Halfway down the stairs

The day to day thoughts of mother of three, fledgling gardener, and policy analyst.

Forever and always February 9, 2010

Filed under: marriage — halfwaydownthestairs @ 11:54 am

“What are you always thinking about?”
asked the little white rabbit.
“I’m just thinking about my wish,” replied the little black rabbit.
“What is your wish?” asked the little white rabbit.
“I just wish that I could be with you forever and always,”
replied the little black rabbit.
The little white rabbit opened her eyes very wide
and thought very hard.
“Why don’t you wish a little harder?”
asked the little white rabbit.

The rabbits’ wedding was in our childhood library. It was a sweet little story. I’m not sure I thought much about it as a small person, and certainly didn’t think it was a comment on interracial marriage, as some have. Garth Williams wrote this book in 1958. It’s the story of a white rabbit and a black rabbit who play together and are great friends. As the story goes along, the black rabbit is sad, and worries about what might happen if one day he could not be with the white rabbit. As you can see from text I’ve cut in, he eventually asks his friend to marry him, so they can be together “forever and always.” If I was getting married now, I might even use this as a reading – who knew it was so delightful?

Anyhow, I’ve been thinking a bit about marriage lately. I am qualified to speak a little about this, having been married for maybe 11 years. I have also helped deliver pre-marriage courses, which, for the record, are more valuable than gold. I was talking to a friend recently about marriage. He had noticed that there was a lot of attention and energy spent on parenting, child raising, parent education etc. There are TV shows (thanks Nigel Latta) books, classes, and more, all aimed to help you birth, parent, and educate your children. My friend commented that there seem to be more resources going into parenting than there are into marriages. And what is more important for a kid, he wondered, than two happy parents?

Too true. People get married often in the first flush of new love, when all looks rosy in the world. Everyone talks about the wedding, the reception, the dress, the flowers. All of which is wonderful. But there is little thought given to the marriage that follows the wedding day, and I don’t see a lot of resource being thrown at people planning to spend their lives together.  When marriages get into trouble, the courts provide three free counselling sessions, to assist couples who have children to determine what happens next. What about some help at the other end of the journey, where it could be much more valuable, and indeed preventative?

I am one of a rare breed of people who comes from a family where the parents are still married. To each other, not to two new people! I am married, joyfully so. Increasingly, marriages and relationships don’t last. I think there are a whole bunch of reasons why this is. Way up there at the top of the list I’d put because couples don’t talk to each other. There seems to be a fear about what the other partner might think about this or that thought or feeling. Or perhaps that days get busy with work and social life, and eventually with children, and then more children, and suddenly there has developed a void between you that seems uncrossable. So, for the sake of your marriage, talk. Build little rituals into your day where you share information.

My (amazing) husband and I talk about our favourite things at days end. We lie in bed, and ask the other what our favourite thing of that day was. It might have been laughing with the baby, or sitting on the ferry in the sun, or some other small joy. By sharing this little thing, we get a window into the other person’s day, some shared understanding. And because this is a habit of ours, the repeated question each evening is a little bridge to more communication. It isn’t much, and it shouldn’t be. This is more important than evenings out in fancy restaurants, or flowers that just die anyway (though I will suffer those if I must! 🙂 )

There is much, much more I could say. Perhaps enough to fill a book?  I’m not an advocate of staying in marriages that aren’t working for the sake of ‘marriage’. But I am an advocate of learning how to love over the course of a lifetime. In a great marriage, that love runs more deeply and is more fulfilling as the years go by.  Great marriages have positive effect on children, on other couples, and on communities too.

Somehow a good marriage enhances not just those two people, but those around them as their love for each other is reflected in what they do in the world. It’s as if the energy you gain from being well loved can then be passed on, in greater quantity and to good effect. I bet you can think of a couple who have a great relationship, and it shows on the faces of their kids, in their work, in the volunteering they do, in the advice and help that they give to you. They look to do more, learn more, understand more.  I hope that when my time here is done, someone will think of us as a couple like this.

See you on the stairs,