Since 1974 we have presented retreats, enrichment days and other programs for married couples. Along the way couples often told us that we should write a book about our experience of marriage. At the urging of our children, we published Forever and a Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage That Lasts a Lifetime in 2009. It hasn’t been a New York Times best seller, but readers like it and have found it a helpful support for their own marriages.
More recently many have encouraged us to start a blog. We chose The Wonder of Marriage because it seems to say a lot about our view of marriage. We often pause to look at each other and muse about how we have managed to stay so deeply in love and committed to each other for so long. In this and future blogs we will explore the wonder of this commitment and what we think has helped us to live it out for more than forty years.
Recently, “Time” magazine, in its cover story, reported that increasing numbers of people are choosing to merely live together or parent a child without being married. A family life minister last year told us that she thinks we have only ten years left to “save” marriage. Young people still dream of marriage and many are fascinated by the marriages of celebrities. So why are so few getting married? The joy and wonder found in happy marriages seems to be lost. In this blog, we are dedicated to making the wonders of marriage visible again. We are convinced that the world would be a better place if the benefits of the love and joy of married couples were recognized and considered desirable.
After all these years we find that there is much about our marriage relationship and much that we see in marriages around us that is wonder-ful. We had lunch today with friends who have lived fifty years of marriage during much of which they have dealt with serious health problems. They raised two children who presented them with many challenges. In spite of this they have been involved in the lives of others and their church, particularly in support of other marriages. Now well into their 70s, we see a joy and enthusiasm for each other that is an inspiration to us. After participating in our workshops a young couple spoke about their great enthusiasm for their future together and a couple married fifty years, with delightful smiles on their faces, informed us that they had discovered that they are perfect for each other. The wonders of marriage are all around us.
I (Rita) have spent much of my adult life as a teacher in Catholic high schools. I often talked about Bob in religion classes. Girls said they wanted a husband like Bob and boys said they wanted the kind of relationship we have. Adults have mused as well. They marveled that, even as long as we have been married, we still are in love and like each other. The teens saw that we don’t take each other and our relationship for granted. Each day requires us to live the promises we made on our wedding day. Bob spent three years teaching with me. While we both taught our classes we did so much more in letting them see the wonder of marriage. As I reflect back it was amazing how quickly we were no longer Mrs. And Mr. Boeke but became “The Boekes”.
As the years pass I think that our marriage has been forever and at the same time it seems like yesterday and I wonder where the years have gone. My life is enriched as I think about how Bob can fix or put together mostly anything, while I struggle to get a candle lighter to work. I wonder at his ability to encourage me and make me believe in myself. Many times he doesn’t say a lot but merely listens to me as I verbalize my thoughts. When we were married, he would not have described himself as a patient person but I’m still in awe at the patience he has with me. It can be as simple as shopping with me while I decide which pair or pairs of shoes to buy, to trying new things in our relationship, or supporting my need to make sure that I have done the right things in other relationships.
(Bob) In my relationship with Rita, there is much that brings wonder – both in questioning: “How did we get here?” and in the awe of: “Wow, I am so blessed to be here!” She is my best friend and I feel loved in her gentle teasing. We have worked at our communication for many years and I can respond when she questions something I do or say without (very much) defensiveness. I love to watch her interactions with other people. I am mesmerized when I listen to her read a bedtime story to a grandchild and know that the child feels warm and cared for on her lap. I like to sneak a peek at her when I am playing with the grandkids and she stands off to the side, obviously enjoying our fun. She says that she must have the word “sucker” written across her forehead. Clerks in stores, people sitting next to her on airplanes and students in her classroom tell her their life stories. People frequently come up to me say: “Your wife is a wonderful person.” They are surprised when I say: “I know, and I get to live with her!” I have grown and become a better person through Rita’s unrelenting insistence that I am a good and loveable person. She gives me the confidence to act and to care for others in ways that I could never have done without her love.
This holiday season we celebrate the wonder of Christmas and the birth of the Christ Child. We encourage you to be aware of God’s love present in your marriage and in the marriages around you.
Have a blessed Christmas,
Rita & Bob
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