“Sometimes, you just got to let it go and move on,” said the woman.
I’m standing in the parlor of an old wooden hotel along the Atlantic coastline. While the building itself has experienced countless lessons, the woman is telling me about her and her husband’s long marriage — 54 years, best she can recall.
“When you are young you waste a lot of time being angry,” she said. “One of you hurts the other or someone upsets the other. But then one day, you realize you’re both in it for the long haul and neither one is going anywhere. Might as well get over it and move on.”
She’s dressed in a white lace dress, her husband in a matching white dinner jacket. Palm trees are outnumbered by oak trees with spiral arms. Outside, Spanish moss gently drapes from branches, moving slowing, like the woman’s accent.
There are wonderful lessons out there for the picking if we’ll only slow down and listen.
Her husband is a successful man. Probably works too much, drives too hard, and at times gets preoccupied with the family business. But they are solid and adore each other. Neither one was going anywhere. To them, they were there to build a family and life together.
Marriage and relationships can be difficult. Two people who are strong, confident and individuals are sure to butt heads or disagree on lots of things. But the strongest relationships, I’m hearing from long-termers, contain a powerful element of respect and admiration.
She holds up her hands, palms out, and slowly brings them together until they overlap.
“We don’t always have the same opinions or interests,” she said. “But we each bring something new to the relationship.”
She looks over at her husband and he back at her. Unspoken words with a meaning only they will know are transferred between them. They both smile and return to their conversations.
I think about her words, her lessons, and how long-term couples tend to arrive on the same notes in life: mutual respect, honesty, and the commitment. Mix in passion — a must — and you begin to wish everyone carried this roadmap in the beginning.
But then again, the journey is an integral part of arriving at 54 years of marriage.
My wife and I, like most people, have been on this road. We’ve been broke, built a family, not understood the other, and ridden over some rugged potholes we thought we might not survive. But, thank God — literally, we did. And it is the looking back and recognizing we are on the same road as the lady in the white dress that is so encouraging. We are proud to have survived and are much closer because of the shared experience.
Someone comes along to visit the woman in the white lace dress. She smiles and we excuse ourselves from the conversation. But her words and reminders will be with us forever as we know we still have some road ahead of us.