Very Married: More Reflections on Long-Time Love

beloved blog journey marriage reflection May 25, 2022

Blog by Gem Fadling

Today is our 37th wedding anniversary. I (Gem) have occasionally shared about our earliest days of dating and getting married at a relatively young age. Alan and I have grown up together in every way. I met him when I was a teenager, and we married at the tender ages of 21 and 24.


Last year I published this ooey-gooey-lovey-dovey post, which I absolutely adore. This year, I thought I might take a different look at long-time love.


A few years ago, a young woman who had been recently engaged asked me the secret to a long-lasting marriage. I could have just laughed it off and said there is no secret. Instead, I took a sincere stab at it, and here is what came to mind:


Marriage is a relationship between two people on a transformational journey. Each individual is on their own formational journey with God. The key is for both partners to be growing and then being willing to adjust as the other person changes. Because growth equals change. Long-time marriage results when you hang in there through all the seasons of your relationship.


I don’t know if this is THE definition of a marriage, but I do know it’s the glue that has held Alan and me together. And I realize it is not romantic in the traditional sense, but romance is not love. Love is grander than romance, as evidenced by the fact that God chooses to define himself with the term: “God is love” (1 John 4:8).


Alan and I are opposite in almost every way. See if you can guess which of us is which in the following list.


Myers-Briggs: ENFP / ISTJ (not one letter in common!)

Enneagram: 7 / 5 (experts have said this is like oil and water)

Quality time: engaging banter / quiet togetherness

Vacation favs: tackling every tourist site / resting and reading


And yet our relationships with God, what God is doing in us, and how we are growing and sharing that with each other--this has been the backbone of our connection. This has been the stabilizing force when all else is opposite or even contrary.


I realize this is sheer grace. It’s something we weren’t even smart enough to plan for but has simply emerged as our superglue. And I know not everyone experiences this. I’m not offering a prescription, merely a description.


Alan and I have been committed to each other through all that life has thrown at us and in every permutation of ourselves.


This quote from Thomas Merton says it all: 


“The beginning of this love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” (Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island)


I want to be the kind of person who allows Alan to be who he is and to not merely search for my own reflection within him. Acknowledging this is only the beginning of love. 


I told you this wasn’t romantic. But it is real. We know everything about each other, and we choose to love. We hold space for each other to grow, and we remain willing to learn the new dance steps.


At our best, our opposite traits complement each other. Together, we make a multifaceted whole that doesn’t exist without our partnership. This is the beauty of our long-time love, and this is what we celebrate today.



  • Whether or not you are married, what does long-time love mean to you?
  • What do you think about the centrality of the transformational journey?
  • Ponder Merton’s quote. How might you be looking for your own reflection in the people you love?


P.S. Please note that this is meant to be a tribute to Alan, to our marriage, and to longtime love at its best. However, if you or someone you know is in any kind of toxic or abusive relationship or marriage, it is not time to “hang in there” and “learn new dance steps.” Seek help and get to a safe place, both physically and emotionally.