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Aging Abundantly through the Challenges of Marriage

April 27, 2011

I fixed myself a cup of tea before sitting down to write this blog.  I’m a coffee drinker but certain moments call for a cup of herbal tea and this is one of them.  I decided a few days ago, prompted by a comment from one of my favorite readers, to write about marriage and the inevitable transitions that accompany aging as a couple. It fits right in with my difficult relationships series, don’t you think? The truth is, even the best marriages (if indeed they can, or should, be graded) can be perplexing, challenging and often cannot avoid moving into a place of utter disharmony.

As I contemplated where to begin, I took a sip of tea and absent-mindedly read the message on the white tag on the Yogi tea bag. Here is what it said: “Where there is love, there is no question.”  Wow. Maybe I really am supposed to write about this topic!  Granted tea bag messages are just that ~ tea bag messages of questionable origin. After all, no one even claims to have authored these little gems, so I doubt they are grounded in any tried and true research.  Still, the words ring true for me.

My husband and I have been married for 29 years next month. It has been a rocky road due both to personal difficulties and life happenings. There were times when communication broke down entirely and we have behaved in the most unloving of ways, at times we seemed to be traveling in opposite directions and headed for very different places. Neither of us, however, ever seriously questioned the permanence of our marriage. The day we married, we looked into each other’s eyes and spoke to each other’s hearts, and made a commitment, one that at thirty years of age we knew was a challenge to make.  We promised that we would stay by each other’s side through thick and thin. There was no question then, or now, and I believe where there is no question, there is love.

Too many marriages lose their way, most often at the start when such a commitment cannot or is not made with total honesty. I am not morally or spiritually against ending a marriage that is destructive and without love, but if there is shared love and shared commitment, then there is hope. It is up to one or the other, or both of the individuals involved, to find a way through difficulty, unhappiness, and the walls that we erect to ward off hurt.

Relationship difficulties can create such a cloud around the love that we once felt and trusted, that we may begin to believe that love no longer exists. It can quickly lead us to lose sight of the person we truly are and the real person with whom we fell in love and married.  A breakdown in communication may cause so much pain and confusion that we think the only answer is to run away, to start over, to find someone who is easier to live with, or to curl up in a hole and not come out.  Too many couples jump ship too soon, believing that happiness within their marriage is not possible, and that a radical change is the only way out.

Radical change may be necessary, but if so, it is a radical change that must first begin inside of ourselves.  No matter what we think is the cause of our unhappiness, the only sure way to ferret out the truth is to face what it is that we are unhappy with about ourselves.  A change of job, having an affair, or leaving our marriage will shake up your life, but chances are good we will still be unhappy when the novelty of change has worn off.

I was in a painful and terrible place almost a decade ago, when life pushed me kicking and screaming into the fire of change. What I thought my life would be at fifty, when I married at thirty, had not come to pass. I perceived myself, my life and everything about it as a failure.  I was deeply unhappy and lived each day consumed by anger and fear. Locked in uncertainty about the future and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, I somehow recognized that it was time to stop looking outside of myself for the answers.

I spent many months frozen on the precipice of change because I was terrified of what moving forward would do to my relationship with my husband. However, there came a time when I could not put off doing what I needed to do for myself and I began my journey. I did not know for certain what our marriage would look like when all was said and done. One of the first decisions I had to face was a decision that I knew in my heart was right for me but one that would radically affect  my husband, both emotionally and practically.


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