The secret to a happy marriage is love

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One day last week, a woman told me the story of her parents. As her father’s arthritis began to worsen, her mother began helping him dress each morning.
Because her mother is a rather large woman, and bending over a struggle, her father would then put her shoes and socks on for her. This has been a part of their daily ritual for several years.
This is one story of true love that never makes it into the movies. Everything matters. That is the one truth we all need to learn, no matter what the relationship, if we hope for it to flourish.
Love. What is love? In most relationships, it begins with breathless happiness, a sparkling joy that transcends words. Over the course of a lifetime, breathless happiness turns into those necessary deep breaths before responding to a question asked for the hundredth time.
My daughter and I were sitting in a restaurant recently, chatting up a storm, catching up on all of life’s events.
Almost at the very same moment, as we took a breath from our almost constant conversation, we noticed the older couple sitting across the aisle from us, not saying a word. It prompted me to recall the only set of grandparents I ever knew.
They often sat and played dominoes together quietly for long stretches of time. Grandma said with a smile that they passed the same nickel back and forth over their many years together, as that was the highest betting they ever placed on a game.
She said most games passed in companionable silence, as they enjoyed the game and one another’s company.
“Did you and Grandpa ever fight about anything?” I once asked her, several years after my grandfather had passed away.
“Only about politics,” she answered with a grin.
“And as we got older, we learned not to argue. It just didn’t make any sense.”
Pact. They made a pact to stay home on election day, because her vote would cancel out his. Every single time. Life was much harder, and much simpler, for our grandparents.
In my case, one was a Democrat, one a Republican.
“And if that was the worst thing I could say about him, I guess I did all right,” Grandma said with her ornery smile.
They found a way to compromise on that single difference. They had very little in terms of material goods, but they had a warm home, healthy children, steady and steely determination to head off to work each morning and put supper on the table each night.
There was no such thing as keeping up with the Joneses. The Joneses didn’t have much, either.
Happy. Grandma said, after considerable thought, that one thing that kept their marriage happy is that she stayed out of the barn, leaving Grandpa to his beloved horses, and in return, Grandpa didn’t interfere with her interests.
Such a simple motto. It would make a great cross-stich saying, all wrapped up in a frame. If only there were enough hours in the day, I would stitch it up myself.
Maybe when I’m 80 or so, working with the arthritic fingers and smiling determination I seem to have inherited from my grandmother, I’ll find the time!

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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