Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Day blog special - "Still the one"

By Lynette Codr, daughter of Clearwater Tribune owner Cloann McNall

With Valentine’s Day upon us, I have been thinking about what I know, now, about love at the age of 61. It is much different from what I thought I knew on my wedding day. But I guess if I had lived to be 61 years old and not learned a few things about life and love along the way, then I would be in serious trouble.

If I were able to have a conversation with the person who coined the phrase “they fell in love, got married and lived happily ever after,” I would ask why she left out so much of what happens between “fell in love” and “happily ever after.” It’s not fair to all the young people looking for that fairy tale love.

I say young people, because I, like most people my age, understand all too well, that life and love is no fairy tale. And I say this with no cynicism; though I am very much a realist – no rose-colored glasses here. Besides, is reality such a bad thing?

My husband and I have been married for over 40 years. As I think about the young couple standing at the altar, I am amazed at everything that we didn’t know about the vow to stand by each other “for better or for worse.” But how could we? It takes years, decades, and a lifetime to start to comprehend the meaning of those words.

Where is the marriage manual telling how to handle and work through the “for worse” days of a marriage? Forget about the “for better,” that always takes care of itself. 

Not many of us enter marriage thinking, “this is going to be a lot of really hard work.” But committed love takes lots and lots of work. We each bring our “best self” to the altar on our wedding day. 

Being the flawed, imperfect beings that we are, eventually our faults and shortcomings make their appearance in our marriage. Absolutely uninvited, I might add. And of course, life shows up to throw its curve balls, adding more work to the art of maintaining a good marriage.

Years ago there was a book authored by Gail Sheehy entitled “Passages.” It chronicled the different stages we each pass through during our lifetime. There should be a book entitled “The Seasons of a Marriage.” I say seasons because changes in a marriage don’t tend to follow a linear path and, like seasons, those changes ebb and flow.

Your marriage can be in the lovely season of “summer,” and then you wake up one day to find that you are now facing the “winter” of marriage. The right environment is an absolute to lay down strong roots. A place of warmth and light is in order to encourage the growth of the lovely fruits of each. Close attention to feeding and watering must be constant, to ensure that those fruits don’t wither away.

There are times that the gardener may need to cut back the rose bush in order for the plant to rebuild and strengthen itself. Like the rose bush, your marriage may go through a severe pruning and will need time to rebuild, renew and strengthen the “roots” of its love.

You may think that your efforts are futile, that you will never see another “spring” or “summer” for your marriage. Be vigilant and be patient. With time, lots of tender loving care, much heartfelt prayer, and the healing salve of Divine intervention, a marriage can become stronger than ever imagined.

So to my Valentine, “You’re still the one that makes me strong, still the one I want to take along. We’re still having fun, and you’re still the one.” – Johanna and John Hall

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