My friend and I were recently reminiscing about past fights that we’d had with our respective husbands.
As we hashed through what hindsight revealed to be petty concerns, I realized how different I would have viewed things if I had known that my marriage was going to last this long.
The jealousies, the dreadful search for signs of doom lurking around corners would shrink in light of our longevity. I would know the ending, and there would be no reason to fear. Brilliant.
My friend shook her head kindly at my theory and said, “I don’t think it works like that, Mary.”
My life’s work has centered primarily on teenagers and their development. As a result, I have spent a good block of time examining relationship issues. Of these, trust seems to trump all other concerns.
To trust or not to trust is a question that arises at the first blush of human contact. And, when young people of all shapes and colors come to me lamenting either a reluctance to trust or the desire to be trusted, I remind them that trust, like love, is not a fixed target. It is an evolving, becoming miracle that requires an eternity to pursue.
To me, trust can never be a destination; it can only be an infinite journey that begins with the tentative offer of a heart and bears out through the careful investment of uncountable moments.
When I look back at those first few years with my husband, I am embarrassed at the love and regard that I expected right away with no history to support it.
I want to go back in time and counsel that naïve young woman, that terrified young woman, and reassure her that time truly would tell and that the wait would be awful and wonderful all at the same time.
I want to tell her how exquisite love can be when it has a past to look through and how much more real words become when they have a lifetime to bear witness. This backward reflecting reminds me of my cousin saying that you never know whether you had a good day until it is over.
I have noticed recently how protective my husband has become of me. He worries more that I might get hurt, that I might not be safe.
Long ago, my grandfather said of a long-married couple, “He’s realizing that she’s his best friend.” Something like that cannot be decided in a movie moment; it demands a lifetime of failures and forgiveness and recommitment to discover. What a sweet discovery.
When I first began writing, I wrote about my stepdaughter becoming engaged. I included the line, “I suspect she has met her soul mate.” My editor at the time (and I love this about her) worried that my phrasing could be misconstrued as a lack of faith in the relationship.
But, I don’t believe that the word ‘soul mate’ belongs at a wedding; I believe it belongs at a 50th wedding anniversary. Like canonization, the whole tale must be weighed.
Whenever I imagine my ending, I think of the last scene in Titanic, where Rose has died and ascends the main staircase lined with applauding people. Each clapping person had touched her life, some in small, anonymous ways and some in tremendous, life-altering ways — a human chain of minute, defining connections.
In my life, I have regret. There have been unspoken words and hurtful choices. But, I have never regretted the whos of my journey; those who have fleetingly grazed my soul or those who have come to nest. In my opinion, the whos say more about our lives than any profession, than any possession.
This year, my husband and I have been together for exactly half of our lives. I love this vantage point. I love rummaging through the wreckage and glory of this life and remembering who I let go and who chose to stay.
I love knowing that the man who started my story so many years ago found someone worth claiming. With five absurd and irresistible children in tow, he made my soul a home.
Mary White is from the Malone area. She and her husband have five children, eight cats, two dogs and three guinea pigs. She has had the privilege of working with children and families (her own and other people’s) for more than 20 years. For more of her columns, visit http://marywhitelovestories.com.