More often than I like to admit, I find myself dreaming of the perfect marriage. I say dreaming because I’ve never been very good with relationships. Two failed marriages and a string of bad dates have led me to believe happily ever after isn’t in the stars for me. I often fool myself into believing that from time to time…until the latest romantic comedy hits the theaters, or the gossip columns fill their pages with gorgeous fairytale wedding photos. Then, I rethink my position and momentarily wish I could have what those couples have. That’s the story of my middle-aged life, or so I thought…
A stroll around my neighborhood began like any other. I window shopped in the local boutiques. I stopped to chat with the folks in the diner. I picked up a few books at the bookstore. It was all so divine, then, I saw them, sitting across from each other, looking at each other in the way only people who’ve known each other for a long time would look at each other. They were fully engrossed in their conversation. She was doing the talking. He was listening intently, his eyes on hers, his hands cupping hers, a grin on his face.
Maybe it was the smell of bacon that drew me to the bakery. Bacon gets me every time, but whatever it was, what I found wasn’t what I expected. Nestled together in the lone booth, normally reserved for patrons was the baker, a miserly old gentleman with old school charms and refreshing sensibilities. He sat across from his wife of “fifty-two glorious years”. They blushed when the saw me admiring their exchange. In front of them, a platter of cheeses and sliced sausages sat. An open bottle of wine and two tall stem glasses sat idle.
I apologized for interrupting their conversation. The butcher stood up and rushed to help me, but in that moment, I forgot all about the bacon. I wanted something different, a slice of whatever it was kept them glued to each other after all these years.
“No, I’m sorry to disturb you. I’ve just never seen such a sweet moment. What’s your secret?”
They looked at each other lovingly and proceeded to tell me their recipe to everlasting love and a strong marriage. It was simple enough, yet profoundly moving and life-changing for me because there truly was no secret, just healthy doses of love, respect, humor, and humility.
He said, “First, you have to find the one. When you do, you’ll know it. It will make you want to do anything and everything to hold onto that feeling.”
She chimed in with her thoughts, “You have to learn to forgive. That’s important. You can’t hold onto grievances. They’ll eat you alive and make you forget how much you loved your partner to begin with. People change. Circumstances change. But you can’t allow the changes to change your heart.”
He added his final thought on the manner as he looked at his wife, tears in his eyes, and said, “You have to make your partner feel like they’re the only person in the world for you…because they are. If you don’t know that with every cell in your body, then, you haven’t found the one.”
I left that morning knowing that although I hadn’t yet found love, I knew the key to a happy marriage, should it ever come my way.