“Someone has taken care of your meal check,” the server told us with a smile. “Now, I wish I had ordered dessert,” Tom grinned. While we were wondering who and why someone had given us this surprise gift, the manager of the restaurant came to us.
“The way you have talked with one another, held hands across the table, no phones—well, I just wanted to thank you for showing me a little of how a love relationship looks.” He sat down with us, and we shared a few minutes of our journey. He was surprised we had been married over fifty years.
Sometimes we must have our cell phones on the table, but this time, it was good we didn’t! Looking into the eyes is a must for good conversation. I always tell Tom, I am not sure you are listening unless you see my eyes. Ears and eyes seem to go together.
“The wise in heart are called discerning, understanding and knowing; and winsome speech increases learning in both speaker and listener.” Proverbs 16:21 Amplified Bible
Early in our marriage, Tom would say, “Barb, I can never know you unless you reveal yourself to me.” I talked more than he, but perhaps I said less! I was scared of revealing my self… due in part to being told I was stupid most of my life, I am sure. I was afraid to be real. As he shared his feelings, his hopes, the deep things of his heart, I began to expose the parts of me no one had ever known.
Sharing hearts is the beginning of a relationship that moves towards intimacy… this is much more than a sexual encounter. I love the word ‘in-to-me-see’ for this depth in marriage. It encompasses a closeness you can’t describe, a deep understanding of another, a confidence filling you completely that this person will never intentionally hurt your heart. It’s a walk in the dark when holding hands is the only communication needed. When I am crying and Tom simply holds me, never asking what is the matter. He knows…
We have plenty of time these days for talking… we begin the morning that way; I told Tom last week that our hour over breakfast anchors me for the day, wraps me… Life with four children presented challenges for listening, so we grabbed the moments… we made time for this necessary part of our relationship. Bedtime was the one time we would talk over the day, share what needed sharing. I have always said my two favorite places in the whole world are in ‘my chair’ early mornings listening to the Lord and in Tom’s arms at evening, listening to his heart. You just make a time… (an added little note here: We have always, with few exceptions, these fifty seven years, gone to bed together… a sweet ending to each day.)
I could write a book on the places and ways we made available times, but you are writing your own book on this subject. Tom says we have had a fairy tale journey, one packed with schemes and spells of witches and wizards, dragon fights and more, like any other story book… we just keep believing there is a ‘happily ever after.’The following quote whispers intimacy and acceptance in every phrase, and it is beautiful in marriage: “Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” Dinah Maria Craik
You can talk all day and all night, but there needs to be some touching going on. When we first began leading marriage workshops, we called each one of our married children and asked them: What is the one thing you remember most about us—in the home? All four of them said… the way you two have always touched.
“I love to come to your house,” a young friend who visited often, whispered to our daughter. “I love to see your mom and dad touch each other. I have never seen mine do that.”
“Affectionate touching is one of the most critical elements of a strong and healthy marriage, and it is one of the easiest to neglect. Regular, sincere, spontaneous nonsexual affection helps to sustain the emotional closeness needed in a marriage.” USAir Magazine, October 1992. This was written 30 years ago.
It is true that each one has a different level of need for touch. You will remember physical touch is one of the five love languages (The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman). It was interesting how long it took me to realize this was a language Tom spoke. Touching was always a part of our relationship, but I never associated this as his love language… (and we had taught the book!) Until… one day he told me how he felt when I reached for his hand as we walked in Vienna.
For most of my younger years, I was not hugged and touched except in a negative way, other than when I spent summer time with aunts and uncles who were loving and kind to all of us. I had to learn the lesson of touch. Marriage is a constant learning class.
John Gray, author of Mars and Venus, Together Forever, asked his mother why his father had felt the need to stray. “Your father and I loved each other very much. But as the years passed, I became his mother, and your father wanted a wife.” p2. Not only do we need touch, we learn to love romantically, too. The website, itsovereasy.com states in one particular study, the number one reason given for divorce is … absence of romantic intimacy/love.
Sadly, this often happens. Charlie Shedd, our first mentor in marriage, declared a woman should be a lady on the street, a queen in her house, and a lover in the bedroom. (He has a stronger word than lover.) Never be a mother… I am sure some of my readers may think this is far too outdated. After all, we live in 2021, and we are equal in every way. This has nothing to do with being equal; it has all to do with learning ways to finish well… together.
“For I am confident and sure of this very thing that He who began a good work in you… in Tom and me… (italics mine) will continue until death do us part (italics my words), Philippians 1:6
… as long as we keep learning to love, accepting each other, seeking oneness, talking and touching…
… we will last… you will last; it begins NOW.
To my single readers I may have lost the past five weeks with these five longer blog posts on ‘finishing well… together’, be assured I will be back with truths from the garden soon… shorter!