Today was lonely. John and Elsa were away from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at a seminar on communication in marriage. Knowing it would be a long and potentially depressing day for me, Elsa reviewed how to operate the CD player - and suggested that I think about my own experience with communication in marriage. Both suggestions were godsends and I was in pretty good spirits when they returned.
Pete & I were married long before the term "marriage enrichment" was coined. The thought of sitting around with other couples - including people we knew - to consider ways to deepen our relationship would have seemed strange. Of course, we also did not have the many distractions and challenges today's married couples face. Pete worked and I took care of the children. I did not consider myself suffocated, but in the fulness of my use. I remember many years back a person who knew me through my political activities asking me what I did, if I went out to work. I said, "Oh, no. I stay home and look after my house and children." She said, "Don't you resent that?" I said, "No, I enjoy it. I think I am lucky." I did and I still do.
Through more recent years, some family members dismissed the relationship I shared with Pete as a "fairy tale." As they saw it, I acquiesced to Pete. The possibility that the two of us could be partners in every sense seemed hard for some "modern" marrieds to accept. I felt like they saw me as a squashed cabbage leaf.
Not so, not so. It is true that Pete & I did not fight, although we did disagree. There were certain things we did that helped keep our marriage on an even keel. If I was giving a seminar on communication in marriage, I would emphasize:
The power of having a shared faith.
Pete grew up Presbyterian and I was raised in the General Church of the New Jerusalem, but as adults we came to believe in the same idea of God and the same principles of life. Having a shared faith is powerful stuff in a marriage.
The power of respect.
I have heard married couples bait and tear down each other for sport, then say "We are just kidding" or "But it is so lovely making up." In my experience, it is impossible to take back an unkind comment, each one leaves a scar.
Shared life goals.
Pete loved the Doctrine of Use, which guided his life. I hope it has guided mine, even when it has not been the popular or profitable way to go. I recall the horror a family member expressed hearing that I had sold a prime piece of property in Pine Run Park to a young family in the church for what we paid, plus taxes. "You OWED it to your children to get as much for it as you could." The person completely dismissed that, in my opinion, we had not paid a lot for it (the people selling the lots were giving a tremendous break to church members at the time we purchased it) and that the right thing to do was to pass that along. The family member did not agree with me, but I know Pete would agree that the goal should be to serve, not get the highest price.
Treat each other like full partners.
Before Pete went into business for himself, he discussed it thoroughly with me. When the children were growing up, they had to come first in my time. When the business was starting and growing, it had to come first in his time. I never doubted nor do I now that we both came first in each others' hearts.
Say grace at dinnertime with the family and prayers at night. Take a moment to give thanks for something outside of the two of you.
Remember that love does not consist in looking at each other, but together in the same direction.
That is part of what I would say if I held a communication in marriage seminar. One thing I forgot - when you marry the right person, it gets better and better. Marry the wrong one and life turns into a never-ending nightmare; marry the right one and you will find that fairy tales can come true.
Love to all on this hot, steamy early evening - Mrs. Raymond Lewis Lockhart, ADPOI