I am a total sucker for sappy love stories. When my patients consist of elderly couples, I can’t help but ask how long they have been married and watch them both respond to the question with a twinkle in their eye. The response usually comes from the wife first and goes something like “Oh honey, we have been married for many, many years.” Then the husband chimes in, “53 years” and the wife again, “Honey, we just celebrated 54 years” as they both smile back at each other. Their faces always light up, and the higher the anniversary number, the sweeter the response. The husband always says something sweet about her cooking and she always talks about how well he took care of her all of their lives. And so my next question is always about their secret to their marriage.
These are my absolute favorite conversations. What an inspiration they are.
Even after 40, 50, 60 years, they look at each other in love. They talk about working as one. They talk about taking care of each other. They are supportive of one another no matter what the circumstance. They share these stories as one lays in the hospital stretcher, the other right by their side.
What I have learned most from these couples is marriage acts like a pendulum. There will be events throughout marriage that will displace the pendulum. Your marriage will swing high and low. YOU will swing high and low. But when the storms calm, and the pendulum steadies, you are right back at the center of equilibrium, together. Reaching your equilibrium again is vital to your marriage.
It is healthy for the pendulum to swing. Things will not always be equal all of the time and that’s okay. When one swings low, the other steps up. He makes up for what you are not able to provide for the relationship during that time. When you’re pulling your hair out after an all-nighter with a new baby and up all day chasing a toddler, mentally and physically, exhausted, he provides the understanding and relief. When you have to put extra hours in at work, he cooks dinner and puts the kids to bed. When you need time to yourself, he takes the kids out for ice cream. And then the pendulum shifts. You throw in the extra effort to make up the difference, providing an ear to listen to after a long stressful day at the office. When he’s away on business, you maintain the house. When he isn’t able, you mow the grass and do the yard work. (I once did this 6 months pregnant in midsummer heat…let’s just say you might be better off paying someone to take this role if he isn’t able.)
At the end of the day, the month or the year, the pendulum steadies. You both return to the center. Together.
Our marriage as a whole also becomes thrown off balance at time. Forgotten birthdays of a spouse, lost important documents, late bills paid. Communication slacks. Fatigue sets in. Intimacy becomes completely unheard of. But eventually, we celebrate a belated birthday. We work on our finances. We finally get a chance for date night where our communication and our relationship improves exponentially and our marriage is revived. The pendulum circles back around and we are back in the center. Together.
Sometimes the pendulum may swing for the day, sometimes for a week or more, sometimes even longer. But ultimately, you will reach the center and restore your equilibrium.