2017-06-07 / Columns

For a long and lasting marriage, it’s the little things that matter


Every single morning, as predictably as the sunrise, my husband leaves me a note on the kitchen table, and while it’s hardly in the category of a love letter, invariably it’s got some funny twist.

He does it because he knows, after five decades plus of marriage, I was not born a morning person. I need a reason to smile before that first cup of coffee.

And while I know that there are men who whisk their women off to deserted islands on a whim, or can execute a perfect tango on the dance floor, I’ll take my morning note over those.

In marriage, as in life, it’s really, truly the little things that count. Trust me on that.

All that hype about profound intellectual links and shared values— sure, consider it.

Pay attention to the cosmic things like belief systems and principles.

But realize that sometimes, just listening to the wind or rain with someone who is willing to warm your feet can be the most glorious of all gifts.

In this traditional wedding season—and who can blame brides and grooms who want the softness of spring as their launching pad—you’ll probably be at a wedding or two. You’ll hear lyric phrases and rhapsodic words about love. And we all need that infusion of romance now and then.

But never forget that there are so many ways of defining love.

Love, for me, is the sight of a very wet man standing under a blown-out umbrella on a terribly wicked, rainy night. That soaked man has brought the car right to the curb for a woman who has rudely reminded him, more often than she should, that she is totally and completely…liberated.

My husband is the one person who understands that sometimes, despite declarations of serious dieting and sweeping changes in nutrition, the chronic, neurotic dieter with whom he shares his life simply cannot live without her Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. And doesn’t it take a special grace for him NOT to remind me of my indiscretion when I moan and whine about not fitting into my jeans?

As relentlessly as marriage makes demands, it also pays extraordinary dividends for those of us who refuse to give up on it. Like the snow leopards of the marriage contract, we hang in there through the less glorious, glamorous days and nights, through all the rust of routine, and through the sentences that begin with the tender words, “For crying out loud…”

Maybe it’s because my husband remembers that when I light the yahrzeit candles for each of my parents, I want him near.

And because when we’re in synagogue for Shabbat, when the service ends, we exchange a peck. We did that when we were newlyweds, and 56 years later we still exchange that peck.

It’s a gesture that says that no matter how the week has been— and surely not all are marvelous— we are still holding to our bond. And that’s more important than moonlight and roses and sparkling repartee.

Sometimes, I feel almost overwhelmed by those tiny, little graces of a long marriage, the things that cumulatively leave me feeling swollen with the loveliest kind of security.

The knowledge that yes, there is somebody out there who really does care when I’m feeling blue or battered by the world or just plain blah—that matters more than all the lyric love poems in any collected work.

My very married groom will be excused for singing “Be My Love” off-key, for refusing to ask for directions when we’re lost, and for leaving bagel crumbs behind him. Because when I’m hurting, he is there to make me feel safe.

When I’m so absorbed in writing something that I cease and desist from doing all housework except that which the Board of Health could nail me on, he gets us back to a semblance of order quietly and smoothly.

So I’m an old bride in an in an old marriage.

But this I wish for every new bride and groom. May they have a marriage that sometimes is far from perfect—but that still remembers how to light up their lives.


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