My husband, Alan, and I are very married. In fact, last month we celebrated our 36th anniversary.
I first laid eyes on Alan when I was 17 years old. It was the summer of 1981, and I was sitting in the back row of seats during an evening service at church. My cousin whispered to me out of the side of her mouth, “Gem, Gem, look over there.” Her eyes motioned to the right.
Evidently, we were there to check out guys. I know this because the next words out of her mouth were, “Look at that guy.” I leaned forward and there was the cutest guy I had ever seen in my life—tall, blond, and blue-eyed. I looked back at my cousin and was like, “Wow!”
Of course, it took almost two more years before that guy decided to look my way. Whatever.
No one gets this far into a marriage without glorious highs and severe lows. And Alan and I have traversed it all—together.
Longtime love is like that. You hang in there no matter what, and the payoff is tremendous. We have a relationship that is deep and refined, like wine that is produced from grapes that have been dry farmed. We are reaping the harvest of allowing our roots to dig down deep and produce fruit even during a drought.
That cute guy across the aisle at church turned out to be much more than a handsome face. Even at my ripe old age of 19 I could see that Alan had the mantle of leadership on him, and that is even more true today. He is a grower and a learner, and he shares those qualities beautifully. And even better, his blue eyes still make my heart go pitter-pat.
Alan and I see and know each other exactly as we are. Nothing is hidden. And we still choose to love each other over and over and over again. That is longtime love.
Every season of love has its beauty. A few years ago, we attended the wedding of two young friends. The fresh bloom of their new love was in the air. Nothing but future before them. Glorious!
Now in the second half of life, Alan and I find ourselves in the season of decades-old love. We read each other’s minds, finish each other’s sentences, and can sit together for long periods of time without saying anything. Glorious!
If you’re a fan of the TV show Grey’s Anatomy, you will know that Meredith and Derek had a Post-it wedding. They wrote their vows on a Post-it note and signed it.
Derek [writing on a square, blue Post-it]: What do we want to promise each other?
Meredith: That you’ll love me even when you hate me.
Derek [continues writing]: To love each other even when we hate each other. No running. Ever. Nobody walks out, no matter what happens.
Meredith: No running.
Derek: What else?
Meredith: That we’ll take care of each other, even when we’re old and smelly and senile, and if I get Alzheimer’s and forget you . . .
Derek: I will remind you who I am every day. . . . To take care when old, senile, smelly. This . . . is . . . forever. Sign.
Meredith: This is our wedding? A Post-it?
Derek: Mm-hmm. If you sign it.
Meredith [signs]: Now what?
Derek: Now I kiss the bride.
They later framed the Post-it note and hung it over their bed. Whenever things got really hard, they would declare, “I call Post-it!” That hearkened back to the promises they had made to each other, and they would choose to pull through whatever situation was before them.
I’m not saying Meredith and Derek are my model for the perfect marriage, but I do like what was on their Post-it note. Longtime love happens when two people decide they are committed for life and for real and they both work on it together.
Alan and I have each continued growing and changing over the years, and we’ve both had to learn some new dance steps. Sometimes we’ve just had to change our dancing shoes. Other times we’ve had to completely change ballrooms. But the point is, we keep dancing.
So, my dear Alan, here’s to the first 36 years. As we aim at the next 36 years, I promise to love you even when I hate you. I promise not to run. I promise to take care of you when you are old and smelly. I promise to remind you who I am every day. These two hearts . . . never apart.
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 abusive relationship or marriage, it is not time to “hang in there and keep dancing.” Seek help and get to a safe place, both physically and emotionally.