Seasons of Marriage – Reflection on 41 Years
Sheryl and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary on June 3, 2018. I am proud that we have made it this long and I am hopeful we will find another 41 happy years. However, I have to say that our current marriage has lasted much less than 41 years. I know that sounds odd. So, let me explain how we have come to view these 41 years of marriage.
You see we have found (Sheryl pointed this out) that over the last 41 years we have had different marriages. Each one not formally acknowledged except in hindsight but each as real as if we had returned to the altar and made new vows.
That time when we were full of aspirations, and each was careful not to offend the other. We got to learn about each other and do those silly things that we thought might change our lives. This marriage was such fun but short-lived.
Young Children Marriage
We decided to have children in our first year of marriage and our first arrived in our 3rd year of marriage. It is said that children change relationships and our experience is certainly reflective of that. Once the boys were born and up until they were about twelve we had the quadruple responsibilities of career, family, future economic security and marriage. I bet you can guess which one was shorted.
The children needed less day to day care, and at the same time, I hit my peak earnings potential. It is incredible how much time I spent pressing ahead with my career. At the same time, the fruits of this period were not immediately apparent. We started to bank resources with hard work, and that work changed our relationship dramatically.
Empty Nest Marriage
Our sons were in college or getting ready to go, and we became observers as our sons made their way in the world. This was when I was diagnosed with RA and our marriage started to shift toward medical appointments and worries about my health.
Perhaps the results marriage was the most difficult. I had to stop working in my early 50’s cutting my earnings significantly and causing us to readjust almost everything. My RA was worsening, and facing retirement was not something I desired. I felt inadequate and was lost for purpose while Sheryl continued working deriving in her work.
As retirees we do things based less on economic requirements, and governed by medical visits, finding useful volunteer purpose and enjoying the company of one another. It is much like those first years of marriage though with greater perspective. We are once again learning about each other. It is like we came out the end as different people than we started, but much more interesting.
We grew in each of these stages of marriage while dealing with some harsh blows. RA was not expected, and it has added significant complications. Still, I do not think I would change much about our path to this place. I would have liked to soften the results of marriage, and I still deal with the baggage of this period, but I am secure in the knowledge we did the best we could given the circumstances.
Along the way, we have had four partners in our marriage. The two of us, diabetes and when it came on board RA. Two of those partners are scary and unpredictable but make no mistake they are equal parts of influence on our day to day and long-term relationship.
I fall back on the wisdom Sheryl offers those who ask how we made it. She says marriage is the toughest work you will ever do, but it is worth the effort. I must agree it is tough and yes when I hold my wife’s hand as we look forward it is worth every second of what we have come through and will face going forward.