We went to a wedding just before COVID-19 arrived. It was a joy to celebrate this young couple facing all the excitement and promise of their future together.
During the wedding dances, married couples were asked to make their way to the dance floor, and the MC cleared the floor by asking couples who had been married more than a day, more than a year, etc. to exit. Before long I glanced around the dance floor and noticed we were the final three. Our 30-year marriage was only outnumbered by two other couples, the grandparents of the bride and our friends, having been married 33 years. Grandma and Grandpa won!
This became a natural moment to reflect. My thoughts swung between this young couple has no idea what lies ahead… and feelings of being inspired by the reminders of where love had taken us and how it had sustained us in our journey of life.
From my vantage point of 30 years of marriage, I reflect back and readily admit, “We had no idea…” The storms of life have certainly tested our promises and vows, in sickness and in health, till death…, the promise to love, honour, and cherish. We have weathered many of life’s storms and seasons. We have said hello to our babies, Olivia, Sam, and Sophie. We also said a very short hello and an agonizing goodbye to Jacob and Grace.
Together, we’ve managed through aging parents’ dementia and mystifying agonizing health issues for us and our children. We’ve empty nested, and adjusted just on time for our child to move back home. Here I am gazing back remembering how we navigated bullying (the bullied and the bully). Financial strain and my going back to school as a mature student are both in our rearview mirror. We are changed. We are not the same people now as we were reciting our vows at ages 20 and 21.
I find a special comfort in my ‘rearview mirror’ musings. I recognize now that when challenges present, my internal voice reminds me, we can do this, because we did that. For example, empty nesting this next round stands on the shoulders of our last empty nest; we adjusted surprisingly quickly this time. Now we know — we’ve got this!
As we move through life we each have unique strengths and together we have additional strengths. Reflecting back helps us to consider the strengths we’ve grown into over the years and ensures us these strengths will carry us through whatever comes next.
Hope is an essential element of mental and relational wellbeing. I find that reflecting back… we did that? So, I know we’ve got this! enfuses hope within me. We have faced very tough and complicated times, together. We made it through. I have hope. I believe we can face, together, what life throws our way next, because we have done it before.
Confusion and mystery are partners in uncertainty. I find that reflecting back also reminds me that confusion is a signal to look deeper at what is really going on? As I investigate deeper, then I resolve the unknowns and confusion takes a back seat, no longer holding the power to drive me full speed into anxiety. Hindsight tells me confusion’s presence is an indicator and I can use it to resolve and grow, rather than to shrink into anxiety and relational angst.
It’s Not Just Me
As a counsellor, I recently sat with a young couple. I was delighted to hear them express this same hope for their future based on the past hurdles they’d overcome: “We’ve been through a lot, which informs our resolution to face what comes next, together.”
Our history as a couple matters. As we look back, we are strengthened to move forward. It’s not been easy; it may feel exhausting, but we know deep down — we’ve got this! Hope stirs. We are strong. We take turns being anxious, stressed, and emotionally strong. We can and do support each other.
We’ve got this!