I have learned something new about marriage this year. Something that felt less significant has now become more so. Something that once felt like a given has now become something to be valued. Something trite has become much more meaningful.
I’ve been married for 39 years. I have been married much longer than I was single. I share virtually everything in my life with Lynne. We share the same friends, the same church, the same home, the same kids, the same city, and even the same family (to a meaningful degree). My mom calls Lynne her daughter. I call Lynne’s sister “sis.” I am rarely “alone.”
At times and in seasons, Lynne and I have an intimate marriage. We share a “knowing” and a partnership, an appreciation and a trust, even a delight in one another that we share with no one else. Those moments are the stuff movies are made out of, even though some of those moments are mundane or even comical. But they are intimate. For years I would have said that this was the purpose of marriage – intimacy. A fulfilling marriage is an intimate marriage. But I think there is something more… (or ‘less’, that is in fact, more).
A year and a half ago my dad passed away. He was 99. He and my mom had been married over 60 years. They too shared everything. While there had once been a life apart, it truly had become a distant memory. The last several years of their marriage were difficult from a health standpoint. My dad had two hip surgeries. He really didn’t survive the second one. And the recovery process was very difficult. He was a very independent man who became much more dependent. He played tennis until his early 90’s and the loss of that outlet was hard. But he had my mom and she had him.
In the last year and a half, I have gotten much closer to my mom. We talk much more often. Sometimes it is about significant stuff – heaven, the brevity of life, her conversations with the “Lawd” (she’s from Richmond). But often it is about the mundane ins and outs of life – what my siblings are doing, or my nieces and nephews, what is happening in their jobs or their social lives. It is the stuff of everyday life. I look forward to those conversations.
In Genesis 2, God made a proclamation to Adam about life as a human being. “It is not good for a man to be alone.” As many of you know, I have used this passage on countless marriage retreats over the last 30 years. I have used it to point to the rich oneness that God intends for us to experience in this most special of relationships. We can be known and cherished, delighted in, respected and seen in the marriage relationship in a way that we can nowhere else. And that is true!! There are nothing like those moments or seasons of life in that most intimate of relationships.
But I am seeing something just as profound, but much more simple. It really is a good thing not to be alone. It is a good thing to share the mundane comings and goings of life with someone. There is something so very special about not being alone. Lynne knows me well enough to ask me what it is like going back into my work week on Monday morning. She has seen me do it for decades. And when she asked me this morning “How are you going into work today?” I felt ‘not alone.’ It wasn’t super intimate, I wouldn’t even call it rich or by any means profound. But I wasn’t alone.
This is a part of marriage that I have undersold for many years. In my pursuit of intimacy (which has been a good thing), I fear I have taken for granted and undervalued something oh-so-simple – I am not alone. Lynne is with me – as I walked out of the door this morning and when I come home late tonight. It isn’t perfect but it is consistent. She cares. She knows. She is there. I am not alone.
As I have journeyed with my mom these last two years, I have seen just how big of a hole that can be. I find myself wanting to give her something that I can’t. No matter how well I listen or care, no matter how often my siblings visit, we can’t be with her in the way that my dad was.
There is a richness possible in marriage. There is an intimacy that we find in certain seasons or situations. Inevitably it is fleeting and even somewhat beyond our control. But the richness that comes with partnership, with ‘not living life alone’, while more mundane, may in fact be more profound. And I think God knew that all along. I just took it for granted.
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.
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