One of my most favorite parts of my job as a hospice social worker is to meet with couples who have been married over 50 years. Sometimes they sweetly hold each others hands and look deep into each others eyes. Sometimes they playfully bicker from the moment I walk in the door. And, sometimes they give each other playful smacks on the rear end. There are so many types of marriages.
I ask them all the same question when I meet them.
“What’s your secret?”
They almost all give each other a knowing glance and then begin to laugh. And then I get this response:
“Well honey, it’s no secret!”
To them, it seems like common sense. But to me, and many others like me, their words are gold!
Marriage is hard. Marriage paired with one or more sweet bundles of joy is often something that the word “struggle” seems inadequate for.
I’ve started to compile a list of my favorite comments on marriage and relationships from those in the twilight years of their marriages. I hope they inspire you as much as they have inspired me!
“She was the best person I knew.”
Oh man. When the sweet little man said this, I could have left the room on a boat floating on my tears. He was holding and stroking her hand while kneeling next to the bed. I’ve never seen more adoration in my life. I began to wonder, would my husband say this about me? Would I say this about him? What has transpired throughout their entire life to make him such a fan of hers? So I asked him. And he said that once you have lived over 50 years with someone, through the good and the bad, how could you say anything else? What would happen if I looked at my spouse as THE BEST? How would that change how we engage during challenges? Would I be more tolerant and he more patient?
“I don’t even know how to fry an egg.”
As his wife lay there dying, this absolute angel of an elderly man looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said, “I don’t even know how to fry an egg.” And he really didn’t. His wife took care of EVERYTHING. Their lives were so interdependent that he had no idea how to do the very basics for himself. I think about the how I have set up my relationship and I wonder if I handicap my spouse in the things that I insist on owning 100%. Is this setup a source of stress or an expression of love and devotion?
“You don’t appreciate someone that good when things are good. I wish I would have.”
Don’t take one minute for granted. We do not live on this earth forever and neither do our spouses. Appreciating our spouses is sometimes low on the priority list, but if they were gone tomorrow would we have regrets?
“She was really good at blackjack. You wouldn’t have guessed that, would you?”
What is your secret talent? Do you share that secret talent with your spouse? Do you brag on your spouse? This little elderly man was so tickled to tell me that his white haired sweetheart was actually card shark!
“She never met anyone she didn’t like.”
This little quote was a reminder on life, not just married life. Be the type of person that gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. The type of person that your spouse aspires to be like. The type of kind person that your children will say truly treated people with compassion.
“We don’t fight. We just don’t.”
Ahhhhhh, I remember when my husband and I used to say this to other couples …….. that didn’t last long. But, when I was talking to this precious couple about what their secret was, they said “we don’t fight. We just don’t.” I’m guessing they could tell my skepticism when I gave them a side eye. They explained. “We decide, right then and there. Who is this more important to? It always means more to one of us.” This kills the competitor in me. My type A self says that what I say is right, so it is clearly more important to me, right? Except it isn’t. It is almost never equal importance to us both. And if it means that I “lose,” I still win. I’m preserving our marriage.
“Communication. You gotta say it. If you don’t, it’ll burn up like a bad roux.”
This is my favorite. Partly because I’m a gumbo fiend and partly because I’ve lived it. In an attempt not to seem like a nag, I keep things to myself. Inevitably, it builds up and then I explode. I’m kind of like the incredible hulk, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry! My husband does it too. He will keep things to himself thinking that it would just upset me or bother me and then it always comes out. And it is always 10 times worse. What if we made our feelings known more regularly? Just like constantly stirring that roux until it gets to the most perfect copper or chocolate brown color, yuuuuummmmmmmmm.
This is my favorite part of working with the elderly. The wisdom they gift me on a daily is invaluable and changes me every day. It has challenged me to evolve in all of my relationships, but especially my marriage.
What is your favorite piece of martial advice that you’ve received from your grandmother’s generation?
Leave it in the comments!