Two Boldly Go
Nearly 39 years ago my husband Pete and I together took a bold step – a big chance – in marrying each other. At the time, I remember loving him, but being really unsure about what I was doing. Sure, he was funny and smart, he loved me and showed me that, he was wonderful in every way. But tie myself to someone for life? That seemed risky, but exciting. I loved and trusted him, so I did it anyway.
To say I’ve never regretted it might be too strong, but I don’t remember ever regretting that decision. There were times when it didn’t seem as brilliant a move as it had in the beginning. I’m sure there were many more of these for him, since I’m pretty sure I’m still the only-child brat that I was then, and he is, and always has been, the rock, the compromiser, the grace-giver in our marriage.
In any case, on November 11, 1978, we got hitched.
I have a terrible memory – one of my worst flaws (and there are many!) but I remember a little about that day, and the days that followed. Bear with me as I journey down memory lane at bit. I promise to make a point here that some of you can resonate with.
Our honeymoon in Florida went by at light speed and we were soon home in Harrisburg, only to be floored within a few months by my husband losing his job. Probably the first of our serious challenges in our first two years, this one necessitated our packing up (for the first time) and moving to the Pittsburgh area. Although Pete had landed on his feet and had a wonderful job there, over time there were other challenges, and our next move led us to Huntington, West Virginia.
At the time, it was just life. As I look back, these were golden years in many respects. We became part of a group of young newspaper people at the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, all of us young, fun, hungry to make a difference. Life was an adventure. There were no kids.
Until there were. Our oldest son, Nicholas, was born during this time, and life changed forever.
Four years and four more moves, and his brother Michael joined him. Life was now very different. And so were we. The somewhat laissez-faire couple had turned into parents. Old people. Mortgage holders.
I drove a station wagon.
In some ways, our marriage was on hold: So many things seemed more important. It was never bad – we never thought we were miserable or contemplated separating, but I remember feeling disconnected, even disinterested to some degree. My job as a stay-at-home mom – though I was grateful to have it -- seemed overwhelming. Who was this guy who came home every night and actually thought I should have cleaned and cooked some during the day? Everything seemed very different. Not bad, really, but not connected, either.
Fast forward through lots of kid stuff, through challenges of health, disability and parental decline. We had many “sandwich” years when our kids needed us and one or the other of our parents did, too. Then we both went back to get terminal degrees – Pete a doctorate and me two master’s degrees. All were challenges in their own right, but we’d learned a bit in the earlier years about how to roll with them. These years were busy, distracted; but we were not as disconnected as previously because we’d actually started to think about our marriage. We still had a way to go, but we were on the path.
Boldly we’ve stepped into the current years of our marriage. This time, we’d reflected some, connected lots, and fallen in love all over again. Because of the vagaries of life we’d been able to apply resources we’d never had previously to growing our love for each other – we can now travel, we have a great degree of independence, we love to be together even if we’re just making a Target run.
Often I reflect on my choices and how they’ve affected my life over the years. During those disconnected times, I didn’t perceive I had the time to make different choices, to choose connection over distance, to discover what was truly the right priority and pursue that. I deeply regret that. Those were not by any means bad years, but they could have been better. I could have chosen to connect and not just be busy, to love deeply instead of going through the motions.
When you’re young, self-centered and busy, sometimes you let the trees get in the way of the forest. What’s really important is the bond you share with another. This deserves the full focus of your attention, at all stages of marriage.
By the grace of God, by this, the fortieth year of our marriage, we’ve had the chance to redeem all that. Now our priority is to connect, to love deeply, to be together. I often regret time spent in other pursuits, even worthy ones. I hate to be away from Pete, even sometimes just for the day. I love times when we can just spend the day together, not even doing anything special, but being together.
Suck it up. Stick it out. Choose wisely, but always toward relationship and connection. Turn toward each other, even when you’re exhausted and not feeling it. Reconnect when you’ve let life get between you. This marriage thing is precious, and not to be squandered.
Act boldly and out of step with our throwaway culture. Boldly go … and love, cherish, support and connect. It’s not always easy, but it’s so worth it.