February 12. “A good marriage is when you’re married not to someone you can live with, but to someone you really cannot live without.” (Dr. Howard Hendricks)
I will be married for 31 years later this spring. I have learned many things about what it means to be married, and I know that I have barely scratched the surface. One thing that I know is that I can survive without my wife, but I cannot live without her.
There have been times when we have been apart for a few days; we have each had small trips that have taken us away from the other. Sometimes we have had weekends apart while one of us visits family, and there have been occasional business trips. In those times when we are apart, I can survive. I manage to feed myself, get myself where I need to be, and even function normally. But, I don’t live. To me there is a profound difference between merely surviving and truly living.
To survive I need to eat, sleep, go to work, and do the basic chores of life. When my wife is away I do those things. I will sometimes even visit with friends or other family. I smile, and do my best to have a good time, but there is always something missing.
Over the past few years I have taken “alone” vacations. I have packed a bag, or even my camper, and struck out for a few days to be by myself. I look at this as a time to recharge my batteries. I will look to do some activities that wouldn’t ordinarily interest my wife.
For one of my alone trips, I travelled from Southeast Michigan to the Northern Minnesota shoreline to photograph the Grand Marais lighthouse. From there I worked my way south and photographed all of the lights in Minnesota, along with many in Wisconsin. I was gone a total of 7 days, and in that time I logged over 1,500 miles and visited and photographed more than 30 lights. I even stopped to see some friends in Wisconsin for a night. It was a great experience to be sure, and I had a lot of fun activities packed in, but there was something missing.
Since that trip I have shared some of the pictures of lights with friends and family. I have even told a bit about the drive itself and what that was like. But, there aren’t really “stories” of the trip. Traveling for that long alone, I listened to a lot of talk radio. When I was at my motel I read books, or watched TV. Most nights I was asleep early because there wasn’t much to do. When I look back, I would trade that trip in for the chance to have done it with my wife. Had she been along, the trip would have been ten times more fun, as we had the adventure together.
There is a difference between merely surviving and living. To me, living means I am sharing experiences with someone I love. The intensity of my existence is maximized when I am sharing it with my wife. The good, the bad, the happy, the sad – all are more meaningful when she is around.
This week is St. Valentine ’s Day. We have agreed not to go to dinner and fight the insanity of a restaurant experience. We’ve decided instead to have an evening in. My wife will make her famous homemade pizza, and we will watch a movie together. The experience of the evening will seem mundane to many, but to us it will be a small slice of heaven because we will live it together.
I don’t have a good marriage; I have a GREAT marriage. Over the past 30+ years I have come to understand that no matter what life sends my way, I will truly live and thrive with my wife at my side. Everything else is just survival.