I love “old” couples. If I’m being PC, I suppose I should refer to them as “elderly”. But I digress. I adore them. Not in a creepy way but in an I-hope-to-be-like-them-one-day way. Even when they’re bickering, they remind me of how much they have seen together throughout their lives; the ups and downs, the incredibly trying times and the incredible amount of love needed to survive it all.
When we become a couple, if we do it right, we continue to hold onto ourselves as well. We don’t just mesh into this “we” person, suddenly liking, wanting and doing all of the same things. Our individuality is what drew us to each other in the first place and it’s important to hold onto. It’s also what can make a lasting, successful relationship seem like something of the past.
When we’re constantly growing, we may not grow at the same rate as one another or even in the same direction. And, let’s be honest, we’re not going to agree on everything. It goes without saying that, whether it’s one year or fifty years, we’re also probably going to get on each other’s nerves once in a while. Our friends get on our nerves sometimes too or make decisions that we absolutely don’t agree with. But we hold our romantic interests to a higher standard, don’t we?
So how do the couples who go gray and wrinkled together survive the storms? I’m not sure that I have all the answers. But I do know that I’ve learned a few important lessons:
- Choose your battles. Some things are worth fighting over. Some things are worth mentioning and then letting go. And some aren’t worth mentioning at all. Learning when to speak up and when to shut up isn’t easy. At the end of the day I think it comes down to what we’re able to live with and what we absolutely need to change in order to continue to be happy together. We need to take a deep breath and make that decision before we move forward. All talking and no thinking is a recipe for disaster.
- Never stop having fun. Life is hard sometimes. We get wrapped up in work, financial strains and other stressors And no matter how hard we try, we sometimes wind up bringing all of that home with us and taking it out on the ones we love the most. **it happens, right? But that’s all the more reason why we have to remind ourselves that growing older doesn’t always have to mean growing up. Have a pillow fight. Go bowling. Challenge each other to a game of Horse. My grandparents still take trips together to Atlantic City.
- Hold hands. Whether you’re at the store, just going for a walk or sitting at home watching TV. Hold each other’s hands. It’s one of the most intimate ways of connecting with someone and reminding them that you’re in this thing together. We all need to be reminded of that once in a while.
- Say please, thank you and I love you. Sure, we expect our loved ones to do things for us because they love us. And, of course, they will. But they aren’t our slaves or our employees. They’re not required to do these things and we shouldn’t take them for granted. We have to remember to be appreciative of the little things that are done for us every day. Like catching the big scary bugs and putting them outside. Or taking out the trash. Or cooking us dinner after a long, exhausting day of work.
- Remember who we were before we became “us”. Don’t give up on enjoying doing something alone or with friends. Not everything has to be together.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know exactly how the elderly couple sitting next to me at Friday’s, him texting away on his cell phone while she reads her book, got to where they are today. I can’t imagine all of the paths they crossed to get there, either. I do know that it probably wasn’t easy and at times one, or both of them, may have thought about possibly giving up. But here they are, doing their own things, together, over a cup of coffee and some fried green beans. I want to join them at their table, ask them for the answers, for the magical solution that makes it all work out in the end. But I know it isn’t that easy. I know I have to learn for myself and make my own journey.
I’m looking forward to holding hands while I do.
“I wanna make you smile whenever you’re sad Carry you around when your arthritis is bad All I wanna do is grow old with you” ~ Grow Old With You, Adam Sandler