This article was published in March of 2014. It is even more relevant now:
Happy Anniversary, Renee. Forty one years of marital bliss! It seems like just yesterday that we said, “I do.” It’s been a great 41 years. Of course there’s been both good and bad times but we’ve weathered them together.
I think the secret to a good marriage is “WORK.” Yesterday’s article addressed divorce. Marriage is like a house a couple buys and settles into. Imagine living in a house which has never been kept up, repaired or cleaned. After 37 years of neglect, it would be uninhabitable.
Unfortunately, many of my patients take their marriage for granted, never bothering to tidy up little messes or simply sweeping them under the carpet. I’ve often imagined that each of us has a large steamer trunk in which we shove little tidbits of unaddressed problems into. After years of accumulating junk, the contents of the chest begin to rot; and, when we open it to shove in the latest junk, the trunk threatens to explode its rank contents onto us and those we love. So, we try to seal the trunk and move on or we try to empty the trunk ourselves.
Think about it for a minute. Many of you own just such a trunk and those tiny tidbits of garbage have grown into monsters over the years they have sat, rotting in that trunk. Do you really want to open it on your own? I think not.
Marriage counselors are trained professional whose job is to carefully open your marital steamer trunk of neglected problems and, one by one, disarm them. Let me give you an example. The following is a true story.
I once had a couple whose marriage was disintegrating rapidly. While talking with them in the office, I challenged the wife by noting that her anger appeared to be markedly out of proportion to anything her spouse had done. Surprisingly, she responded, that 27 years ago, her husband had insulted her mother’s cooking by criticizing her meatloaf and that she would never forget the hurt look on her mother’s face. The husband’s dumbfounded look on his face was accompanied by the emphatic statement, “But I loved your mother’s meatloaf and everything she cooked!” He had no recollection of ever insulting his mother-in-law’s cooking. The other fact you need to know is this gentlemen was a 300 pounder and obviously enjoyed eating!
A minor misunderstanding 27 years ago had been left to rot at the bottom of a trunk in this woman’s mental closet and had ended in the threat of divorce. Why hadn’t she said something 27 years ago? Probably it was just easier to sweep it under the rug and go to bed.
The moral of the story is simple! If your marriage has been neglected, is stale or worn and dirty, don’t throw it out. Get some help. Talk to your doc and find a good counselor and get to work restoring it to its original luster.
From a strictly personal point of view, watching my patients go through the misery of separation and divorce drains my energy and you don’t want to do that, do you? So get to work and fix it now. Spring cleaning can be more than just fixing up the house and working in the yard!
(Renee’s addendum: Happy Anniversary, Stewart! When both of us have to ask each other how many years we have been married and then actually mathematically calculate the number of years, I’d call that a good sign. It takes communication, even when it’s hard. As you said, marriage is work and is always a work in progress as we change with age and the stages of our life. We’ve always tried to remember that, in the end, it was going to be the two of us left after we had raised our children and cared for our parents. We are finally there. Here’s to us and our future! Thank you for a great 41 years!)