Our daughter recently gave us a very fine compliment. Discussing her day over dinner one night, she reported that her high school “Issues” class was studying marriage. The teacher had told the students that a successful marriage has three elements: friendship, intimacy and passion.
“That’s you guys,” she said, looking toward her father and me. “I raised my hand,” she continued, “because I had lots of examples to share.”
I was thrilled, both because of the compliment, and because she has been observing what her parents are trying to teach to her and to her brothers. My first, greatest, and longest lasting joy in life is my husband.
My children, of course, are my heart. They are as much a part of me as an arm or leg. Their joys are my joys; their sorrows are my sorrows (generally multiplied by a factor of two) and their fears are my fears (generally multiplied by a factor of ten). But my husband is the source of most of the good things in my life, and has been for more than the past 30 years.
As the “Issues” teacher said, the basis of a successful marriage is friendship. According to the late, great Ann Landers, “Love is friendship that has caught fire.” That is indeed what happened in our case. We met sophomore year of college as part of a large group living in the same dorm. When I started making my interest known, it was his fear for our valued friendship that made him hesitate. However, after throwing myself at him (there is no more glamorous way to describe it), I wore down his resistance.
Yet as our relationship grew, the friendship remained at the very core. He has been at my side through medical school, residency, work, the births of four children, the struggles we have shared with our children over their challenges, not to mention countless Little League games, Back-to-School nights, and dance recitals. Eight years ago when I stepped out of the MRI scanner and told him that I had brain tumor, his first words were, “I wish it were me.”
There is no one I would rather be with, talk to, read with, or watch football with. We are about a micron apart on the political spectrum, but have managed to have countless heated discussions about it, nonetheless.
Intimacy is also a vital quality for a successful marriage. I can share anything with my husband, including every fear and every embarrassment. He is always in my corner. I can also expect good advice. Although I’d like to tell you that he agrees with everything I do, the truth is a bit different. He’s not afraid to gently chide me, or counsel me to approach a situation differently. He’s a much nicer person than I am; in fact, he’s the nicest person I know, so that makes his advice and criticism easier to take.
There are additional components beyond the three that the “Issues” teacher discussed. Commitment and compromise are vital. A lifetime together involves a lot of momentous decisions, and the ability to compromise is necessary to smooth the way. For example, my husband thought he wanted two children, and I wanted four. So we compromised on four and he is very happy that we did.
That issue aside, there have been a lot of compromises: about careers, about work hours, about whose needs will be met when. If you can’t compromise, a marriage can be sunk. And when compromise seems very distant, commitment to the relationship, to making sure that everything works out, and to hanging on even when it seems like it might not, can tide you over to better times.
Everyone knows about the passion part of marriage. What I didn’t know 30 years ago was that the passion only increases. The boy I married because I liked, loved and was attracted to him is now the man who held my hand in labor, who tenderly nurtured our children, who supported me through my personal crises and who has become a respected and admired professional. I still like him, I certainly love him, and I am more attracted to him than ever, but even that does not adequately express the passion I feel for him more than 30 years after he captured my heart.
I am the luckiest woman alive, and I know it. He made all of my dreams come true, including the most the most important one. He showed me that true love is real.
The lyrics from the old standard, I Remember You, convey my feelings best:
When my life is through,
And the angels ask me to recall
The thrill of them all.
I will tell them I remember you.