All four sat in silence waiting for their meals to arrive. One couple was to our right, the other to our left in a popular lunch spot in town.
Shelaine and I were debriefing an event of the day, and then I whispered, “No one nearby is speaking”. She nodded; she had noticed too.
Each couple was in their 60s; each seemingly married; each looking past their spouse to other patrons or out the window.
And then their food arrived.
More silence. This time with justified reason—it was time to chow down.
Meanwhile earlier that day we had learned that a saintly man at our church had passed away unexpectedly. While his health was not good—he suffered from Parkinson’s since 1993—his wife of fifty-four years had just visited him the day before and said he was in good spirits.
We attended a gathering to commemorate the deceased and support the family. After others had spoken, and hymns sung, the new widow stood and gave testimony of their life together. “There were good years, and there were difficult years, but overall, it was good.” Heads nodded in understanding as people likely recalled his twenty-three years of declining health and her faithful care during it all.
I was reminded of research that shows that couples married over forty years typically refer to lifetime commitment, loyalty, commitment to sexual fidelity, and commitment to spouse and marriage as reasons for their longevity. Three cheers for commitment and fidelity. I am sure the church couple were committed and faithful.
But there we sat, in the restaurant, with another picture of what long-term unions might look like—that grin-and-bear-it version. Perhaps these two couple stuck it out for the kids, or to protect their assets, or because they had no better options.
And then, after their table was cleared, the gentleman on our right reached his hands across the table, open-palmed. His wife smiled and said, “What?” He smiled back, and soon she reached up and put her hands in his.
Speaking of long-term relationships, have you seen this photo?
Bill Strom, Author
I am a believer by faith, a professor by vocation, a husband by choice, a father by blessing, and a friend by hanging out. Along the way I have learned about close relating through my experiences, biblical models, and social science research. Hopefully my ideas and encouragement show up here in ways meaningful to you.