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Love is the Answer
by Peggy Vaughan

After 50+ years of marriage, I'm convinced that having a long-lasting satisfying love relationship is one of the most difficult things in the world. Even though my husband and I started out as childhood sweethearts with the same background, values, etc., we have both changed through the years - so it's been difficult to continually find ways to maintain a solid relationship.

Frankly, I now realize that there will never be a time when we will have "arrived;" it's an ongoing process of staying in touch with each other as each of us changes through the years.

One of the biggest issues for me personally has been my failure to "take care of myself" or to speak up before an issue gets too big. I have a tendency to "go along" with things (or make subtle or unclear comments) when I'm bothered by something.

Then, of course, if I wait too long, I'm likely to become extremely irritated at what I see as me being the one to accommodate or inconvenience myself. At that point, I'm less likely to be able to speak up in an effective way and more likely to overstate my position, triggering defensiveness and making it difficult for him to hear what I have to say. Equally damaging is the tendency not to state my position, but to build up a sense of resentment that leads me to close myself off from him.

Perhaps an even greater challenge is that of successful parenting while maintaining a long-term marriage. Of course, not everyone who marries has children, but those of us who do have kids realize that parenting is one of the most significant life events we will ever experience. Of course, it's not really an "event" in that it's a critical ongoing aspect of life.

For instance, we have two adult kids and three grandchildren, and my love and commitment to them is so great that it often creates problems in my marriage - in that I'm responsive to them and their needs "no matter what" in a way that I'm not to my husband's. While I see no "contest" between him and the kids (in that "we are the parents" together), it often feels to him like I "choose" them over him. I do realize that "unconditional love" for kids is much, much easier than "unconditional love" for a spouse because we have different "expectations."

It's clear to me that most of the real meaning in my life has been found not in my work or my success in any other life endeavor; it's been in my family connections. I'm an only child and both my parents died quite some time ago. But I feel deeply connected to them and to my extended family. In fact, (like Jeopardy) instead of asking a question, let me close with a saying we've used for years in our family (and James has put on bookmarks, posters, etc.), that says it all: "Love is the Answer."

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