An Open Letter To Young Women
Today’s post is neither farm nor food related. However, it is something I’ve been thinking about lately. So, I decided to take the blogger’s privilege and write it anyway.
Last month, Liam and I celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary. We met when I was twelve and began ‘going-steady when I was sixteen. Our wedding was two months after my eighteenth birthday. For those of you who are mathematically challenged, I’ll confess that makes me 47 years old. Though each of us dated other people, we are each other’s only loves, only sexual partners, and the one we each still prefer to spend time with.
Many of the young women I work with are engaged or recently married. (It seems to be in the water at the moment.) They’re shocked by the length, closeness, and passion of our marriage. I’ve received some interesting and (to my mind) sadly naive questions and comments about our relationship.
- If you’ve only ever had sex with him, how do you know it’s any good?
- It is so cool to know that you have an active sex life. It gives me hope for when I’m older.
- Don’t you wish you had given yourself the chance to experiment and experience different people in college?
- I know you have a happy marriage now, but there had to be times you hated each other. That is just how people are.
- Is it true, that after so many years, marriage becomes just a really close friendship?
I recently mentioned this last comment during a ‘solve the world’s problems’ kind of chat with a dear friend. My friend married her high school sweetheart about thirty years ago too. They have a close marriage, and I’m fairly sure things haven’t devolved into a platonic roommate arrangement.
After we stopped chuckling at these young persons’ sexless boring miserable views of long term marriage, we felt a surge of pity for them. One has to wonder why these young women want to marry, when they see marriage as a looming battle to be faced and fought. Their assumption is that IF they win the war and the marriage survives, it’s a downward spiral into passionless complacency.
My friend and I discussed all the influences we hold responsible for such views. TV, movies, and media all depict marriage as a whirlwind of hormones, that with familiarity must ebb away into sexual and emotional doldrums. However, one thing occurred to me that I hadn’t thought of before. This generation is the first that has very few strong mature marriages to look up to.
Young people today have grandparents and parents whose marriages had the odds highly stacked against them. According to statistics, divorce rates in the 1960’s through the 1980’s were at an all time high. Rates have trailed off since then, but so have marriage rates in general. This means it’s statistically likely for young people in their twenties to have parents, grandparents, or in-laws with failed marriages. I think this situation creates a lack of strong relationships for young people to treat as role models.
Liam and I were lucky. I’ll respect the privacy of others and only say that my parents’ marriage ended in divorce after 30 years. However, my grandparents and Liam’s had wonderful loving relationships. My in-law’s marriage was the most ideal partnering of two souls I’ve ever seen. We didn’t copy their marriage. Liam and I are more independent and less gender specific in our roles, but the amazing oneness of spirit between them has shaped what we both wanted in our marriage.
I don’t claim to be anywhere close to perfect. I know my flaws and although I try to correct them, I’m aware I will probably cast off this mortal coil biting off a sarcastic and inappropriate comment. Since I’m a part of my marriage, it can’t be perfect either. However, it is pretty dadgum close. Although I would never hold myself up as a role model to others, I’m willing to offer up my marriage as an example. I would love to break a few stereotypes! So, let’s discuss a few of those questions and comments above.
- If you’ve only ever had sex with him, how do you know it’s good? When we were young, sex was sweet, innocent, and full of love. That’s what made it wonderful. Back then, it wasn’t about an impressive skill set or comparing intimate things to a bevy of other lovers. If our skill sets were the same now, almost thirty years later, I could see how the joy might wane.
However, I have a man who has spent the last 29 years figuring out exactly what I want from a lover and how to give it to me. It’s the difference between walking into a shop selling fifty outfits and choosing the best one versus choosing the best richly textured fabric and having a passionate tailor create something just for me. I can have the ready made stuff altered to fit, but it isn’t quite the same as having a hand in the design from the beginning. There’s also no way to equal the perfect fit of something created to hug every curve, assure comfort and confidence, and make me feel beautiful.
Setting that analogy aside for a moment, let me add one comment. Sex is one of those things that doesn’t need in-depth quality analysis. If you have to ask yourself if it was good, then it wasn’t. However, if there are fireworks behind your eyelids, your muscles feel weak and quivering, and tugging the covers over your body sounds like a Herculean effort questioning the quality is absurd.
- It’s so good to know that you have an active sex life! It gives me hope for when I’m older. I’ll be honest and confess that this one left me torn between laughing aloud and punching her on the nose. Let’s clear a few things up. 1) Although forty sounds like 140 when you’re twenty, it’s not. All of my bits (and my husband’s, thank you very much) are in perfect working order. 2) Since there were young people before there were old people and they must have had hormones and free time, young people probably did invent sex. However, they don’t hold the patent!
Firm toned tanned bodies may make for better romantic movies, but those of us with stretch marks and laugh lines have more practice and mad skills! I don’t think many young women realize that one doesn’t stop feeling like a woman with the birth of a child, celebration of a birthday, birth of a grandchild, menopause, or an AARP membership. Society may see me as older and virtually asexual, but my husband still loves me and thinks I’m sexy!
- Don’t you wish you had given yourself the chance to experiment and experience different people in college? I think you should get married when you meet the one person you can’t imagine living without. I don’t think marrying at eighteen is easy, but I also don’t understand the current trend of waiting until the arbitrary age of thirty. I met my husband when I was young. We married when we were young.
I wouldn’t trade one moment of our time together for a date with some guy I met in Psych 101, an invitation to a kegger, or a night partying with the girls. If I had waited until age thirty to marry, we would have missed out on twelve wonderful, loving, joyful, snarky, hilarious years together. Those years taught me more about myself than I could ever have discovered ‘finding myself’ in college.
- I know you have a happy marriage now, but you had to have times you hated each other. That’s just how people are. We’ve never really had to work at our marriage. We make a choice of putting each other first. This isn’t an effort or a sacrifice. It’s simply what comes naturally when you’re head over heals in love. We have similar interests and pursue those interests, because, we enjoy our time together. Because we spend so much time together, we have grown and changed in similar ways. Our kids know we’re sappy and ‘kissie‘ and that we prefer doing some smelly farmy job together over watching TV apart. We have separate interests, but they always take the back seat to shared passions.
Honesty compels me to admit that we had what is commonly referred to as ‘a rough patch’ during our last semester of nursing school. However, since we were working full-time opposite schedules, attending school full-time, raising four children, and homeschooling three of them, I think under the circumstances, Ozzy and Harriet might have quarreled. We recognized and acknowledged the issues we were having and consciously set out to reverse the damage.
I can safely say, that in 29 years of marriage I have been occasionally angry, irritated, frustrated, and eye-rollingly annoyed. However, I’ve never hated or regreted. We’ve never shouted, sworn, or treated each other with less than the respect and love we share.
- Is it true, that after so many years marriage becomes just a really close friendship? It was this question that sparked my recent contemplations on this subject. I worry that there aren’t enough strong mature marriages around to give the true impression. The young woman who asked the question is engaged and was genuinely looking for information and reassurance. So, let’s look at this in two parts. First, obviously, a marriage should be built on a foundation of close friendship. However, that friendship changes through the years.
When we married I didn’t think I could love Liam any more. Yet, each day of our marriage, that love and the friendship that it’s built on has grown. When I look at him now, I see not only my dearest friend and partner. I see the man who danced with me when we found out we were expecting a child. I see the man who held that child so gently. I see the man who planned and dreamed of a farm with me. I see the man who celebrated our acceptance to and graduation from college. I see the man who gently tended me through a terrible injury, painful recovery, and the bouts of fear and depression that went with it. He has taught me not only to love, but also that my capacity to love is able to expand each day to love him a little more. (Remember, I did confess to being sappy.)
Now, let’s go back and address the word ‘just’. Clearly, her implication was that after years passion must lose its hot fire and become merely a warm comfortable glow. There is a part of me that found the idea a little insulting, but I recognized that was not her intent. I think she was genuinly worried about her future. So, let me be clear. Passion is not the purview of the young.
I will grant there are seasons in life when sex takes a back seat. For example, when kids are young and life is busy there is not enough time or energy for many wild nights. Also, when kids are little, moms often seem to go through a time where being touched is so ubiquitous that it becomes a burden. However, those situations are related to life events and not years!
Overall, just as the friendship between a husband and wife changes and grows so must the passion. This growth reveals new and interesting facets. When you’ve been together as long as we have, passion becomes very multi-faceted! Love can be sweet and romantic, wild and tempestuous, quick and business-like, silly and playful… The added perk of having the same lifelong partner is the ability they develop to read one’s mood and meet unspoken needs.
All in all, I think my point is this. If marriage is a focus and priority it is easier for it to grow and remain healthy. How does one define a healthy marriage? I think that must vary marriage to marriage. For me, our marriage is healthy as long as we are happiest together. We laugh, work, love, and share our intimate thoughts, ideas, and feelings. When I walk into a room and see my husband, our eyes meet. Sometimes, they meet in friendly affection. Sometimes, they meet to exchange a private message. Sometimes, they meet in passionate expectation of ‘nocturnal conubial bliss’. (That phrase is from one of our favorite books. I love the posh Victorian euphamism. It has a little more class than the modern phrase ‘wild monkey sex’.)
How do you keep your marriage strong and healthy? Do you believe that passion must fade as time passes? Has anyone recently asked you an impertinent question? Leave me a comment if you have time. I love to get to know y’all better!
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