If you’re married or have been, think back to one or more of the worst “disagreements” you as a couple experienced. Jim and I had some doozies, but in each case, one or the other of us backed down from having to be “right” and got on with the business of getting along. And after 65+ years, we still love each other.
I’ve learned a thing or two over those years, but the pathway of that knowledge is strewn with brambles and thorns. Currently, Jim has memory problems. Doctors say it’s not Alzheimer’s, that only the frontal or short-term part of his brain is affected. His long-term memory can dig up words and names I’ve long forgotten, but he can’t remember the day and date, which does wear thin. However, measured against what others have had to put up with, I am profoundly grateful.
Many of you out there know exactly what I’m talking about—years of struggling with your partner’s Alzheimer’s, learning new ways to relate, developing patience and even joy in those hard times. Caretaking in serious illness tops this category in many ways—meeting the physical and emotional needs of the helpless and dying. Another category is bad behavior or an unwillingness to fight bad habits or addictions. And need we mention suicides?
What IS marriage in these sorts of situations? Certainly not walking hand in hand into the sunset A marriage that glows may simply be reflecting an unseen crucible of pain and anguish.
Hanging tight to Jesus helps us through that pathway of brambles and thorns. The more we love Him, the more we’re able to love our partner.
Many of my friends are true heroes:
Lowell, Fran, Ward, Connie, Paulette, Al, Ann, Shirley, Helen, Joyce and Joyce, Judy and Judy, Bill and Bill, Dick, John, Marilyn, Ginny.
If your name isn’t on this list but should be, please let me know. Be assured that God knows your name and cares deeply.
Though we are sometimes called to hard things, Jesus did the Really Hard Thing for us—on the cross.
Who are the heroes you have known? Please tell me, either below or on firstname.lastname@example.org.
David, that made me cry! Thank you! Love you both! : )
Yes please!!! I want my name added!!
I’m only half kidding…
Because half of me knows it was bum luck that I married a great guy who would be consistently kind and patient throughout our 43 years of marriage. God’s greatest blessing in my life, as I often remind him. And I truly mean it.
The other half of me knows that I benefited greatly from good role models in my life who actually “taught” me how to be married. Loyal and generous couples who demonstrated the real give-and-take required in healthy relationships. And sometimes the giving is way more than 50-50. Don’t get married if you’re not prepared to sacrifice. My sister recently nursed her husband through brain cancer, and though he lost his battle, her efforts were heroic.
After he died she said, “It was all privilege.”
So now, that’s how I like to think about my marriage. To give love and be loved….travel all of life’s ups and downs together…to trust someone else with your heart?? It’s not perfection. Not even close. But it is all privilege. And I don’t ever want to take that for granted. God has been gracious and he gets all the glory. And I am very grateful.
Sue, you obviously know the ups and downs of “normal” marriage, as well as the heroic ones. Thanks so much for sharing your insights!
My wife and I will be celebrating our 55th anniversary this year, but actually go back to 1957, when we met as teen-age undergraduates. Somehow religion has never been part of the “glue” that keeps our marriage together although I’m sure for some people it’s important; maybe even necessary. Whatever works for people. In our case it’s shared values, a commitment to each other and to our family, and friendship (friends for nine years before we married, and 55 years since). Contrary to what they said in the movie “Love Story,” love IS having to say you’re sorry, especially when the situation warrants.
My mother was a servant by nature, and very evident when she ran a nursing home. My father always served my mother. My mother outlived my father by 45 years. In the end she also had short term memory loss. She could remember her boyfriend when she was 17 yrs old, but not her husband. She could quote bible and poetry learned by memory at age 5, but not remember the details of our conversation 5 minutes ago. On the other hand, all her sons had to call from long distance, and she recognized each son by voice. Switch subject. My best friend in college had some problems with his marriage and tried to leave, but returned. Shortly after that he had Alzheimer’s. His wife served him faithfully for the last ten years of his life, living with that condition. She has been widowed now for about 10 years. I new them both through college and seminary, and then over 50 years that followed. Another best friend (and wife) that I knew through college and seminary years. He served his wife through their last few years, she with cancer. He died a year after her, seated in his living room chair. I am sure of a broken heart.
Bob, you’ve had first-hand experience with the devastation of dementia–on several levels. I’m thankful you still have all your marbles! : )
When I married into a readymade family I was awed by the sheer grandeur of marriage and the joy of having children without waiting for them. I always thought myself a dork when it came to girls and here I was sleeping with the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I was even one of those weirdoes who had never had intimacy before I met my soul mate. Talk about great discoveries. I’d wake up in the morning with her arm around me, the birds outside chirping and the morning sunlight flooding the bedroom. I would talk to God in disbelief that life could possibly be this great. The very idea that I’d lose it all someday in tragedy did not occur to me. But in this writing I would like to explain how we got along. I lived by three simple rules. The first rule I’ll call the 80/20 rule. If I thought that I was at least 20% or greater at fault or was wrong, I took the rap, case closed. Of course this rule was infectious and Mary basically responded in like manner. So you can see that conflict most of the time was avoided or easily resolved. Little problems were easy to ignore. My second rule was to fight cleanly. This meant that no matter how much yelling I did I never called my partner names. In other words I never had to apologize for nasty words and language that I never should have used. Admittedly Mary wasn’t quite as good on this one but she was good enough. The last rule we both followed was we never went on archeological digs. When a fight was over, it was over and that conflict was never brought up again.
We had maybe at most two blow ups a year. It always went like this- We started the argument, tempers would flare and ultimately I would exclaim ”That’s it, I’m on the couch tonight.” And so it was. Mary would approach the couch in the wee hours of the morning, we’d stare at each other and then start laughing at ourselves. Then we’d start a new argument, me insisting that I was the jerk and she arguing that she was the jerk. A few more laughs at our own stupidity and fresh coffee, the day was off to a great start, our angry exchange the night before completely forgotten. These blow ups were actually constructive because they were a valuable test on how functional our marriage really was. They also set a good example for the kids and allowed us both to blow off steam once in awhile which is important for mental health and stress management. I will add one more thing- on very rare occasions a dispute was irresolvable through rational debate. In that case one of us had to assume the dominant position and the other person had to submit. Sorry to be a sexist but that dominate person was me as the male figure and Mary would back down. I think in the natural order of things and generally according to the Bible this is just the way our humanity is wired. Like I said this didn’t happen often and it didn’t mean that I would ultimately be proven right. What’s important is that in a good marriage this should be a last resort. Negotiating our way through life is definitely the more prudent course in maintaining a happy relationship. There can come a time of crisis however when the man of the house needs to grab a hold of the helm and steer the ship out of the storm. Of course this is a generalization and I acknowledge that there are many exceptions because every marriage is unique and faces its own set of challenges.
I am truly sorry, Dick, that Mary is gone, but she continues to live through your words as a vivid example of what marriage is supposed to be. Thanks for sharing this deeply personal story.
Beautifully written… I would write a LONG LONG comment but truly my here is my husband, Solon! I am grateful God placed him in my life. We might not always get along but we get through it together.
Sometimes a few words speak louder than many! Thanks much, Martha!