I recently asked my parents what it’s like to be married for 45 years.
I wanted to know why it’s worth it to stay married. Not because I’m not happy in my own 13-year marriage, but simply to know, is it worth it? You know, the long haul.
They each took a moment to gather their thoughts yet ultimately fumbled for their words. My heart sank.
They did manage to come up with: “We have so much history together”, “We understand each other”, and “It’s comforting”.
For whatever reason, the answer that struck me most was, “It’s comforting”, probably because it seemed like such an uninspired answer.
And so I thought about it.
And then I thought about my parents’ marriage.
The great Maya Angelou once said, “Have enough courage to trust love one more time, always one more time.”
Courage and trust in love. It strikes me that this is exactly what it takes to remain, for the most part, very happily married for 45 years.
And so it has been with my parents; what started out as a very romantic love affair between a nurse and her patient 49 years ago in a Dutch hospital continues today thanks to the courage and trust they each had in their love.
As a bystander, you could easily convince yourself that “oh, well, they’re the lucky ones” or perhaps even, “Yeah, it’s a sham anyway, all marriages are.”
But the truth is, we only ever have a mere glimpse into the richness of what their lives actually are. In my parents’ case, it is a full and beautiful life built on adventure, laughter, family, friendship, philanthropy, hard work, delicious meals, lots of travels, construction projects and many, many dogs…to name only a few things of what makes their life uniquely theirs.
But what you won’t necessarily see from the outside are the dark moments peppered throughout the magnificent ones. The moments where they faced deep worry, fear, hurt, sadness, illness and the death of loved ones. The moments that brought them together in pain. And the moments that tore them down and nearly tore them apart. The dark days that ultimately push us to grow. To learn. To dig deep so we can find our joy again. And it is these moments that have allowed them to shine their light so brightly for us all.
Because they have always chosen to have this courage and trust to move forward, in spite of uncertainty, in spite of things not being “perfect”, in spite of the pain…they always chose love. Again and again and again.
And when you choose love, you choose life. You choose to live out loud and be vulnerable.
You choose to move together to another country and start a new life. You choose to work on your dream life, every single day. You choose to bring children into the world, start businesses, change careers, appreciate sunsets and the sounds of the birds, and you take full delight in the slight cooing of one of your seven grandchildren.
So here’s the thing I realized as I pondered their answer of “It’s comforting”: We cannot articulate what the heart knows. And how foolish of me to think that they should be able to communicate that which is so incommunicable and at the essence of a love that has endured for 45 years.
Looking at the word “comfort”, we see it is defined as “a state of wellbeing”. Yet, it is actually rooted in the Late Latin word confortāre, which means to “strengthen very much.”
Remember Angelou’s quote to have the courage to trust love one more time? Courage requires strength, a certain resolve to fight for what you want and a yearning to move forward into the dark night with no idea where you are headed. Doesn’t sound very comfortable, does it? That is precisely the point.
Comfort: it’s actually your reward! It’s your prize for being courageous enough to trust through the discomfort of uncertainty, fear and the unknown.
Comfortable? I get it now.
Comfortable like a favorite slipper, a well-worn t-shirt, a familiar face, a cherished coffee cup, a cozy sweater. Or, in the case of my parents’ marriage, comfortable in that they can dance to the rhythm of their lives with their eyes closed in full confidence that each step will be OK. It takes courage to trust, courage to love and courage to fall into comfort with another soul.
Comfort. Isn’t it the thing we all seek at the end of a long day, a hard day, or an especially tough day?
In fact, what is better than comfortable?
Author: Marieke Bosch Larose
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Image: Marc Blackburn-Wilson/Flickr