Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lasting Love - Part 5

This is the final installment of my blog series on some of the reasons we have managed to remain married for over fifty years. (I know some people think it’s about time for it to end.)

5. Humor and Respect

For many years, I’ve told Larry I keep him around because he makes me laugh. There is a great deal of truth in the statement.

I was raised in a family of dour Scots. They took life VERY seriously. I was an extrovert. They were mostly introverts. Until I met my dad’s younger sister after years of separation, I never knew where my personality came from. (It was from the Irish side of his family.)

Aunt Mary Evelyn was absent from our lives growing up. After Dad died, we lost track of nearly all of his family. Years later, she contacted me, and we began to spend time together. She was hysterically funny. (I didn’t get all of that gene, but I was a great audience.) We laughed at the same jokes and quoted the same quotes.

But I really learned about humor from Larry’s family.

His grandfather, Harry Burton, was one of the funniest people I ever met. Harry’s sister, Margaret, was also a kick.

Larry’s brother, Casey, inherited the Burton comedic gene as did their cousin, Jim Tedford. Any of them could have made a living as stand-up comics.

Larry’s dad had a more subtle sense of humor, but he was also very funny. During the years when Larry’s mother was bedridden, we visited every Sunday. I stayed with Mother while Larry and Casey got Dad out of the room for a bit. One of my favorite memories is hearing the three of them laughing in the next room.

Casey has the ability to find humor even in serious circumstances. He is able to see the irony and ridiculousness in the human condition. The lady at the mortuary, where we met to make Dad’s final arrangements, thanked us for making her day. Dad died at 94 years old, after a long and happy life. He had made all the arrangements himself, so we were relieved of decision-making—except for the flowers. When she asked what we wanted, we looked at each other.

Finally, I said, “Dad wasn’t really much of a flower guy.”

This set Casey off on a series of speculations and references to their mother’s arrangements five years earlier. (She had obviously picked out what she wanted, and we had all enjoyed a laugh at how predictable her choices had been.) We finally decided on a military tribute—the perfect choice. But we also shared great memories and a few laughs in the process.

Larry had to teach me how to be less serious, and I am forever grateful to him for the lesson. He continues to make me laugh, so I’ll keep him for a while longer.

Humor can sometimes be cutting and insulting, however. I know couples who use humor as an excuse to berate each other. Not funny.

Early in our marriage, we were reminded to treat each other with the same respect we would give to our friends. It is easy to get testy with each other when circumstances don’t go our way. (I am sometimes guilty of this!) When I hear short words come out, I try to immediately remind Larry I’m upset at the circumstances, not at him.

For years, when I fixed a meal, Larry thanked me for it. He still does, even after the thousands of meals we’ve shared. Now that he does some of the meal preparation, I return the favor. I genuinely appreciate his efforts, and I tell him so.

I probably could add even more reasons we’re still together, but I’m most grateful for the examples of his grandparents and parents, who showed us how to do it.

We’re here because they showed us the way.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any other secrets?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Lasting Love - Part 4

I’m continuing my series on some of the reasons we have managed to stay together all these years. Here’s another.

4    Communication

When we were first married, I expected Larry to know what I needed by osmosis. I figured if he loved me, he’d figure it out. Didn’t happen.

I tried hinting. That didn’t work either.

I finally figured out guys were just clueless.

Fortunately, early in our marriage, we attended a couple’s retreat. The leader asked, “Are you mind readers?” We shook our heads. “Then how can either of your know what the other needs or wants? You have to tell each other. Men don’t do subtle. They need direct answers.”

I hadn’t thought about it in those terms. How could he know my needs if I didn’t tell him?
A few years later, I read the book Love, No Strings Attached. It changed my life so much that I led a study on it at church. One of the techniques the author suggests is for each partner to write two lists:
·         What I need to feel loved
·         What I do to show you my love
Then we numbered the first list from most important to least.

We exchanged lists. What a surprise! Larry didn’t know how important remembering birthdays and special occasions was to me. (Number one on my list.) I didn’t know he showed his love by washing my car. (I just thought he wanted clean cars.)

I learned to tell him when I needed something without waiting for him to figure it out on his own. And he learned to listen.

I also think it’s important to say the words, “I love you.”

Larry’s mother told me once the only time Dad told her he loved her was on their wedding day. Their pattern was that she said, “I love you, Murl,” and he replied, “Me, too.”

I used this as a theme in “Finding Love in Paradise,” my novella in our award-winning romance anthology, Directions of Love. (I also included Larry’s non-proposal in this one.)

Dad showed Mother his love her entire life, but he almost never said the words.

Larry, on the other hand, has said them often—at least two or three times a day. The words matter to me, and he knows it.

From another couples’ retreat, we learned to be more effective in our communication by using ‘on a scale from one to ten’ to indicate how much we want (or don’t want) to do something. I remember one time when Larry wanted to see a really stupid (IMHO) movie. When he asked if I wanted to go, my answer was, "Is there anything less than zero?”

He took Kim, and I took a bubble bath, got into bed, and read for the evening. We were both happy, and we both knew we’d gotten what we wanted.

How do you communicate? What kinds of things are most important to you?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lasting Love - Part 3

I’ve been sharing some ideas about how we’ve managed to remain married for over fifty years. Here’s another.

3. Play Together
Larry’s parents loved to dance. Dad actually danced professionally as a teenager. He and Mother were fabulous ballroom dancers. On their 60th wedding anniversary, they were still better than we’ll ever be.
Dancing brought them both a great deal of pleasure.

It doesn’t mean they did everything together. Dad was an avid golfer. After they retired, Mother took lessons, but she didn’t really enjoy it. Dad was exceptionally good, and she was never interested enough to improve sufficiently to play at his level. But she enjoyed going with him to tournaments where he competed while she shopped.

Shopping was Mother’s greatest delight. She went out every day—often just to check the stores. Sometimes she’d find an item she liked. She’d check on it for weeks. If it was marked down, she bought it. If it was sold, she figured she didn’t need it.

Four years before their 60th anniversary, they danced at our daughter, Kimberly’s, wedding. They wowed the crowd at the reception.
One other couple on the floor danced as well: my Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Frank.
They took lessons every week and danced every weekend for years. They celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary last August. I put together this video to honor them. At the end is a short clip of them dancing at a pumpkin patch last October.
In 2011, Aunt Evie had a stroke. The first time she was allowed to get out of bed, Uncle Frank held her and danced her around the room. I’m sure it’s one of the reasons she recovered so well physically—she never stopped dancing.

Larry was too intimidated to dance much. So was his brother. With parents as good as theirs, they felt they’d never measure up.

But we found other ways to play together. We love theme parks, and have had annual passes for Disneyland for years. When we were working, we’d often meet at the park for dinner. Then we’d walk around and enjoy the lights, visit the attractions, and watch the people.

Our love of theme parks led to our building of Universal Studios Japan. Living in Japan was difficult, but doing it together got us through. In the end, we felt a great sense of accomplishment. Returning ten years later made us even prouder of the world-class venue we had helped create.

Our sojourn in Japan led us to our second career as authors. When we returned, we wrote our first book: 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park.
Now that we’re retired, play includes writing together. Since 2005, we’ve published fourteen books between us, with number fifteen to come soon.

We also love to travel and have visited and vacationed all over the world. Now that we’re authors, we are often asked to speak at conferences and for other groups. We enjoy meeting people and seeing new places.

We each have our own interests, too. Larry still loves surfing and tries to go every weekday. I love spending time with friends, editing, and reading.

Play is just as important for adults as it is for children. How do you like to play?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Lasting Love - Part 2

Last week, I shared one idea about how Larry and I have managed to remain happily married for fifty-plus years. Here’s another.

2. Meaningful Rituals

On our wedding night, Larry told me a story about his grandparents. They were married for sixty-three years before his grandfather’s death. (This photo was taken of his grandparents and their six children at their fiftieth anniversary celebration.)
After his grandfather died, Larry asked his grandmother what she missed most.

“We always kissed goodnight and said we loved each other. Now that he’s gone, I’ve had a hard time getting to sleep without our goodnight kiss.”

Larry told me, “I’d like to start doing the same thing in our marriage.” For over fifty years, we have done the same except when we’re apart.

Early in our marriage, Larry traveled quite a bit for work. He often ate yogurt for dinner and used his food allowance to call home so we could say goodnight and “I love you.”

In 1977, he spent several months working in Alaska. One night he didn’t call, and I couldn’t sleep. I needed to hear his voice, so I finally phoned his hotel in Alaska and received a message that the trunk lines were down.

Even though it was late, the phone rang about half an hour later. Larry couldn’t sleep either. After we said we loved each other, we were finally able to fall asleep.

We also kiss, hug, and say we love each other when we awake in the morning and whenever we part. As soon as we arrived home from work, we located each other for a hug and kiss.

Meaningless rituals don’t serve much purpose. However, one morning, we discovered how important ours were. Larry went downstairs in the morning. I heard the garage door open. Then the car started, pulled out, and the door closed. He hadn’t come back upstairs to say goodbye. I felt as though something important was missing from my day. And I felt sad.

A few minutes later, the phone rang. Larry said, “I was almost at the freeway when I realized we hadn’t said good-bye. I felt terrible.”

We both laughed, and then said we loved each other. I felt much better, and I know Larry did, too.

Do you have any rituals you observe in your relationships?