Thursday, September 26, 2013
On my Grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary I asked them what they thought you needed to have a lasting marriage. My grandfather did not even hesitate; he said "you need to be stubborn." My grandmother scolded him. She may have reacted that way out of her desire to impart a romantic notion onto us or maybe she was pissed off that my grandfather answered first. Regardless that answer has stuck with me for years. To be honest I think it has been the idea that influenced me writing this blog on my 16th wedding anniversary.
Let me qualify what I took stubbornness in a marriage to be when my grandfather said it. I instantly thought that you have to love stubbornly. Dig your heels in and love even when it is hard. I don't want this to be confused with loving naïvely; that is a totally different thing. For me it has meant loving through the disappointments in life and practicing how to do that until you get it right. I have definitely had to adjust my approach and reaction on this one (it is still requiring some fine tuning). There were disappointments of varying degrees and intensities throughout this marriage. For instance having to walk away from the house we couldn't afford or staying at the job that left us unfulfilled because we had to pay the bills. It was also the clashing personalities when it came to philosophies on saving and spending money or parenting styles.
When you are a new couple or even newly engaged no-one talks about the disappointments or loving stubbornly. Imagine that wedding toast! On the other hand maybe we would have been more prepared when we had doubts about the legitimacy of our fairy tale. It may have been easier to accept and adapt to reality instead of question our compatibility.
We had to find a way to love through the hurtful disappointment and that was harder than the "simple" disappointment. Initially hurt meant not meeting the others expectations of a partner and friend. Maybe it was spending more hours at work then at home or confiding in a friend before telling your spouse. There were bigger hurts too, ones that left scars. It was those times when we really had to love stubbornly while respecting what the other was feeling as they processed the source of hurt. It included doing whatever it took to be fully present and hoping that when they resurfaced from the pain they remained just as stubborn.
The hardest was remaining stubborn through the sadness and grief. At first when you are stricken with loss you think that you will cling to each other and make it through to the other side as one another's life boat. Then your grief starts rubbing together, causing friction and opening the wounds. The way each partner copes with grief is different because you are both unique. It can feel like a solitary experience and how can you possibly save someone when you are drowning too? What the grief and loss means can be fundamentally different in a relationship and how do you navigate that? For us we had to learn how to love stubbornly with a respect for the individual experience in our common loss.
Loving stubbornly has meant making time for the couple in our family and it has been the biggest learning curve. Remember that couple who loved one another and it transformed into the creation of those little kidlets that have taken over the house? We have had to figure out how to honour our coupledom, because really who else will? This is an evolving practice too but we do devote time to one another that does not include children, home ownership, bill paying or employment. We take time to connect with the most up to date version of us by communicating where we are now and where we want to go and we do it with genuine compassion and curiosity.
Mostly we laugh together. That too has taken time to find the spaces where our humour converges and to ensure that it is mutual laughter and not at the expense of the other, but we laugh. Along with loving stubbornly it has gotten us to where we are today, 16 years.
If one day my grandchild asks me what it took to make it to 50 years of marriage I think I will share my grandfather's advice to be stubborn in love and in laughter.
With love on my anniversary. xo