Prior to my teens, my life was a stress-free, very happy-go-lucky time spent playing with my brothers, attending school, and doing light chores. Puberty hit suddenly, with the stresses that accompany the teen years. Hormones brought about a desire for females, yet they were initially foreign and fearful to me. Later, the stress was magnified when I gained the courage to arrange an actual date. I played sports and participated in ordinary male activities, but girls and the urge toward intimacy was always lurking. Reared by good, God-fearing parents, I did my best to keep my less honorable instincts in check.

Years passed. In my twenties, finding a suitable wife became my goal, with its pressures. I confess I wasn’t searching for a “perfect soul mate,” just someone likable who’d have the nerve to say, “Yes.” Luckily, the girl who found me instead became my soul mate. As the relationship progressed, I was unnerved by the prospect she might say “No.” I opened the conversation one day, slowly proceeding with ample caution. She sensed not only my purpose but my nervousness. She instantly put me at ease by interrupting and promptly proposing to me instead.

I expected eternal bliss – the two of us facing the world together in perfect harmony for the rest of our lives. Uh …not exactly! Anyone who’s been married knows that was a fantasy, especially when both parties are strong-willed. In 1978, my beloved and I took vows that have kept us happily married to this day. That commitment to be faithful and to never sleep before reconciling disagreements of that day was one of our keys to success. We did pull some all-nighters, especially in the early years, but it was a combination of love and steadfast commitment that got us through those rocky places. Where others may have given up or resorted to degrading each other, we fought tooth and nail against what could have driven us apart. We overcame any boulders in the road. As time went on, those difficulties became fewer and smaller.

Now, in the sunset of our lives, it comforts us to look back and take satisfaction in always fulfilling the vows we took over forty years ago. She never promised to obey me, but before we wed, I gave her the choice as to who’d have the final say when we couldn’t compromise fully. She’s a person to be reasoned with, not someone you can force to your own will. She chose to allow me the final say when needed. Most decisions were equally shared, but sometimes it did go more her way, sometimes mine. We are both able to bend without breaking because we are so committed to each other. We both have skills that contribute to the marriage. We have often told others that it takes both of us to make a whole person. My wife, of course, is the better half.

Some might think that, at this point, we could coast the rest of the way through to our final days without any further effort on our part. Not so. A good marriage must be in constant creation. It just can’t be taken for granted. The day either person stops communicating or compromises faithfulness or love is the day the marriage will begin a path to failure.

An apt quote by politician John Philpot Curran comes to mind. He said, “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” In marriage, I believe that success is based on continuing vigilance to each other’s needs and the constant creation of a love that continues to grow with time.

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