Wednesday was my dear husband Arthur’s birthday. While birthdays are always a treasure, each of his are especially so, ever since a life threatening health incident two years ago. During this week approaching Valentine’s Day, I’m re-blogging posts that describe the ongoing lessons I learn about meaningful intimate relationships. Enjoy this one, from May 2012.
by Andrea Chilcote
I am in the 24th year of a happy marriage. While that clearly does not make me a marriage expert, friends often study our relationship for clues to success secrets in a world where so many fail for so many different reasons. As they study, I learn.
Most people notice our independence, our personality differences and our apparent love for one another. While I would not suggest the former two are essentials for happy long term intimate relationships as a rule, they are indeed essentials in ours. We share certain core beliefs and values, yet our interests vary. We give one another the freedom and space to pursue diverse interests independent of the other. A good example is that throughout Arthur’s entire car racing career, I rarely accompanied him. The simple reason was this: I don’t care for the sound or the smell of race car engines. When people ask me, an avid hiker, why Arthur rarely joins me and the dogs on our adventures, I tell the truth: he doesn’t like to get his feet dirty.
The secret to our personality differences lies not in the ways in which we are alike or different, but in that we know and are comfortable with ourselves. That’s the basic price of admission for relating to another person, especially one you live and share life with.
I’ve always been curious about others’ observations about the third theme, our mutual love. While I get it, I’ve wondered what other people see. This year, this very difficult 24th year, has provided insight.
I’m going to share something here for the whole world to read. (Indulge me please, as it seems like a big revelation). Arthur is 29 years older than me. Always healthy, racing cars and caring for horses, he never showed his age until one day this past October, when he nearly died. Emergency heart surgery saved his life, he recovered and is literally in better shape than before. As is our marriage.
So back to the question, how do people “see” our love? They see our kindness to one another. They see that we tolerate and even appreciate each other’s quirks. When I travel, Arthur quietly fills my inevitably (and sometimes purposely) empty gas tank, and I prep and plate his salads so he’ll remember to eat them. Oh, we get irritated sometimes, and I’m clearly the one who is less tolerant — but since Arthur’s illness, he will rarely engage me in pettiness. I am learning.
Arthur has always had more patience than me, yet now his seems endless. I am learning. When you live with someone who goes about his day as if every minute of life is precious, you can’t help but cherish the simple moments in life. Shared comfort in the simple moments, care for one another’s well being, and joy in the other’s accomplishments, define real intimacy for us. And still each day I am learning, as is he.
Our relationship is happy, not perfect. It is kind, yet human. It is flexible, generous and most of all it is uniquely ours. If others can gain insight from observation, we are willing subjects as we continue to grow together.