To Love, Honor and Cherish…

” No matter what… No matter where… It’s always home when love is there.” – Author Unknown

Over 28 years ago, my husband Jim and I exchanged our wedding vows in front of family and friends at Trinity Lutheran Church in Neeleyville, Illinois. For several weeks prior to the ceremony, we attended counseling sessions with the pastor as I had not attended the Lutheran church growing up. These counseling sessions included an examination of the wedding vows that were to be exchanged. As a budding feminist and a female child raised in a male-dominated household, I declared my opposition to the Lutheran vow that indicated I would ‘love, honor and obey’. At the time, I was assured that this exact wording would not be necessary and ‘obey’ would be replaced with ‘cherish’ during the ceremony. Don’t get me wrong, I deeply love(d) my intended but believed then (and now) that our positions in the relationship are equal. So why should one have to obey the other? As luck would have it during the ceremony, the pastor did indeed recite the vow including obey for me to repeat. With a church full of loved ones and a tendency towards shyness, I did not want to make a scene and instead repeated the vows to my husband as expected. At the time, I was so nervous that I don’t even think it registered for me until we listened to our wedding (audio) tape later on. Even though I am a firm believer in the power of exchanging vows of love and devotion, vows are just one step towards building a life together. In our case, my husband and I have truly enjoyed an equal footing in our marriage and in our relationship. A relationship in which neither of us has ever been expected to ‘obey’ the other one. Sure, we have had our share of ups and downs, but through it all mutual love and respect has always led the way. I am truly grateful each day for our life together!

As Valentine’s Day approaches, individuals (and couples) everywhere will be celebrating and declaring their love for another. The news is frequently full of celebrity break ups and horrific divorces. It makes one wonder if a lasting relationship is indeed possible. If you look a little closer, however, you just might notice some folks who have beaten the odds and kept their love alive for many years. In fact, a review of our local Sunday newspaper revealed 3 couples who are celebrating over 50 years of marriage; one couple for 50 years, one for 55 years and even one for 70 years. I, personally, have known many couples over the years who have lived lived together as man and wife for half a century or more. In fact, my own maternal grandparents celebrated 58 years of marriage. Each of these couples discovered how to keep their love alive even through life’s trials and tribulations. But how is this possible, you might ask? What is their secret?

Theories abound about just what makes a lasting and truly loving relationship. And a definition of a loving relationship does not always include marriage or even years and years of being together. I believe a loving relationship is based on a genuine respect for each other (and self), gratitude for the love received and given, a ‘safe’ way to communicate feelings and needs and continual growth of each party as individuals. Keep in mind that I am no relationship expert. I have, however, been witness to many, many couples who have defied the odds while working in the field of geriatrics. Surprisingly, most of these folks did not see their long-term relationships as anything special. To them they just lived each day as it was given to them and the days added up. They all had experienced loss and trials that we younger Americans can only begin to understand. Trials such as the Great Depression, World War II and the shortages of basic food staples such as sugar or even the sacrificing of their own elementary education due to a need to work and help support their families. Through it all, they believed in the power of love and were grateful for each other.

This year why not celebrate all of the love and gifts in your life on Valentine’s Day and throughout the rest of the year? Even if a long-term romance has yet to blossom in your life, expressing gratitude for the love and gifts that you already receive can help to make you a happier and more attractive person. Attractive where it counts…on the inside. And perhaps more attractive to the opposite sex as well. By continuing to grow as an individual and learning to appreciate life, you may discover a life that is fuller than you ever dreamed possible. Full enough perhaps, that fate will intervene and show you that the special someone you have been waiting for has been present all along.

Happy Valentine’s Day and much love and blessings to you on this special day!

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