“In life it is not where you go—it’s who you travel with.” Charles M. Schultz
Today is my sixteenth wedding anniversary. As the number of years does not adequately speak to my depth of emotion, or the lifetime of adventures that my husband and I have shared, I almost didn’t include it. The main reason that I retired relatively early (or at least prior to being eligible for a full pension) was this man. I’m going to do my best not to sound corny in this post.
For some inconceivable reason, I have been blessed to meet and marry the most incredible person that I have ever known. A devoted father, a loving son and sibling, a cherished friend, a gifted athlete, a talented lawyer and an unbelievably amazing husband–Richard is all of these things. (I hesitate to mention this, but…he is also incredibly hot!) Thoughtful, kind, and generous in every fibre of his being, Richard is the steady arrow to my many ups and downs. He is someone with whom I can equally laugh and cry. I trust him more than I trust myself. Although he knows the true secrets of my inner geekdom, somehow, quite miraculously, he says this makes him love me even more. Not that his life has always been easy, but If there is a next life, and I was given the chance to be anyone whom I have ever met, read about or heard of, and profoundly admire, I would unquestionably choose to be Richard (wait a minute, does mean I would be married to myself? Yikes!!).
The research that I have read on happiness often highlights the gift of gratitude and not taking things for granted. I loved my job…and there was a lot to love, which combined with my driven personality, meant days, evenings and weekends diligently on task, focussed on work. I did not want to risk, for one more day, how long Richard and I would have this time together. So, with an eleven-year age difference between us, when Richard was ready to retire, I wanted to be right there beside him.
Remember the dreaded retirement research that I mentioned in my last post? It was actually the research based on the effects of retirement on marriages that frightened me the most. What I read recounted horror story after horror story of seemingly strong marriages that fell irreparably apart in retirement. The top cited causes included too much sudden togetherness, too many mismatched expectations and one too many chiefs (especially when both partners had previously held leadership roles in their careers). In article after article, the writers drove home the point that the glossy coloured vision of happy couples in retirement golfing together on exotic, lush greens rarely matches the retirement reality.
Is there an anecdote or preventative medicine to help counter the above? Ironically, although I am the educator, it is Richard who has become my teacher. He has taught me about unconditional mutual respect, accommodating one another’s feelings and honouring each others’ emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual needs. We chose to retire at the same time so that together we could create a lifestyle that suited both of us equally, openly discussing areas of compromise with which each of us believed we could live. We balance the activities that we do together, and the activities that we do alone, or with other friends, consciously discussing and adjusting as we go. For us, this has worked so far (knock on wooden desk here). I could not be happier, or more grateful.
So Richard, I write this post as a gift to you commemorating our sixteenth wedding anniversary. You have profoundly enhanced my life rendering the written language an inadequate tool to express the full expanse of my love and gratitude. Please know that these words, no matter how imperfect, are from the bottom of my heart.