Saturday, January 9, 2010

How Do You Do It?

This is the only known picture of us holding hands. It was staged for the benefit of Rachel Wickstrum who was following along behind us, camera in tow. Not that we're some curmudgeonly couple... we're just not big PDA types.

Now, before you start a mental diatribe about a lack of affection in our relationship, know that Suz & I are the quintessential high school sweethearts. I was a junior and she was a sophomore the first time we met on a district science fair trip (she was supposed to be there... I made it on a fluke). It took me awhile to get my act together, but many years later I got around to popping the question and we got on with our lives.
All told we dated for 5 years. This year we'll be married 13. That's a grand total of 18 years of getting to know someone very, very well and I'll put money on the fact that she probably knows me better than I know her. (She says it's something about the way I've got a reader-board across my forehead... seems I don't mask my emotions very well.)
A few months ago we were out to eat with the facilitators of a marriage seminar we'd just attended. Ironically, the conversation turned to long-term relationships and we batted around what made ours possible. What keeps couples together when the trash is smelly and no one wants to take it out? At what point is that towel on the floor the final straw? When does "that thing you do" just push me over the edge for the very last time?
I still remember our first spat. We weren't married. We were still in college. We didn't have a house, babies, tattered passports, anything. We were sitting in her room discussing, of all things, appliances: a washer, I believe. How a conversation between two people in love went from theoretical purchase to tears so quickly I'm still not sure, but I believe it had something to do with this: I'm right & you're wrong.
We haven't had a knockdown, dragged out argument since. Neither one of us has ever screamed at the other. There's never been a night on the couch or at mom's house to cool down. (One reason is that Suzi has a hard & fast rule to always...ALWAYS... tuck me in if I hit the sack before her... hard to do if I'm not there!) We worked it out early on that we as individuals were not the most important part of our relationship. It was our relationship that was the most important part of us.

Read this carefully:

When I believe that you mean more to me than the issue at hand, it means that we can tackle anything. And we'll do it together.

That means that it doesn't matter who was right about getting the tire fixed or who should've paid the AmEx bill. What it means is that I do whatever I can to make sure this thing works. And she does everything she can to make sure this thing works. We don't hold grudges. We don't say things to intentionally cut each other down (her wit's way sharper than mine, anyway... I'd be in ribbons; no contest there). When there's an issue to discuss, we come at it from the perspective of "I care too much about you to let this go any further." That goes for everything from spiritual life to the green-stuff-stuck-in-your-teeth.
And TRUST plays a big part in all of that. If I know you have my best intentions at heart, then what you have to say holds greater weight with me. Again, one is never going to do something to intentionally hurt the other. Too many times, I believe relationships are built on the idea that each of the parties are owed something by the other. Keeping track of what you owe me and what I'm due is a recipe for disaster. Eventually that house of cards is coming down.

So, what's got us this far?

I just like her with me a lot more than I like me by myself.


Ron and Jerry Ann Guidroz said...

Excellent!!! I would like to use some of this in our seminar with your permission. So well said!!!b

Tammy said...

Amen to that! I think...y'all should be doing your own marriage seminars! God bless you on your next adventure of rearing a child in that love that you have for one another. It is truly exciting to say the least.

Jennifer Nelson said...

So true! People cannot believe that Keith and I DO NOT fight. It is so cool to read it. You perfectly described the undescribable relationship we have. I always think, "No one loves there husband as much as I do." I guess that isn't true.