Terry and Amy have been married over 30 years. If you are like so many you know, you have this thought in the back of your head that most couples who have been together that long are rather tired of each other. Just look around at a restaurant…the couples that have been married a long time look like they’d rather be anywhere than sitting across their lifelong partner…they barely even acknowledge the others’ presence.
Thankfully, Terry and Amy are not one of THOSE couples…they both still have this sparkle in their eye! There’s a giddiness to Amy about Terry and he in turn, has this sort of smitten boyishness about him around her. Needless to say, several of the women who attended told me later “Deb, that is exactly the kind of marriage I want next time!” Like I tell my clients all the time when they are trying to convince themselves to like someone or accept crumbs from someone who may like them, but not enough...You are waiting for a partner who you are "Hell Yes!" about and they feel the same. After all these years, Amy and Terry still have a resounding "Hell Yes!"
Some of the things we learned from them were that “Someone always has to be the grownup.” What I think Amy meant by that is there are days one may feel childish or wants to fight in a childish way but you can’t both be that way at the same time. One person has to stay strong and with their feet on the ground when the other is having a bad day.
It’s probably no surprise that Communication was key a good relationship…and probably no surprise that of all the stories of past relationships that I hear about in my practice, this is a significant reason a number of couples just don’t work. Often one person is a communicator and the other is not…so its important that you are BOTH equally committed to being honest and open with each other. Communication and honesty go hand in hand, by the way...many people they say they want honesty, but do they really?
I think this can go back to maturity too…many are able to communicate when they need to get something off their chest, or when they are annoyed with their partner, but how many can LISTEN, consider and then communicate back in a constructive (and honest) way? As I work with clients in my transformation program, this is something we can all practice now with friends and family…setting boundaries, communicating their needs and having an openness to hear what the other person has to say without getting defensive. Everyone can make this a daily practice.
I think one of the favorite things that Terry and Amy said over and over, and was a new thought to many of the people who attended, was their commitment to self-development had really been their biggest strength. They both have personal commitments to read ten pages of a good book each day …sometimes they read the same book together, but mostly not. They often referenced how this book or that changed their outlook in life and made them able to adjust their own feelings and mindset about their partner in a healthier way.
So not only were they growing together as a couple, but they were growing as their own person. They seem to have created a space for each other, flaws and all, to be themselves. When I asked about little things they do innocently that might annoy the other, they were considerate to try and not do them. When I asked about their roles in the relationship, they weren’t necessarily strict male/female roles that would have been the norm when they met 35 years ago, but were more about their strengths and weaknesses as individuals and then coupling them together in a yin/yang sort of way. Perfectly Imperfect as people but as a couple, more complementary because they have learned themselves well, and each other so well, too.
One poignant moment came when I asked this question: “What selfless, caring thing has Terry done for you?” Amy talked about healing from surgery many years ago and only being able to comfortable and pain-free if she laid a certain way at night that inadvertently made Terry a human pillow, he was unable to move all night. She teared up talking about that month-long sacrifice he made for her. Terry…he vaguely remembered it…and you know why? Because real love just gives…it doesn’t expect back…nor keep track of what was given. Love just freely sacrifices for the best of the other person knowing they would do the same thing.
That’s a good marriage!
*Two book recommendations that they made are “Positive Intelligence” by Shirzad Chamine (Kindle Version is just $.99 today) and “Loving What Is” by Byron Katie. If you’re local, our group will be reading the second one together and meeting a couple of times a month to discuss it.