Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Circle of Marriage : The Rhythm of Love

(Photo of Stan & Dayle's wedding rings, by Dayle)

Let me preface this post by saying I don't expect anyone to finish reading this lengthy rambling post about love and marriage, particularly, my marriage, but Sunday, August 8, 2010 marks my and The Man's 30th wedding anniversary, and well, that is a big deal to me, and, as a writer, I tend to write about such milestones, so I did. It was written in spurts, and it shows, but it's all here—the life we’ve known—in some form or another.


My wedding photos all taken by Christopher Studio.

Thirty years ago, Hurricane Allen was scheduled to make landfall in my neck of the woods. It was also the day of my garden wedding. The fact that this hurricane carried my last name was something we laughed about (and still do), but I was praying hard that it not rain on the little wedding party that would gather outside my parents' home in the early evening. And, by some miracle, no rain appeared on August 8, 1980. Nothing but pure sunshine until late in the night, after the newlyweds had said "I do," and said their goodbyes.


Mr. & Mrs.


My favorite photo from our wedding is the one where Stan and I are dashing through the traditional shower of rice from well-wishers, as we head off on our honeymoon. I have big hair. He has big glasses. We have big dreams.

What I knew back then about love and marriage could fit easily on the head of a pin. But that was then. Much has happened in the last three decades. Believe me when I say, I know a lot about this love and marriage thing.

The other day, a young woman in front of me at the grocery store pointed to my wedding band and asked how long I'd been married. When I told her 30 years, she gasped and asked, with genuine interest, "What’s the secret for staying with someone that long?"

Her reaction to the longevity of my marriage wasn’t unusual. People often look at anyone who’s been married for more than a quarter-century as an oddball. And I understand why. The numbers are against you. The alternatives are promoted. Getting a divorce is no longer viewed as something to avoid. I have friends who are into their third and fourth marriages. One of my daughter’s friends didn’t even make it to her first anniversary. It’s no wonder many couples skip the wedding ceremony these days. Watching so many marriages dissolve is bound to have an effect on how they view marriage, in general.

When I married my husband, he already knew the heartbreak and awkwardness of divorce. He'd learned hard lessons and had a clue what to do and what not to do to make a marriage work. I, on the other hand, had no experience being married. I was, in a word, clueless. But we both wanted desperately to get it right. We knew, however, based on the growing trend in the 80s, that the chance of us making it “’til death do us part” was iffy, at best. 

As the years unfolded, challenges arose. Life happened. Storms came. At times, our love was tested to the nth degree.

Just a year into our marriage, we were told if we wanted to have a child we should seek the treatment of a fertility specialist. Thus began a long and painful test of our love and commitment to each other. Perhaps it sounds ironic, that infertility could create intense strain on a marriage, but when the desired outcome is the arrival of another human being, and the only way for that to occur naturally is for two people to bring something viable to the table, you find yourself not only leaning heavily on one another, but scrutinizing each other to a fault.

Frankly, it felt like five years on a roller-coaster. Hopes high. Hopes dashed. Up one day. Down the next. To the outsider, it may seem that couples would move closer together during excruciatingly personal trials like this, and sometimes they do; sometimes we did. But there is also a tendency to shrink deep inside yourself, to feel alone, to step back from the other person who is responsible for half of the “baby” equation.

Ultimately, our efforts to conceive were not successful. But little did we know that eight weeks after my hysterectomy we would become parents, through the wonderful means of adoption. It was nothing short of a miracle, and our daughter proved to be above and beyond the child we prayed for. Having her, made the storm of infertility all worth it.


Taken at our baby girl's dedication services.

That is but one example of the many storms my husband and I have experienced in the last three decades. Through the years, I’ve written extensively about storms—both from a marital standpoint, and otherwise, and I’ve always maintained that there is something revealing about braving a storm together. When you lean on each other, you discover not only your own strength, but the strength of your mate, as well. And you discover something else. Storms strip away the counterfeits and the facades, leaving only your real self, vulnerable and exposed. The pretenses are over. There’s nothing left to prove.

I can't say that our marriage has ever been perfect. To pretend otherwise would be a lie. But the seemingly perfect marriages aren’t always strong. Stan and I have watched marriages that appeared to be rock-solid crack under certain strains. The storm proved stronger than the marriage. And I don’t fault those who’ve felt there was no other way but to turn and run. I haven’t walked in their shoes. I don’t know their struggles; that is not for me to judge.

But while I can’t say that our marriage is perfect, I can declare that it is strong. Frankly, I’ll take strong over perfect any day.

So, what makes a strong marriage? I speak from 30 years of experience when I say that you will never know if your marriage is strong, unless it is tested. It’s like being brave. How will you ever know how brave you are, if you never have to be brave? The same with marriages. Just as “perfect” marriages aren’t necessarily strong, strong marriages aren’t necessarily the ones that look pretty and perfect. They are most often the ones with battle scars, and the occasional limp. They’re the ones that have experienced walking through the fire and flood. Put simply, strong marriages are those that have survived, no matter what!


Self-portrait, 2009

And how exhilarating it is (and that may seem like an odd word to use, but I can think of no better one) when two people come face-to-face with a major threat to their marriage—hurricane winds, if you will—and, instead of running away from each other, they ride it out together.

When this happens—when two people determine to ride out their storms together—they prove something to themselves, and to those who are watching. They prove that storms may come, but they don’t have to destroy your marriage. It’s up to the two of you, whether that happens or not. And for those of you who may say, “Yeah, but you’ve never experienced such and such a storm,” never assume you know what goes on in anyone else’s marriage. You would be dead wrong every time. Things are seldom, if ever, what they seem.



I’ve shared the essay I wrote for my husband in August of 2000, commemorating our 20th wedding anniversary, numerous times since then, and I don’t apologize for that, because it says precisely how I feel about marriage—ours in particular. Ironically, since my husband has retired, it is even more relevant today, on our 30th wedding anniversary, than it was ten years ago. The original essay is shown here (if you care to click on it and read the full piece), but to paraphrase parts of it, the years have taught us that love is not always satisfying. It isn’t always comfortable. I know this even more now. There were times in our marriage when it would have been so much easier to walk away—and times when, I’m ashamed to say, we almost did.

But even when we dragged suitcases from closets and fled in anger, all we needed was time. Time to sit a spell and think about that enchanted summer evening in 1980 when we vowed to be there for each other—in sickness and in health, for better or worse. And it feels good knowing we have been in serious trouble, but did whatever it took to stay together.

Sometimes all it takes to live through a hurricane is being willing to call for help. You wade through deep water and crawl in a rescue boat. You cling to each other and find a safe place until the worst is over. Whatever destruction the storm leaves in its wake, you know that—together—you will summons the strength to repair and rebuild, and you will be stronger for having done it.


Photo of me and The Man, taken by my sister, Gayle, at our 30th Anniversary send-off party.

After 30 years together, The Man and I know how to survive a storm, and I’m convinced that is why we love deeply—we’re survivors. That’s not to say there aren’t days when our love seems elusive. But we don't panic. We understand the ebb and flow of relationships. We love without conditions. We know the tide will turn. We’ve been there before.

So, to the young woman in the grocery store, after a certain point, staying together becomes less about the future and more about the past, about a steady parade of shared moments that slowly turn into years and milestones, bringing comfort and stability that accrues over time.

Step into my home and you’ll find a collection of 30 photo albums and scrapbooks, a pictorial museum of our life together. I didn’t plan it, but that averages out to be one album per year, so far. The idea of breaking this rhythm, for anything short of death, is unthinkable. The best part is the history exhibited there belongs solely to the two of us. In calm or stormy weather, we’ve lived through it all … together.

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.
(Song of Solomon 8:7)








 
 
 
 

36 comments:

  1. "After a certain point staying together becomes less about the future and more about the past." What a true statement that is...After 27 years of marriage, I will definitely take strong over perfect, tested over adoration, scars over pretty and perfect any day. Our lives parallel in many ways...I'm glad you 'happened' on my little blog so that I could discover yours. Beautifully lived...beautifully written. Happy Anniversary new friend, Patty

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  2. Love, love, love this article. And Happy Anniversary!

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  3. My heartfelt congratulations to the both of you!!

    May you have MANY more years together - enjoying each other.

    GOD BLESS!

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  4. Congratulations to you, my dear sister and to my dear brother-in-law. You are a great example of what real love is. I hope your day is perfect.

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  5. This is beautiful, Dayle. (And I read the entire post, plus I watched the video.) Happy anniversary to you both.

    Blessings,
    Joan

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  6. As one who is about to celebrate 30 years also, I can relate to everything you posted here. Commitment is a tough road sometimes, but so worth it at the end of the journey. May you and your husband celebrate many more anniversaries in this journey you share.

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  7. Dayle,
    That was beautiful. I loved seeing all your photos! Thanks for sharing with us :)

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  8. Dayle, Happy Anniversary to you and your husband. I read all and enjoyed it so much. It is truly what marriage is all about. Not perfect but work and worth it if you can stay together.

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  9. Well Dayle, that was awesome. Watched the video which was FABULOUS and read all the post. You did a great job. The best to you and your husband. My husband and I have been married 36 years, so we've got you beat by six. Keep up the good work. Great tribute, really. Great tribute. Susan

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  10. I read the whole thing with ease. It was wonderful,and so was the video!

    Happy Anniversary! I hope you're enjoying every moment at your beautiful, old fashioned retreat.

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  11. Happy Anniversary and yes, yes, yes! We are at 20 and have seen storms I never thought we'd face--some from outside our marriage and some from within. I like how you said that sometimes love seems elusive and you don't panic cause it ebbs and flows.

    This is beautiful.

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  12. Oh my goodness what a wonderful love story. sandie

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  13. Dayle,
    Congratulations to you and your Man on 30 years together. I loved the video - your daughter is beautiful!
    May you have many more wonderul years together!


    ~Jean

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  14. It was well worth reading your "lengthy rambling post". Thanks for sharing your story.

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  15. It's so nice to meet you! Thank you for leaving such encouraging words for me. I always love to hear stories from people who really enjoy their marriage to their mate, and I loved reading yours. I will be back to read more!

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  16. I had to click over here when I read thirty years. Again I could relate. My husband and I celebrated 33 years this fall. A rocky road like yours at times, we couldn't get pregnant, went through all the tests and finally after two years, and a dog, we did become blessed with our one daughter.
    When we celebrated out 30th anniversary, it was also days after my husband lost his job and career. These past three years have been the hardest I have ever known in my life but thank you Lord, I've had him by my side and we know after trials such as this, nothing would ever rip us apart again.
    Thank you for allowing us a look into your life and how GOd has blessed you. I can see why you are so well-published!

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  17. Oh, gosh, I just loved reading this and watching your video - what a beautiful family you are!! Congratulations on your 30th anniversary!... Donna

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  18. i did finish reading the whole thing and it was beautiful!

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  19. Coming late to this post, but I want to say that I really enjoyed it. Having finally decided to end a marriage after 28 years, I know what it takes to make it for the long haul. Or not. Now happily married to the man of my dreams, I congratulate you on your longevity and am glad to have found you and your blog.

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  20. I am very late in seeing this but wanted to tell you that we have been married for 43 years now! The odds of us making it back in 1967, at the age of 19 and 20 was next to zero! But we loved each other desperatly and also had a determination to "show them all", in a way. We have been through BIG storms, but like you said, cling to each other to make it through. Last night we went to my hubby's HS reunion and there were not many who had survived their first marriage. He is my life now. God bless you both. XO, Pinky

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  21. Dayle, this is beautiful! Thank you for sharing. My husband and I celebrated 32 years Dec. 2010. I also think of our parents and their many years of loyalty to each other. My mother passed away three years ago, and she and my dad were married 64 years. It's a pleasure to find and read your blog this evening.

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  22. Gosh, that was an awesome tribute to a precious marriage!
    I've been married for 22 years and I agree with you....it is work.
    I love knowing I have a husband that is dedicated to me and our marriage. I feel blessed to be his wife.
    Thanks for reminding me to keep on keeping on!

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  23. I am really late in replying to this wonderful story but found you through Bloggers Party. We have been married for 56 years now and my parents were married 65 years, this runs in my family I have other high numbers. Congratulations on your anniversary and wish you many more with your man. You both have a beautiful daughter and let me tell you that I cried with your video, it's so touching. Happy to meet you.
    Hugs...Lu

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  24. A truly beautiful story thank you for sharing such a personal one & congratulations! We have just celebrated our 17th anniversary and as you say many don't achieve that. We have had tough times, work, failed pregnancies, ill health and yet we are here, still together and special to each other.

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  25. I truly enjoyed every word of your post. Tears are streaming down my face after watching your video celebrating 30 years. I was in a marriage for 27 years and never felt safe or protected. One day I hope to have that covering through someone wonderful, sent by God just for me, and to provide that same protection and covering for him.

    Thanks for sharing. I see what love is.

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  26. Hi Dayle, I come over to check out "rules for Simple Pleasures" and saw this post and just read every word. First, Congratulations on 30th, but even more so, thank you for writing so beautifully and honestly about "real marriage and real love". Strong stuff indeed. We all have our stories and like other, I am married to my second husband and we have our story too. Reading every word I smiled. Simply because for the last 17 years I have lived what you wrote and totally understand the ebb and flow and pulling away and binding closer...all of it. I love your writing so much, I am going to keep coming back when time permits and reading more and more. Your words capture the essence of a Christian marriage in eyes. What a beautiful spirit you have and being able to put your honestly into words wrapped with love and compassion is such a gift from Him. Yes, I did find this post over a year later, but I believe that was meant to be. Blessings my new blog friend. I am following you so I don't loose your blog.

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  27. I thoroughly enjoyed every syllable! I, too, will take strong over perfect! Loved this post!

    We celebrated our pearl anniversary in May this year!

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  28. Dayle, I read every morsel of your heart in this testimony of the 30 years together with your husband. What an inspiration you are as a couple to me! I also watched the youtube video that I'm guessing was played at your 30th Anniversary party...it brought tears to my eyes as the pictures unfolded the many years that you wrote about. The amazing things about the tough times we go through...the pictures rarely show the tough times, but always capture the deepest roots of our love to one another. Your story is inspiring...and I can see why it's one that's read by hundreds and thousands...

    Thank you for writing about an authentic marriage that has rode out the storm, and called 911 when you needed to.

    Your daughter is absolutely GORGEOUS...what a miraculous part of your story she is. A true GIFT from the Lord!

    My son is in TX right now working in Austin for the next 6 months. If I lived nearer to you, I'd invite you to my place for tea & scones! ;)

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  29. Thank you for visiting my blog. Congratulations on 30 years of marriage. My husband and I celebrate 21 years next week.

    I like what you said about braving a storm together. How true that is.

    Thank you as well for what you wrote about blogging on a different page here. You put a lot of things into perspective. I am now "following" by email so I don't miss anything. Thanks for all that you share here. ~ Abby

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  30. To grow together in love is beautiful. Congratulations!

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  31. Hi, Dayle. This is my first stop over at your blog. I'll have to say, you are an amazing writer. And what a wonderful testimonial to the joys and sorrows, but ultimate rewards of being in a loving, committed marriage! Your YouTube video made me cry!! My hubby and I celebrated our 25th anniversary this year and we are still going strong, too. I love your description of a marriage not perfect, but strong. I hope you don't mind if I share your story on my Facebook page, and I'm thinking about posting on my blog. I am a new follower. Feel free to check my blog out "Christ in the Clouds" at http://christintheclouds.blogspot.com/

    In His Love, Ann

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  32. Hi Dayle,
    I just happened to run across your blog for the first time today. Loved every bit of what you wrote above. Also I suppose I should say Happy 32 Anniversary to you!!! Congrats are in order. My husband and I have been married 23 years (whew, where has time gone) and we've weathered quite a few storms ourselves. It takes work, that is for sure.
    I also watched your very touching video, I felt as though I aged with you going through it. Wonderful that you have so many photos of you and your husband.
    Thank you for sharing so much of your life.

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  33. What a lovely essay! I was drawn to this link as the photo on your sidebar of your husband reminds me of my father. He died when I was a teenager, so when i see someone who looks like him I am always intrigued.

    I'll be married 39 years in October and I feel grateful that our love was long lasting. We moved cross county recently to live closer to our children and grandchildren. It has become a wonderful adventure and a new chapter in our lives together.

    I've enjoyed looking through your lovely blog and hope to be a frequent visitor!

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Dear Readers, I adore your company and your comments. If you ask questions here, I respond to them here, so please check back when you have a chance. Kind regards, Dayle