Yesterday we celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. Sounds and feels like a long time until I compare it to my parents who have been married 65 years. How can you live happily ever after? This is what I’ve learned from my experience and by watching others.
Physical contact is important.
I will never forget how much I missed physical contact with Mark for the three months he was in his coma. Sure I could hold his hand, but he was not capable of holding mine and I missed it! After my collarbone healed from our car accident, I was anxious to help the nurses and aides bathe Mark, rub lotion on him, and transfer him in and out of bed. I wanted so much to touch and care for him. I needed that closeness. The nurses and aides were willing to let me help and I loved doing it.
I’ll never forget the first time I slipped into the hospital bed lying next to Mark, hoping no one would care. It felt so good just to be next to him and since the nurses didn’t seem to mind, it became a routine. I have never taken for granted the need for physical contact since those lonely long months after the car accident.
I still love to see my parents holding hands as they walk or sit on the couch next to each other. To watch my father help my mother out of a car, down steps, or out of a chair is endearing. They have grown in tenderness with each other over the years. It is clear to me that they love one another and appreciate the time they have together. I am grateful for their example.
Positive reinforcement is a must.
Mark is especially good at accentuating the positive. He always makes me feel wonderful. He calls me S.U.G.A.R. and spells it as an acronym for Sweetheart, Unmatchable, Girl of my dreams, Awesome, Reason to live. He often reminds me and others who will listen what S.U.G.A.R. stands for. It makes me feel special.
I’ve also noticed when I tell Mark he looks handsome, he sits up a little straighter and holds his head a little higher. We all need and enjoy compliments.
Express appreciation for the other.
Every relationship is different. It’s not possible for me to have a relationship like my parents’, but I am capable of having a loving relationship. Mark and I aren’t able to travel to far away destinations and even a romantic dinner and dance is difficult. But I can provide a special dinner at home and turn on some music so we can sway back and forth. I believe no matter where you are in your relationship, you need to appreciate it for what it is.
I feel blessed to still have Mark here with me. When a person only has a five to ten percent chance to live and no chance of coming out of a coma due to the extensive damage to the brain, you know every day is a bonus day. Those days have added up to twenty-four bonus years, which means I’ve been his caregiver for two-thirds of our married life. I believe by being his caregiver and advocate my love has grown in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Happy anniversary to my hero, Mark. I love you!