Several years ago, I asked my mother a similar question.
Me: "Mom, why do you think that you and Dad have survived marriage when so many others have failed?"
Mom: (Without missing a beat) "Pain".
I was obviously dumbfounded and confused. I had expected an answer that was all tied up in platitudes like mutual respect, common interests, and love. So I pressed her for elucidation.
Mom: "You see...If you can survive the pain...the physical and the emotional...then you can survive anything. You have to push through the pain"
Have I ever told you that I think that my mother is brilliant?
Pain is the great equalizer in a relationship. Look...it is easy to enjoy the hearts and flowers, the romantic moments and the happy vacations. It is the coping with the pain that separates the marriage flounderers from the survivors.
The Husband and I have been reminded of that lesson this week.
After several years of suffering (and I do mean suffering) with chronic kidney stones, he underwent a procedure designed to clean out the mess. The outpatient surgery lasted less than an hour, but the subsequent days of recuperation have been less than a stellar experience. Without delving into gory details of the procedure or its side-effects, suffice it to say that the wretched discomfort that he has undergone would bring professional football players to their knees. The cocktail of narcotics and analgesics that he is on is barely making a dent in managing his pain, and it took a trip to the emergency room the other night and two doses of morphine to allow him his first sleep in two days. (mine too, but that is so beside the point.)
Watching this man, this man for whom the word love is too pedantic for how I feel towards him, suffer in this way has been gut wrenching. Every movement or spasm resonates through me as it does through him. And yet...I am rendered absolutely helpless as he struggles to make his way through this nightmarish week. Sure...I can nurse him, wait on him (to his utter horror and misery), run his errands, and generally just be here for him, but I cannot alleviate his suffering no matter how much I might wish it to be so.
Thankfully, this too shall pass (sorry for the pun, but it is all in the name of laughter being some kind of medicine) and our lives will move on when the worst is over, but I know that it has already become another plank in the foundation that has made our relationship strong.
As the wedding of Younger Son and His B'sheret rapidly approaches, I have been wracking my brain for sage and sensible advice that might be passed on to the next generation, L'dor Vador if you will, as to the secrets for a successful marriage. So if I may be forgiven a few platitudes, here goes.
Marriage is one of the most difficult life projects that you will ever undertake. It is filled with pitfalls and obstacles designed to test your patience and your abilities to weather adversity. Absolutely celebrate and enjoy all of the wonders and marvellous times. Those are the Kodak moments. But my mother and Susan Werner's grandma were right. It is how you survive and endure the pain that will truly cement your relationship. That is the person that you want to live and be with. If you are there for each other through all of that, the rest will take care of itself.