer, that is simply not the point. It has no value unless they asked for it.

B. Conversely, I let my partner know when I DON’T want him to solve my problem but simply want to be listened to. Men usually feel compelled to solve things for us even when that’s not what we want. Well at least my men do. They don’t know when I just want to be heard and acknowledged if I don’t tell them.We gals talk an awful lot and I know for me, part of my working something out has to do with being able to talk to someone who will just listen. I had to learn to clue Bob into this, so now I let him know when I just want him to listen and let me know I’ve been heard but not try to solve something for me. He also now knows to ask first.

SUMMARY:
I feel truly blessed to have such a long time loyal friend and mate in Bob. People who see how different we often are on the surface don’t usually understand what our relationship is really about, and that’s also fine with us. How could others know the real agonies and ecstasies we've been through together or the death-beds we've nursed each other back from? There were times over the years when we had “friends” advise us to split up. It’s funny but that advice usually came from people with no experience or a poor relationship record. That policy about who we take advice from on certain subjects has come in very handy over the years. Could things have been different? I’m sure they could have. Did we each give things up to be with and remain with one another? Absolutely. One thing neither of us has had to give up though is our own personal integrity or core values and that is a vital thing to consider in any relationship, personal or otherwise.

In the last year, we have had several friends who have lost their long-time partners. My heart goes out to them. The loss of some of these friends has left a gap in our mutual histories and lives. My husband is 9 years older than me, so I pray we still have many years together, we count each day and week as precious and try not to get too serious about it all.

Everyone is different so I cannot tell people how to get to this milestone nor can I presume that others want to. I can only share a little of our journey and what has worked for us. I can tell you that its quite lovely to have an old friend and lover by my side after all these years, one who knows me so very well, does the best he can, and whom I can count on for the important things. That is quite a nice thing.

Thank you my love for being such a grand and steady partner and friend!

Michele

Note: Bob read this nodding and smiling :) I would never publish this if there was something he didn't agree with, even though I AM the loudmouth in this partnership!!
Below: This year's anniversary roses- some will end up in paintings to be sure.



Left, we still laugh a lot!


Michele Ross is a businesswoman and artist living with her husband in Las Vegas, Nevada.

5 comments:

  1. Wow, this is so validating and inspiring! Thank you for sharing your insight. So much false and misleading data in the world today prevents people from ever achieving the fruits of a time-honored relationship. Rather, we should turn to the veterans of successful relationships for guidance. Thank you!

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  2. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

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  3. Gingerlv@gmail.comMay 1, 2017 at 9:48 AM

    Well written from the heart. Enjoyed your point of view and your take on life.

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