Got this from Jim Paredes’ blog. Provides great food for thought on marriages:
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Humming in my UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
The Philippine STAR 11/05/2006
Exactly 29 years ago on Oct. 29, Lydia and I walked down the aisle. She was 20 and I was 25, both of us wide-eyed but so sure of ourselves and our decision to stay together forever as we plunged into matrimony. We were sure, the way young people tend to be certain, that it was going to be an adventure. But little did we know that it was going to be a big one, probably the biggest one we’d ever know.
Getting married is like signing a blank check. You have no idea how much it will cost you. You are committing an unquantifiable amount of material and emotional capital – time, money, patience, sacrifice, and an infinite number of things you have not even begun to imagine that you must deal with eventually.
Many of them are real minefields as Lydia and I, like all couples, soon discovered. There are the in-laws, kids, expenses, the balance between career and family life, personal habits, sex, jealousy, etc. There is also the process of arriving at a “negotiated settlement” on how to deal with things like getting along with each other’s friends, child rearing, spending habits, religion, hobbies, and how much “independence” the partners should be allowed. The institution of marriage, as we inherited it, was very complicated.
One of the things I found out much later in our married life is that there is a difference between a love affair and a marriage. A love affair has a dynamic that is different from a marital bond. Generally, love affairs are not meant to last. They are meant to have a beginning and an end. Why? Because they are about two separate people bonded by romantic, oceanic feelings of what seems like love. They live for the intense feeling, riding it as far as it will go and split up when the thrill is gone.
Marriage, on the other hand, is the experience of life by two people as a couple. Many times, new couples discover that they are not an easy fit, as Lydia and I discovered early on. That’s why in a marital relationship one must necessarily give up big parts of himself/herself to the union to get a payback. While one may still want some privacy and independence, one cannot have them without a large dose of a shared life. From the start until the end, marriage is about two people experiencing one and the same lifetime.
It starts with romance and the sexual thrill of being with each other, but you can only count on those for so long. Anyone married for more than 10 years can attest that there are times when the attraction which seemed so strong when you first laid eyes on each other as single people can be non-existent for long periods. Viewed from the perspective of a love affair, that is certainly not a good thing. One may feel like the journey has reached a stretch of uninteresting flatlands. The joyride is over.
But from the perspective of a long marriage, this is simply a hiatus of sorts, or may even be the first signs of a qualitative change in the way one loves. It can be disconcerting at first but if you stick around long enough, the picture starts to get clearer. While gone may be (from time to time) the breathtaking highs and exhilarating moments, something else may be happening. Author M. Scott Peck put it so well when he wrote that “the death of romantic love can be the start of true love.”
In our early years, Lydia and I felt that being married meant we had to do something dramatic all the time to keep it going. But as we got older, the doing often gave way to just being. Where before, love had to be “proven” by the sparkling diamond on her finger, or the great trip abroad, or the special dinner with wine in some plush place, love in our 29-year marriage feels no compulsion to prove itself as dramatically. Having long walks, conversations after dinner, holding hands during long drives, snuggling in bed or just simply being together – sometimes without even talking – have often taken the place of all that. While sex can still be as great as ever, the truth is, as an older couple, we have discovered other ways to remain interested in each other. There is not only comfort but magic in the “ordinary,” as one realizes that love can be expressed in simply caring or supporting each other’s steps towards personal and spiritual growth.
One of the big recent highlights of our journey as life partners was Lydia’s big cancer scare three years ago. We felt so helpless as we tried to deal with the fear of losing each other. But we took it on as a couple. As far as we were concerned, we both had cancer. Those were days of great emotional upheaval. Ironically, they were also moments of calm and assurance. Even as we cried about it, we also learned that we loved each other enough to willingly suffer together because, paradoxically, by doing so, we eased each other’s pain.
This may sound flippant, if not cruel, but looking back, I can say that if I could only guarantee survival, I would recommend cancer to everyone because of what it has done for Lydia and me. It has been such a rare opportunity to meet and accept unconditionally the hard-to-take faces of love that we often run away from. Yet when we bit the bullet, we opened ourselves to greater depth and began to see the face of the Divine in the other human being we had chosen to love. Only then did we realize that all the suffering made sense.
In the end, the very suffering we undergo turns into something eternally beautiful.
Here’s a video tribute I made for her which we showed on her advanced birthday party and our anniversary last October 29.