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“Cuddle with me so I can put my freezing cold feet on you and probably use you as a pillow and steal all the covers.  K.  Thanks.”  (Pinterest)

On our wedding day 28 years ago, my husband’s father and our best man, implored us in his toast that the THREE MOST IMPORTANT words in our marriage to come would be these:  Pirates.  Penguins.  Steelers.

I can’t say he was entirely wrong.  Having been raised in the Steel City, my husband IS all about these black and gold teams that grace the small city of Pittsburgh. 

Little did I realize the sacrifice he was making on our honeymoon when his precious Penguins were in the Stanley Cup final (that’s the Super Bowl of hockey) and I was completely oblivious (and possibly admonishing) to Allen’s frantic search for a newspaper some mornings to find the score of the game the night before (this was during those olden days without internet or cell phones)! 

Happy to say they won their VERY FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP that year and don their team name on the trophy!

Heeding Allen’s father’s advice, I have embraced these three words (well, two of them fully and one of them only if I can get to a live game because watching baseball on TV is akin to watching golf…not heart-pumping enough for this wiggly, mile-an-hour girl).  They have been a tremendous plus to our marriage, and as many of you know, I am now almost a bigger Steelers fan than he is!

Fast forward.  Four houses.  Four kids.  Four jobs.

Unhealed, hidden selves (very hidden on the day we said “I do”) bubble to the surface and bump up against one another.  As our marriage clock tick-tocks, the bumps get stronger and louder and more painful.

Words of defeat and shame are uttered (by me).  “Are we going to make it?”  “What is wrong with me/you/us?”  “Is there any hope?”

THREE choice, sacred, life-giving, hope-gathering words are voiced (by my husband).   “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

I am taken aback, the words bouncing around like a super ball, uncatchable.

“But,” I whisper to myself, “we’ve been at this for a long time.”  Defeat and shame creep back over and over, sometimes kept hidden inside, other times shouted in anger and most often, spoken desperately alongside tears of fear.

Again and again, time after time, the three words of life and hope and healing pour from my husband’s mouth.  “WE’RE STILL LEARNING.”

These simple THREE words:

  • allow grace to cascade over us like a waterfall in the middle of a marriage drought
  • bring mercy to the unhealed selves that keep banging into each other
  • remind shame (in no uncertain terms) to “GET OUT of our house and our lives and our marriage!”
  • spark forgiveness as we stop demonizing and begin humanizing each other
  • usher discovery, newness and life into what seems unchanging, decrepit and even dead
  • grant bravery to our fearful parts, allowing for a life-long journey of change, growth and healing
  • energize our hearts to experience freedom from the past and anticipation for the future
  • breathe desperately-needed and longed for HOPE to the deepest parts of these two souls and bodies, uniting them again and again in ways previously unknown

Today, on our anniversary, we headed on a hike through a windy, periodically smooth, sometimes unmarked, gloriously scenic, often rocky, difficult-to-navigate in spots, kind of scary, breath-taking trail in Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Our favorite part of all was two swans (did you know they mate for life?) with their babies!

We talked about our favorite memories of this marriage we’ve shared. 

Two things we noticed:  most of them were hiking of some kind and lots of them were when something didn’t go quite as we planned (like the time we ended up in some woods filled with mosquitoes and we had to sprint from one end to the other, laughing and swatting as we went).

Marriage is like hiking

It’s windy.  It’s periodically smooth-sailing.  It’s unmarked in places.  It’s gloriously scenic.   It’s difficult to navigate in spots.  It can be scary.  It definitely takes our breath away at times.  We need hope every single day. 

We need all that these three simple, yet profound words speak to. 

Today, this best gift of my husband, “WE’RE STILL LEARNING,” wash over my soul afresh, hope and life breathed anew.

Here’s to AT LEAST 28 more years!

*If you’re not logged into Facebook, you may leave a comment below the Author’s Bio section. Thank you for taking the time to read this story!

Couple golfing

4 Minute Read

Even though most experts would agree it’s more of a mental game than a physical one, it was painfully obvious I was going to need a lot of practice. So, when I casually mentioned to my husband I was going to hit golf balls, I wasn’t expecting his reaction.

He was ecstatic! “Wow, I’ve just never heard you say that…what prompted this?”

“Well, it’s I Do Part Two yeah know,” I laughed in response. This phrase has become our mantra ever since I started trying to figure out why some couples thrive after decades of marriage and why others quietly grow apart.

I always wonder, what happened? Could it happen to us too?

To his credit, my husband, Phil, has asked me countless times to play golf over the last thirty years—yes, 3-0! But, I rarely found the time.

I don’t hate golf, but if a genie granted me four kid-free hours when the kids were little, I would not have chosen to spend them trying to hit a tiny white ball into a little round hole. Regrettably, I never considered playing golf with my husband as an opportunity to simply enjoy time together.

For us, although we haven’t golfed much, but we still enjoy each other’s company. We do projects around the house, we take the kids on fun outings, and we eat dinner as a family almost every night. Plus, Phil’s had carte blanche to play golf with his friends, so why is it so important that we play together?

As we talked about it one evening, my husband, Phil, recalled how before kids we used to ski in the winter almost every weekend, and he loved that I was always up for trying to beat him on the tennis court. “It was one of your most endearing qualities,” he said, before hesitantly adding, “You used to be game for anything.”

When had I stopped being game for anything?

I always assumed it was fairly normal to have completely separate interests until I started reading about the importance of “recreational companionship” in Dr. Willard F. Harley’s book, His Needs Her Needs.

Dr. Harley stresses my assumption is true… but only to a point. He asserts, “Men typically place a surprisingly high importance on recreational companionship, second only to sex for the typical husband.”

The doctor’s words wouldn’t have cut so deep if Phil and I had at least one activity we regularly pursued together; but sadly, we did not.

I’d never even heard the term “recreational companionship,” let alone understood it was important to my husband. How had I missed this?

For years, my husband’s said we need to find activities we enjoy so when the kids move out, we have fun things to do together. I often laughed when he said it, but as our youngest gets closer to leaving for college, his words carry more urgency.

Sure we travel together and enjoy an occasional date night. We even Netflix and chill, but apparently this “isn’t enough to sustain most couples,” according to the book, “especially if either spouse has additional needs that are not being met.”

When we were dating, I jumped at any chance to spend time with him. We’d take road trips, ski and attend all sorts of sporting events at a moments notice. Once we married, I guess I didn’t feel like I needed to as much. Somewhere along the way, our careers, our house and eventually our kids all vied for my attention.

Spoiler Alert:  I was shocked to read (and I paraphrase Dr, Harley), that not having activities couples frequently enjoy together is one of the most common reasons for divorce, regardless of how long a couple has been married. (Yikes!) It’s typically one of the root causes that can be traced to other, more obvious issues that have crept into the relationship over the years.

We all know those couples that seem fine and even look happy together, but then all of a sudden they’re getting divorced. What? But you two just posted beautiful, Instagram-worthy pictures together!

Eventually you hear, “they just grew apart” or “they don’t have anything in common anymore.” I’m not immune to realizing if it can happen to them, it can happen to us.

So, now what? I’m taking golf lessons and trying to play golf more often, that’s what!

I can finally play 9-holes of golf without sounding like a little kid in the backseat whining, “Are we there yet?”

We’ve also created a list of activities we’d like to try, and Phil says he’s game for hiking the nature trails I’ve been talking about exploring for years. Who knows, maybe we’ll even try skydiving.

It’s become an adventure just trying to find new things we both enjoy—together. Because at the end of the day, we all know, foreplay is the most important part of the game anyway.

Who is your favorite recreational companion?

Epilogue: I am happy to report that since this article was first published a year ago, we have added a few more fun activities we like to do together and with other couples…we skied Mt. Bachelor in Oregon and Sun Valley, Idaho last winter, started paddle boarding and kayaking this summer, and finally tackled a few hiking trails. Cheers to finding your own fun activities to do together!

If you’re interested in learning more about recreational compatibility, Dr. Harley offers a free Recreational Enjoyment Inventory at www.marriagebuilders.comIt covers hundreds of activities from stamp collecting to skydiving.

*I Do Part Two does not have a direct affiliation with Dr. Willard F. Harley or marriagebuilder.com.  For more information, see the Disclaimer statement at www.idoparttwo.com

**If you are not logged into Facebook and wish to leave a comment, you may do so below the Author’s Bio section. Thank you for taking the time to read this story.

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