December 21, 2018 was our 50th wedding anniversary
We got married during a snow storm in Buffalo, New York, at 7pm. The church was filled with candlelight and poinsettias. My uncle played the organ, my sister-in-law sang, and the minister had learned Hebrew prayers for our combined Jewish and Christian ceremony. We spoke our own vows, which at that time was unprecedented.
It was the happiest day for me. After four years of loving Barry and having people tell us that a Jewish/Christian marriage just cannot work, we were actually doing it. I was marrying the love of my life. The man foretold to me by an inner voice when I was nine years old. It said, “You will recognise this man as he will be tall. He will have dark hair, and will be on his way to becoming a doctor. He will know how to hold you when you are crying.” At the time of our wedding we had never heard the term ‘winter solstice’. This was simply the only day that Barry could fly up from Nashville where he was in medical school.
It wouldn’t be accurate to say that our marriage has been pain and challenge free, because it is far from the truth. We have definitely had our share of challenges. Three years into our marriage, Barry had an affair with my best friend at the time, which nearly ended our relationship.
We had a baby die before birth that plunged me into a deep grief. Shortly after the birth of our third child, a massive earthquake hit our area. It totally destroyed our home, with us in it, and we barely made it out alive. We were homeless for six months because of that earthquake, and living in our camper with our two little girls and our baby. We struggled financially at times, and had to work through many power struggles.
And yet, throughout all of the challenges, there was this deep love and commitment
With each fight and upset we made sure to work completely through to the love that we felt for each other. Some upsets, like Barry’s affair, took longer. And some required professional help. But in each challenge we found that there was more love on the other side.
I so clearly remember an incident 38 years ago when I was shopping in a small natural foods store. A woman was talking loudly to the cashier, “I bought a special present for my niece who got married two months ago. I did not even have time to wrap it up and send it when I got word that she was already divorced. What is wrong with young couples these days? Don’t they know that there is great power in working through problems and coming out the other side? Can’t they understand that marriage is not always smooth sailing, but has its challenges too? Don’t they know that love can grow stronger working through differences?”
Importance of commitment
I came up to the counter and told the woman that I agreed with her and that I felt that commitment in marriage was very important. Of course, there are some situations in a marriage that, without resolution, will require separation. Like when a partner has an addiction and refuses to go into recovery, or is physically or emotionally abusive.
This woman’s words touched me so deeply in my heart. They led to the writing our first book, The Shared Heart: Relationship Initiations and Celebrations. In it, we share some of the darker times in our relationship and how working through these challenges allowed us to move into a deeper love for each other. We felt we could look at each other and see not just the joy and love but also the darker parts. We were then able to say, “I love the whole person that you are, the light and the shadow. And I am committed to loving you and growing together.”
Making us our priority
Barry and I, from the very beginning, told each other that our relationship would be our priority in our lives. Yes, Barry had medical school in the first four years and I was in graduate school. Some days we hardly saw each other. Yet our relationship remained foremost in our hearts and minds.
Even after having three children, our relationship with each other remained our top priority. Yes, the children took up more time – especially in the beginning; they were adorably cute and fun – yet our love for each other remained the most important.
When my mother was about to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary with my dad, I was 43, and had just given birth to our son. I was having trouble getting back my energy. And the earthquake had forced us out of our home.
My mother took me aside and said, “The first 30 years of our marriage were more difficult as there was so much more stress. We had financial difficulties when your dad lost his job. Yet we kept our commitment and kept loving each other throughout all of the challenges. All of the hardships were really a gift to the relationship, allowing us to grow stronger in our love. These last 20 years have been the golden years in which all we have to do is to concentrate on loving each other.”
My parents were blessed with ten additional years. My dad passed from this world two months after their 60th anniversary. Dad had totally lost his hearing, yet somehow my mother was the only one that he could ‘hear’ and understand. The love and devotion that my parents shared was truly inspiring to all who met them.
Barry and I are in the golden years of our relationship. We still have certain issues that we continue to work on, of course. But for the most part there is such a feeling of love and gratitude to be together. We both feel such an appreciation for how deeply we each committed to the relationship, and the willingness to walk through the harder times together. A long love is truly special, and well worth all the effort.
For further information on counselling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops, visit their web site at SharedHeart.org
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