Between the two of us, 118 years of life experience had passed under the bridge before Mary Ellen and I got married. Since then, I’ve had a birthday, so now we are a 119-year-old couple in our second month of marriage. We feel like kids.
But we’re not! We bring longstanding habits and quirks to our marriage that are sure to test whatever virtues we have cultivated. And we get tired. We both love old movies but at 119, we seem to find it quite difficult to actually finish one together.
We have opened many gifts and cards together and still feel inadequate in expressing our gratitude for the generosity of our friends. We have forgiven them for ignoring the instruction on our wedding invitation not to give gifts.
Getting married brought new changes and challenges to our relationship. One change was her name. The Christian principle of two becoming one meant so much to Mary Ellen, that she gave up her name and took mine. I am deeply honored. Of course, marital oneness goes much deeper than a name but a name is still a wonderful thing to share in common with a lifelong mate.
As for new challenges, adding Mary Ellen to my health insurance policy exploded our monthly budget. Health coverage for a 119-year-old couple is crucial. Sure enough, my wife of just two weeks (feeling much like a kid) fell off her bike and broke her arm, not to mention her road burns. Four weeks later, the cast is off and she is opening her own cans and bottles and washing her own hair.
My injured wife gave me gobs of credit for being a helpful mate, but the truth is that she had to fend for herself far more than any newlywed should. As the sole director of All-Teen Camp at Prince’s Pine in Northwest Washington, I had tons of prep-work to do and then I deserted her for a solid week during which our first month anniversary took place. Out in the boonies with fifty teenagers (and a great staff), I could not even get through on the phone on that noteworthy night.
She gracefully endured all these disappointments while giving me extra credit for the little I did for her.
Another challenge, at least for me, has been learning to be less selfish. Being single, it was rather easy to turn a blind eye to my selfishness. Now, with a lovely new bride in the house, it’s not so easy to fool myself. She comes with needs and notions that just cannot be conveniently dismissed, nor should they be. Marriage is like getting a new pair of glasses. It clarifies the way I look at myself and it’s not always a pretty sight. I’ll spare you the details but I am a piece of work!
We have had to apologize to each other on several occasions. I doubt that the best of marriages could survive without the refined skill of offering and accepting apologies.
Mary Ellen and I are old enough to understand that it is impossible to “make” another person happy against their will. That includes one’s spouse. Just being happy (not an easy accomplishment for many) is a precious gift to each other. We listen to a radio broadcaster named Dennis Prager who often says that happiness is a moral responsibility and a kind gift to all those in our lives who love us. We agree.
If Mary Ellen and I make it to our golden anniversary, we would be 218-years-old as a couple! That’s unlikely, so we plan to make the most of our time together. Life is too short to fuss over small stuff, like toothpaste, toilet seats, ego, pretense, and the TV remote control handset. Nevertheless, learning how to be more considerate of her “stuff” is an education I desperately need, no matter how small it may look to me. Remember, I struggle with selfishness.
Those marriage glasses I mentioned can make things that once looked small now appear big, and many of the big things are beginning to look small. These “glasses” (like reality itself) will take some getting used to, but it’s already clear that I need them. They help me see beauty and love (not small stuff, by the way) in a new and bigger light.
Here is what marriage is showing me in living color:
“A sorrow shared is halved and a joy shared is doubled!”