“Oh, honey,” the woman said, “That is just soooo hard.”
I was eavesdropping on a conversation in the YMCA locker room when I heard the older woman say this. The other ladies, all senior citizens, made sounds of agreement. “That is so hard,” another one echoed.
Were they talking about a cancer diagnosis? Job loss? Death of a loved one? No.
Her husband’s retirement.
Another woman jumped into the conversation. “Well, when my husband retired, he kept hanging around the house all the time, wanted to help me in the kitchen. Just drove me crazy. So I just set him to work, and sure enough, within six weeks, he took up golf.” She sounded pleased with herself, downright smug, at her clever use of household chores to manipulate her husband into leaving her alone.
“That’s the way to do it, honey,” a third woman said, as if this was the final word on the subject.
I wanted to march out of the dressing room and give them a piece of my mind. What would they prefer? To be widowed? Divorced? Never married? Whose 401K funded their YMCA memberships, footed the bill for their ladies’ luncheons, and paid for their house? Wasn’t it a bit flattering that her newly retired husband wanted to spend time with his wife?
Did they know how discouraging their attitude was to me?
I’ve been married for ten years. I’m the furthest thing from being a marriage expert. I know some marriages are more difficult than others, that some marriages end for tragic reasons like abuse or adultery or neglect. I’m fortunate not to be in a relationship like that, and I have no right to judge those who choose to divorce.
But when I see women with this attitude, I wonder what went wrong in their marriages. From the outside, there didn’t appear to be any major issues in the relationships. Yet clearly something is wrong. They are bored by the man they married.
Please do something, I want to plead. Please work on your marriage. Please rediscover why you married him in the first place. Please set a good example for younger couples.
I truly hope that when my husband retires, I won’t act like those women in the locker room.
That I’ll still desire his company.
That I’ll still want to have lunch with him (and dinner and breakfast, too).
That I’ll do fun things with him and not dump all the dishwashing and cooking and cleaning on his shoulders.
That I’ll love him more than the day I married him.
That my attitude won’t be one of resignation, where I grit my teeth and wait for the day that he dies, sticking with him out of duty and obedience to my marriage vows. (A long-lasting marriage doesn’t necessarily mean a good marriage, after all.)
That’s why I love seeing my friends Ralph and Alice. They’ve been married for quite a while, probably more than thirty years. I’ve watched them walk into church, hand in hand, glowing more than newlyweds on their honeymoon.
I’m sure they’ve had hard times. Good times. Exciting times. Boring times. Still, they must have managed to work things out: sloughing through those tough times, embracing the happy moments, working hard to stay close when it would have been far easier to shift into autopilot and neglect their relationship.
The happiness in their eyes tells me that here is a couple who delights in each other.
It gives me hope that marital boredom isn’t inevitable. That marriage doesn’t have to be only a dutiful fulfillment of vows taken long ago. That it can be joyous and loving even as death parts the husband and wife. That a long marriage truly can be beautiful.
How do you prevent boredom in your relationships, romantic or otherwise? Are there specific people who encourage you to strive for a healthy relationship, whether by their words or by their example?