February 14 – Growth and love

“A good marriage is on which allows for change and growth in the individuals and in the way they express their love.” – Pearl Buck

I am not the same person I was back in April of 1983, and for that, just about everyone I know is thankful. That skinny kid from Cleveland was very immature. He had notions of the world that just didn’t stand up to the test of time. He was cocky at times (despite the best efforts of his mother). He was overly-idealistic. He was aggressive and passionate, but prone to angry outbursts. He was certain that in just a few years he would rule the world, or at least whatever fiefdom he found himself in presently. It’s not that he was a bad person, he was just, well, not very seasoned.

I am very blessed with a loving wife who accepts me as I am, and still challenges me to be better. Even when I have been at the depths of depression, or the heights of obesity, she has accepted and loved me just as I was, while still helping me to become better. It seems like that last sentence is oxymoronic, but it isn’t. I believe it is the key to success in any relationship – especially in marriage.

Some years ago I was pondering what made my marriage work so well. We had been married for a logn time, and had seen our share of ups and downs, as any couple will. At the time, my mom was still alive and living in the house where I’d grown up. Next door the immigrant family had long-since build a grape trellis over their driveway, and the husband was known for making his own wine. I was in my mother’s yard with my kids and looking at the grapes hanging from the trellis in my neighbor’s yard, and it came to me. A good marriage is like a grape vine.

As I looked at the grapevine I could see some places where two vines seemed indistinguishable from one another. It looked as though they were so twisted together as to be one. In other places those vines were more spaced and had grown apart some, then further along they came back together again. I am no expert on grape growing, and it is possible that my understanding of those vines was flawed, but in that moment I hit upon a metaphor for married life.

There are times in any marriage when people are so close together as to be almost indistinguishable from one another. Their interests and activities are so intertwined that they become interchangeable. They might like the exact same books, TV shows, hobbies, Saturday activities, and so on. My wife and I have had times like that to be sure. Other times they might be a little more separated. While one is off reading true crime books, and building things in the garage, the other might be off exploring painting, and reading magazines on how to hone cooking skills. I suppose that for some, when these times of growing apart go too far, the marriage can suffer. Those that find success, as we’ve been fortunate to do, always seem to eventually grow back to one another.

Pearl Buck’s quote reminds me today that, in many respects, I am not the person I was when I got married. The same is true for my wife. If the success of our marriage was based only on exactly who we were and how we acted on that rainy Saturday, then we would have been doomed. Instead, we have learned to grow – together and apart – into the people, and the couple we are today.

Bobby-C’s thought for the day… Happy Valentine’s day to one and all today! May the hope and spark of love, both old and new, warm your February heart.

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