In this modern world of electronics I (Rita) find myself on a computer news service several times each day. Since we are always looking for something to talk about with each other and to write in our weekly blog, when a lifestyle or relationship story pops up and the title seems interesting, I read it. That is how this week’s blog took shape. I came across the news feed “The 40 best pieces of relationship advice ever” I found it interesting to see who was cited and what they had to say. After some discussion, Bob went through the list and pulled out things he thought were applicable. Then I went through the list and pulled out what I thought was applicable and things we had not posted before. It was interesting that we had five in common and then agreed on the sixth. Here are our thoughts on what we shared in common.
How you live
The key to reviving or divorce-proofing a relationship is not in how you handle disagreements but in how you are with each other when you’re not fighting. – Dr. John Gottman, psychologist and co-founder of the Gottman Institute in Seattle
We believe that if you have the other foremost in your mind and not yourself then whatever comes up as a disagreement can be handled. We apply it ourselves and tell others that neither of you can fight to be right but when we disagree and a fight is necessary we are fighting for our relationship. We have to live for our relationship and for the other. When we do that we are rewarded in ways we don’t expect. It is in that mindset that I have become the person I am, a woman who can stand on her own two feet when necessary but knowing that my strength comes from being loved.
My experience of the truth in this statement is that being able to relate to each other and have good and interesting times is an incentive to work through a fight and get back to the good times. We just finished a great discussion about a book Rita is reading. Discussions like that, good times grocery shopping and finding new foods, friendly competition watching Wheel of Fortune and the many other things we enjoy together are far too valuable to lose in petty bickering or even in major differences on an important topic.
“Life has taught us that love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” – Antoine De Saint-Exupery, legendary French pilot and author
Gazing at each other has its time and place. It reminds us of the love and attraction we have for each other. It gives us confidence to be vulnerable, to be intimate and be strong. Yet if that is all we did in our marriage it would not have taken the form that it has. We talked about this before we were married–what we thought we would do as individuals but more importantly together to spend the love that we have. We continued and continue to do so throughout our years together. We each have an individual bucket lists, but we also have a couple one. Some of it is silly things like kissing in each state we visit others are more serious like writing a book together and doing a service trip together. While we have some individual things we have done, had we not also had an outward focus in the same direction our marriage would be quite different. I can’t say we would no longer be married, but constantly looking together at what there still is left to do draws us closer, feeds discussion, adds to our life experiences and help us to gaze at each other with real meaning, not infatuation.
While we do often look at our marriage and how we relate to each other, the life in our marriage comes in looking outward. It is a source of joy to spend time with our children and grandchildren, sometimes together, but also separately. We also get back together and enjoy sharing with each other the separate conversations and activities we have had with family members. Sometimes looking outward in the same direction involves an activity or service that one of us does with other in the background for support and encouragement. Right now, I am planning a trip to Haiti to teach a seminar. Rita is very supportive and gives me a place to voice my struggles and concerns about what I am trying to do. She looks toward Haiti with the same concern for the Haitian people, even though it is my project.
Love makes you better
“I love you, not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning, English poet
If I could have chosen one quote among the forty, this one would be number one or two. I have no doubt that I have become the person I am because of Bob’s love for me and his desire to include me in his dreams and goals. He has loved me, supported me, challenged me, helped to heal me, taught me many things, encourages me to try knew things. From that I have done the same for him and a myriad of other people who are or have been in my life. It is what makes life worth living.
I have no doubt that I am a better person because Rita is in my life. That happens in many ways, but I will mention two. Sometimes she encourages me and inspires me. At other times she lets me know that I am out of line in some way. Often she forces me to look at a situation in a different way and helps me to clarify my thinking. Sometimes she just calms me down with a squeeze on my leg when I am getting too caught up in winning a discussion.
Love at every sight
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Mignon McLaughlin, American journalist and author
How different our world would be if this is how couples lived. We believe that love is not merely a feeling it is a decision. Making the decision to love is what enables me/us to fall in love over and over but always with the same person. Bob used to joke that his college roommate once said that just because I’m on a diet doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu. This reminds me of how I’ve lived my life. I have taught, had friendships with, worked with and engaged in conversations with numerous men but never have I fallen in love with any of them. Each phase of our marriage and sometimes each day has given me the opportunity to discover anew, renew and and find new things to love about Bob. Our lives have been a constant journey of discovery but always with the same person.
I find it easy to fall in love again with Rita and it happens often. I will just share the moment I have been most aware of recently. When it became clear that I would go back to Haiti, I asked Rita if she would go with me, knowing that she is not enthusiastic about doing so. Her quick response was: “I won’t let you go alone.” In that moment I felt loved and fell in love with her again as I have so may times before. It says so much to me about her love and caring.
This quote was one we both commented that we really liked. None of us want to think of ourselves as cowards but it made me wonder if marriages fail because the two people in it are cowards. They don’t have the courage or strength to face what needs to be faced. Things get piled up, overlooked, or ignored until there is nothing to do but walk away. Two thoughts came to mind. A quote from the opening of the Star Trek TV series. “to boldly go where no man [or woman] has gone before” This should be the mantra that we use when we get married, rather than to just live happily every after. Marriage does require us to go where we have never gone before and to do so boldly. The other is the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz who heads to the Emerald City in pursuit of courage–yet he demonstrates his considerable valor along the way. If we take time as happy, successfully married couples I’m sure we can all look back and discover the same. We all want the courage to stay together and face together whatever comes our way and when we look back we can see that we have done just that.
This saying brought a quick chuckle, but when I started to think about it, I began to realize how often in a relationship we need courage to keep it strong. Here are several things that come to mind. Admitting I am wrong. Letting Rita know that something is bothering me, when I am unsure how she will respond. Deciding to ride my bike home after a spill (with some injuries) when I knew she would be unhappy with me for not calling her to come and get me. At least she didn’t try to stop me from riding, altogether. Telling her that I am going to do something that is important to me, even though I know she disapproves. Situations come up all the time, but I can say that it has gotten easier through the years as we have grown in confidence about the strength of our relationship.
Appreciate the space between
“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
In a book I’ve been reading lately a young woman about to get married is contemplating what her name will be when she gets married and when she thinks about the two becoming one, she asks which one. While we have striven to be one in mind and heart and affection and have moments when we believe we have been truly one, there is no doubt that there is an infinite distance between us. We have different views on things, different ways to express those differences, different personalities, different ways of expressing our emotions and spirituality, and have different things in life that we like to persue to name a few. Yet it is in the living side and loving the differences that I think is the secret to growing more in love each day.
In this quote I am reminded that we can be very close and can at times achieve a sense of oneness – two in one flesh – but I can also sit back and see the separate and complete person that Rita is. I love to sit a across a room and see her interact with a child or grandchild and appreciate that her relationship with them is different from mine. I enjoy the intellectual differences that allow us to see an issue from different points of view and acknowledge that she saw something important that I missed. Recognizing her separate personhood allows me support her in things she does separately from me and to rejoice in her accomplishments. I try to be her biggest fan as she is for me
We hope you will read through the quotes, perhaps looking at what strikes you as describing your relationship and talk about what the two of you think is important in your marriage. We’ve enjoyed doing so. We wish the same for you. As always feedback or comments are appreciated.
Today’s scripture readings, reflection and prayer:
Bob & Rita’s book: Forever and Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage That Lasts a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com or by contacting us. Also available for Kindle and Nook. Make a retreat with your spouse, at home, on your time. Readings, relationship tips, questions for discussion.