I ran into Gene O. Morris, the retired publisher of this newspaper, on the 16th hole of the annual horserace at Heritage Hills last Friday and we had a discussion about my column that week, which he said he liked. He mentioned, however, that I had left out a most important attribute of a perfect marriage and that's commitment. I agreed that I had because my readership is almost entirely adults and we were raised knowing that we had to commit ourselves totally to anything we tried to do and that included marriage. Young people today have a different view of commitment and I've written about that before.
But our discussion got me to thinking about commitment again and the trip I had made to Arkansas a few weeks back to see my boys. By the time I got there, everyone had left for Michael's step-son's graduation so I walked into an empty house. On the kitchen counter was a pan of 50 ribs, a pan of baked beans and a pan of cole slaw. I made me a plate and quickly dug into what turned out to be the tastiest barbecue platter I've had in a long time. About halfway through my meal, my youngest son, Will, and his wife, Erica, pulled in and they each had a plate, too. Just as we were finishing up, the rest of the family arrived back home and the remainder of the night was spent catching up on each other's lives.
The next day, we went to Linda's favorite steak house and had another sumptuous meal. Late that night, I told Linda I was going to have some more ribs and she told me they were all gone. There were several of us eating ribs but there was no way we had eaten all 50 so I asked her what happened to them and she said she had given everything to Michael and his family except the cole slaw. Now I'm sure most of you have been in this situation before. It was always understood in our family that dad (that's me and it was the case with her dad and my dad too) was never overlooked when it came to food. She either saved the last piece of food for me or she would make me a plate and put it in the fridge so I wouldn't be overlooked. But this time I was. I was no longer her primary concern.
The rest of the time spent with her involved a lot of remembering and a lot of quibbling about things we remembered differently. I don't like quibbling or arguing and I never have but since we're two dominant personalities, that's what we did and it caused me to remember the 25 years we lived together and that was sort of the hallmark of our lives together.
It also caused me to realize that in most marriages, we just sort of get accustomed to the way things are. We put up with a lot of stuff we normally wouldn't put up with at all because that's just the way it is. Linda and I thought we were going to be married forever and quibbling was just a part of it. It wasn't until I moved to McCook and then later divorced that I realized it wasn't something that was inevitable or something I had to put up with. But all the way through my marriage, I thought it was just the price you pay. Life was predictable and even though the intimacy and the passion had waned, I just saw it as the natural evolution that marriage took. It wasn't until after my divorce that I found another woman who made my heart skip a beat everytime I saw her that I knew that's the way you're supposed to feel in a relationship ALL the time. And that brings us back to the word commitment again.
It's clear to me, looking at my marriage in hindsight, that our commitment was not to each other but to our children and that's how it remains today. We both love our children and would do anything for them but the obligation to each other died some time ago. As long as you have a shared commitment to something; that can keep the relationship alive and breathing. It's when you share a commitment for NOTHING that you're both living a lie; relationships sociologists call "empty shell" marriages because that's what they are. The frame is there but there's nothing happening on the inside.
So if your passion and commitment is hunting or fishing or hiking or running or rummage sales or sex or children or anything else that the two of you share eagerly and excitedly with each other, then you have a foundation for your marriage and a bond between the two of you.
If you don't, you're a fool to stay where you are.