This week we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. It made us think about various things that we would like to start addressing in our weekly posts. We began to think about what star is it that we want to follow this year. To do that we know we need to look at where we came from, where we want to go, and then how to live that in the present with each other.
Last year was an interesting year. It was our first year in full retirement. Neither of us had any direct responsibility with jobs or commitments. It gave us a lot of time together, which we would not trade, but also made us aware of some of the differences that we have. Bob has always had a zest for life. He doesn’t do anything unless he can jump in with both feet and give it his all. This past year he has taken lots of time reading information about the current political climate in the U. S., riding his bike for several hours several days a week, redesigning and building our deck, and helping an organization in which we are involved redesign its website. I, on the other hand have always had a way of helping others; I can listen to others, gently challenge them, affirm and encourage them. This year I listened to a friend as I walked with her, gave care to our son and a friend when they had surgery, started texting and emailing with our oldest grandchildren and helped our children, their spouses and grandchildren when they needed someone to listen to them. These qualities in each of us helped us to be the best teachers that we could be. We also have used these qualities to enhance our marriage and help it to be a marriage that others emulate. Our challenge this year is to enhance our separateness and use that to continue to make us one. The challenge will be to find things that we can do as an individual and yet things that we can do together to foster the unity of our Sacrament of Marriage.
For me, the challenge will include how to use my ability to love and support Bob as he tries to live out some of the new passions that have emerged in his life, while doing things that continue to allow me to grow and develop as a person. The call to unity does not mean we have to merge into one entity. It means we are one in mind, heart and affection. Oneness in mind means we have God at the center of our marriage. God is at the center of all that we do in all the areas of our marriage whether it is finances, time, or involvements. To honor, worship and praise God gives purpose and direction to all that we do. Oneness in heart means that our focus is always on the other. We made a commitment on our wedding day to love each other until one of us dies. My heart has to always have as its focus that commitment. That doesn’t mean I can’t take on projects of my own, have friends of my own, and be there for others who need me. I am always aware that in all those things that the love I have for Bob and he for me is what allows and enables me to reach out to others. One in affection means that there is no one in my life who comes before Bob. I often find myself saying to friends that, yes I’m willing to do something with you, but I have to check with Bob first to make sure he doesn’t have plans that include me. The challenge of the star for me this year is to look at ways to enhance the unity that we have. The journey to follow that star will include new ways to work together in our ministry to married couples. That will likely include writing projects that we have begun and that are still running around in our heads. Hopefully we will also have opportunities to speak in person to various groups of married couples. The journey to follow that star will include spending time with our children and grandchildren, in person and through various means of communication; sharing in the ups and downs of their lives, being parents when they need us to be. One of the ways we foster unity in our marriage is to always have a future that we look forward to. This year that future will likely include travel- some for leisure and some to reconnect with old friends. One new challenge for us is to work together on a dream that we both have shared, but especially Bob has had since he was a teen, to in some way be involved with the economically poor. We have been offered the opportunity to teach in Haiti for a few weeks next fall. It will require me to get out of my comfort zone and to be there with Bob as he makes a long held desire a reality.
As Rita said, we are looking ahead toward the New Year with the Epiphany and a star in our vision. As I look back at 2011 I am encouraged that we reached forty five years of marriage and still found ways to keep building our relationship. It wasn’t just one thing, but a particular technique we are using more and more in our conversations helps our lives to run smoothly stands out. We have each become more sensitive to the subjects, phrases and questions that bring out defensiveness in the other and have started to use that awareness to defuse the reaction in the other. Often, when Rita asks me a question about something I am doing, my tendency is to think that she disapproves, and I become defensive. More and more, she starts her question with “I’m not criticizing, I’m just looking for information.” It helps to avoid what could be tense moments. I didn’t start out to do this, but you can take this as my relationship building tip from 2011.
In this past year of being together with few individual commitments, we spent a lot of time together and generally had a good time writing and presenting new programs. I also spent a good bit of time working on some of the things that needed to be done around the house, spending most of June upgrading our deck and other projects. Being together so much more than we have in the past has also served to make us more aware of our differences. Rita is always interested in helping people in their relationships and in their personal lives, and she is very good at it. She is less interested in politics, scientific advancements and the governance of the Church than I am. I tend to live in a world of ideas and the moral consequences of behaviors based on ideas. I have much less confidence in my ability to help others in their personal lives.
This brings me to the star that I hope to follow this year. Like Rita, I hope to bring us to a greater unity while enhancing and celebrating our differences. We have each started a writing project which is primarily ours, although the other will be involved at certain stages. It allows each of us to pursue personal interests while supporting and being supported by the other. Rita seems to find ways to support others in her ordinary interactions with them. I can support her by listening as she talks about those encounters and I am always eager to do so, but it remains her special gift.
The effect of my intensity on Rita is sometimes overwhelming for her and that has become more obvious as we spend more time together. As I have completed commitments to my college retirees association and have stopped teaching part-time, I have begun to realize that I have lost connections with people who share my passions. I realize that I need to again find ways express this for the good of others and let Rita have the role of supporter in the things I do, rather than sharing directly in them. I’m not sure where this will lead me/us, but I find myself getting very excited about the prospect of teaching a course for a university in Haiti.
The one thing we know that to follow the star means we have to identify and follow the passions that we have. Following those passions will once again renew our commitment to be one in mind and heart and affection. The discussion we had before we began to write this week in some ways was an epiphany. We thank God for once again for being Emmanuel, God with us.
So this year is time for us to each pursue our passions, while supporting the other in theirs and stopping periodically to celebrate what we do. We also plan to share our common interests and passions for supporting other marriages and traveling together.
We hope that you will have a great year doing what you each love and celebrating your differences, as well as sharing the joy of being together.
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Bob & Rita Boeke are:
Authors: Forever and a Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage that Lasts a Lifetime
Presenters of Marriage Enrichment Programs. Info at http://readabookpress.com
Bloggers at http://thewonderofmarriage.com
Contact us: email@example.com or 847.204.1151
Retirement can be a time of stress for marriages. Has your parish or group considered an enrichment program for seniors? Check out our program: Aging Joyfully Together.