Learning to love the scars: A 20th anniversary meditation

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Jan 17, 2020

My spouse and I are approaching our 20th anniversary.

It's not actually a wedding anniversary — we were married in June of 2013 — but we have been together for that long, so we're going to count it. With both of us old enough for Medicare, why wait?

When you've been together a long time, there is a third entity that develops: there's Maureen, me and (Maureen-Me), the ethos generated by the joining of our spirits over the years. It is different to be with a long-term couple as a couple than with either of them separately. And Maureen and I are aware, subliminally, of that extra presence or dimension, at least some of the time, when we're together.

Perhaps that is why, when one member of a longstanding couple dies, the survivor often feels like they have lost part of themselves: they have. I imagine it takes time to learn how to access the "third member" of the couple without the absent partner.

I suppose both the best and the worst part of a relationship that spans decades is that so much of it becomes habitual or reflexive. You can finish each other's sentences — but that makes it less likely that either of you will say something unexpected. So much becomes assumed and unspoken that there's less room for change and surprise.

And, unless you intentionally embrace it, change — even tiny changes of routine — can become the enemy. You get upset when your coffee is in a different place in the refrigerator, or your granola bars aren't in the exact spot in the cupboard where you put them. It seems like a big deal when someone isn't home for dinner or wants to eat in front of the football game.

And if one person always makes the fire in the wood stove or takes the trash to the dump, it begins to seem like "their job," instead of something done for the well-being of both of you — a gift of their labor. To be sure, sometimes one person prefers a particular task to others, or is better able to do it, but that still should not mean that what they do is taken for granted.

It has always seemed important to me to say thank you when Maureen helps me with a chore, as well as for the many chores she does herself; to say I'm sorry when I make a mistake or hurt her feelings; to be willing to negotiate when we want different things. Not that I have a perfect record in any of these areas — far from it. But it's what I strive for.

It turns out that, wonderful as sexual attraction is, kindness, affection and loyalty are more enduring and more necessary to the health of our relationship. Not that I'd mind a little more fire down below — but when the fire becomes embers, it is what you have been willing to bear for each other and what you have helped each other bear that keeps the mutual warmth going.

In the end, we have to learn to love each other's scars as much as each other's more obvious beauty. The scars mark perhaps the most precious thing we have, our vulnerability.

When I'm able to stop myself in the middle of being irritated about some trivial thing and look consciously at what I'm getting upset about, the annoyance almost always falls away and I see that I'm just trying to make the world conform to my desires. I realize that I'm causing my own suffering, and I stop, at least for the moment.

We haven't decided yet how to celebrate our milestone this year. I hope one thing we will do is take more time to really see each other and appreciate how lucky we are. And maybe also to kiss some scars.

Longtime Courier Publications staff member and columnist Sarah Reynolds is the editor of The Republican Journal.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Ronald Gamage | Jan 21, 2020 07:17

Happy Anniversary to you and Maureen...

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jan 18, 2020 11:54

So profound! Happy New Year Sarah! Prescott AZ is winter now with snow smattering and 32 degrees in AM and 56 or so in PM. I do feel blessed to be here but do miss Maine!

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