Love is worth it.

55 Years and still counting

Even though her toddler was pitching a fit from the seat of a grocery cart, one mother was unfazed. “You may as well give up on the crying,” she said as calmly as if she were soothing her to bed instead of leading her out of the store.  “It won’t work. You’re stuck with me for 18 years.”

That little child may not know how lucky she is to be stuck with her for 18 years. Even when she’s cranky, out of sorts or otherwise going through a phase, her mother will be there. She’s stuck with her. Most relationships that truly matter are built on that kind of sticking-power. And not everyone has someone they can always count on to stick around.

A university instructor posed a riddle to her graduate education class. “What has four legs and leaves?” she asked, hoping the students would realize that by considering alternative meanings to the words “legs” and “leaves” that they could arrive at the solution – a table. However, one woman unexpectedly answered, “My last two boyfriends.” Maybe you can relate.

People will leave relationships for any number of reasons. And sometimes we should put certain relationships behind. Not every friendship or romance has a healthy future. Sometimes we bring along so many destructive problems and behaviors that a happy relationship has no chance of long-term survival. Sometimes addictions make staying in a relationship impossible. Sometimes leaving is necessary.

But there’s also a time to stick around. Something all relationships of many years have in common is this: every one of them is made up of people who have had plenty of opportunities to bolt or quit, to move out or to move on, but they stuck around.  Maybe because they knew that the people they love are not always “lovable” or easy to be with, and that’s okay. They want a relationship that matters, one that is important and lasting, and that kind is nurtured by patience and understanding.  

Author John Gray sometimes tells about a young mother who asked her visiting brother to get her some pain pills. He forgot and, when her husband returned home, she was upset and in pain – more than a bit crazy. He experienced her anger as a personal assault and exploded in defense. They exchanged harsh words and he headed for the door.

His wife said, “Stop, don’t leave. This is when I need you the most! I’m in pain. I’ve had no sleep. Please listen. You are a fair-weather friend. If I’m sweet, you’re okay; but if I’m not, out you go!” And then tearfully, and more subdued, she said, “I’m in pain. I have nothing to give. Please hold me. Don’t speak…just hold me.” He held her and neither spoke – until she thanked him for being there.

I suspect there will be plenty of other times their relationship will be tested. And I also suspect that every time it goes through a rough patch and survives some sort of adversity, every time they decide that being together is important enough to stick it out and fix what’s wrong, then it will change. Maybe not much, but a little. And in time, little by little, that relationship, their “togetherness,” will become a thing of beauty; a pearl of great value.

And definitely worth sticking around for… Shirley has stayed with me through war, many years of school, about every illness one can imagine, when I was spending more time at work than home, and all the ups and downs for 55 years and more. We have enjoyed it all and loved each other through it all. Thanks for sticking with me all these years. It has been a “hoot and one-half.”

Grace and Peace

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