This weekend I celebrate my second wedding anniversary. That might not sound like such a big deal for a woman my age, unless you know the story behind it. In 1958 I met a new friend who would be my buddy from second grade through high school graduation. No crushes, no warm fuzzies – just buddies. Fifty (yes, 5-0!) years later we ran into each other on the internet, had our first date in March 2008, and were married August 1, 2008. Talk about the Year of Jubilee! After a long term marriage saturated in domestic violence and abuse, followed by discovering the second husband was a bigamist, it took a long time to venture back into trusting my heart to love. . . like 17 years of long time. Nobody was more surprised than me when it all happened. I never would have believed being happily married would be so simple! I have done pastoral counseling, been a pastor to a large group of singles and spoken publicly on the topic of choices in relationships. While I’m not a marriage counselor, per se, I can, however, relate through my own personal experience what does not (did not) work in the past, what works for me now, and how great it is to find happiness every day of my life.
Considering I’m in my late 50s, it took long enough to get here, and it did not come easily, but the wait has been well worth it. Let’s look at what did not work for me in the past, and what does work for me now: (For clarity, we’ll label the early years as B.D. – Before Divorce)
Trust: It was impossible to trust someone who was dependent upon alcohol to make it through the day, and matters were only more complicated with ongoing infidelity. No trust means no happiness, not true deep-rooted happiness. Being married to someone I trust implicitly has made for a life I only imagined could exist. It gives me an inner peace not having to worry about temper tantrums, abuse, and food or dishes flying through the air and into the wall… Yes, trust is one of the most important building blocks of a happy relationship.
Humor: There’s not much to laugh about when you are constantly walking on eggshells, trying not to convince yourself that all the derogatory and defamatory things being said TO you ABOUT you are not true when you are attacked with verbal abuse. Walking around your home in constant fear of what will be the next trigger to set someone off makes for an unhappy home life. I don’t think a single day has passed during this two-year relationship/marriage that we have not laughed, and usually it is uproarious laughter. It makes me happy to make him happy, and vice versa.
Co-consideration: I suppose it’s simply The Golden Rule in action. There were times I would feel so slighted that I never got a choice in what we’d be watching on television for the evening (B.D.). Okay, some people may enjoy tractor pulls and WWF Wrestling, but I’m more of a NatGeo and Lifetime fan. It never made much difference to request watching something special, since the controller of the remote ruled the programming schedule. Now, if I don’t care to watch the golf tournament or drag racing on Sunday afternoon, it’s okay for me to sit at the computer and write, or read/edit a book. It’s really no big deal, because he kindly asks, “Is there something you’d rather watch?” Maybe there is, but just the very fact he would ASK makes all the difference in the world. We may tease about how I don’t care for his Star Trek marathons, or his top fuel quarter mile races, just as well as joking around about some of the chick flicks I request, but it’s always give and take, and that’s nice. That makes me feel UNdefensive…makes me happy.
Faith: In my “now” life, we have faith in God and we have faith in one another. We also have faith in our marriage and relationship. We’ve both been through rough times and bad marriages, so it only enables us to appreciate the fact neither takes the other for granted. We have known unhappiness, and we guard our joy with our very hearts and lives.
Sex: You knew this was coming, didn’t you? Are there nights I come home from work tired and uninterested? I’m sure the same holds true for men, too. But to hear such words as, “I just want to enjoy my wife,” gives me an inner reassurance that it is not just a pony ride, but rather a time to express in the most intimate manner our love for each other, and that’ll crank my tractor every time. To feel wanted and desired, rather than, as in the past, considered for a quick bone jumping session, makes all the difference in the world to me (and most ladies – so guys, take notes!), and for a much more pleasurable sex life.
Giving: This does not always mean gifts or spending money. Yes, I think most women love to be surprised with a card and/or roses, but, just last weekend I gave my husband a sweet card telling him how much I love and value him. It’s reciprocation. How can he give to me? Seeing him take out the garbage twice a week before going to bed without being reminded – I think he’s brilliant! His shoulders get tense, so I massage them. We give of, from and through ourselves to each other, we give memories to one another…it’s the little things that count the most (again, guys, this is a big one!)
Self-worth. What didn’t work? B.D., I had no self-esteem at all and was convinced I was useless and of no value to any man. It took me nearly 18 years of being single before I reached the point I was ready to open that front door and let another man walk into my life. But, for 15 or so of those years I spent time searching and uncovering my true self-worth. I had to become whole and valuable before I was fit to offer myself to someone else. I surely didn’t want him bringing a set of Samsonite baggage full of his own junk into the relationship, so I had no right to think it was okay for me to do it, either. I imagine he had been working on developing his own self-esteem, as well.
Love: A no-brainer, huh? Do you realize how many marriages exist in the world today without any love in them? Or, perhaps one of the parties has and gives all the love, and the other party is just sitting around trying to find a way out. Love is being the kind of person you want. I taught the singles over and over this nugget: Become the kind of person you want to be with, because you will attract what you are, not what you want. If you are a critical person, guess what? That’s what you will attract. Perhaps they won’t come across that way at first. After all, when we first meet, we always put on our best game face, but at some point you want to stop with the games and get down to real life. The Bachelor’s recent public interview with Jake and Vienna, regarding their breakup, is a perfect example of looking closely at the entire package, not just the wrapping on the outside, no matter how big the bow is!
Marriage is a lot like the stock market. Sometimes it feels like the bottom has fallen out, but if you will continue to invest and make the best of the time, it will usually recover – not always, but usually. It might take the help of a counselor, but there is no greater treasure than a happy, fulfilling marriage. I waited a very long time, and it has been worth every single moment.