What we’ve learned in 50 years of marriage
In June of 1969, at just 19 and 17 years old, Trude and I ran away from home. We were disillusioned with the “establishment” and I was forbidden by her parents to date her.
After months of hitching around California and living on a friend’s porch, we began a daily Buddhist practice to polish our enlightened natures, overcoming numerous obstacles and consistently working to improve our relationship and contribute to a more peaceful world.
TRUDE: Mike and I were so fortunate to have embraced a spiritual practice at such a young age. Some of my many benefits include:
· Building a lifelong partnership with Mike against all odds — love triumphed!
· Having two wonderful daughters who cherish their childhoods and consider time spent with Mike and me to be their happy place.
· Completing college while our daughters were young to fulfill my dream and passion to teach.
· Challenging my MS from day one and, as a result, developing more compassion for myself and others.
MIKE: Trude went numb from the waist down in 1996. Not knowing if she’d ever walk again, I watched her deal with her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis or MS with astonishing determination.
For my part, I discovered that when push came to shove, I was able to stand on my own and be strong for her. With the help of a compassionate therapist, I turned what could have been a devastating occurrence into the fuel to begin to make much needed changes in my own life. Meanwhile, my love and admiration for Trude continued to grow.
A few of the many life lessons we’ve learned from our mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, are:
· Don’t compare ourselves to others but rather express our own unique capabilities.
· See the enlightened nature inside our own lives and the lives of others.
· Nurture our relationships with dialogue — especially when we don’t want to!
· No matter what obstacles we might face, never give up!
TRUDE: Over these many years, I have seen Mike really struggle with depression and anxiety. It has been so encouraging to watch him find the right medicine and therapists to help him heal from the trauma of a terribly abusive childhood. He was able to share some of this experience in Romancing the Buddha, his book and one-man show. And now, he has become much more centered and at peace with himself. It goes to show that we are never too old to change.
MIKE: When we were first together, I played piano in a soul group in East LA. Now that I’ve retired from my consulting business, I’ve re-discovered my passion for music by singing and playing harmonica in a local blues band, Good Karma Blues.
TRUDE: I was able to overcome my mother’s insistence that I wasn’t her “artistic” daughter, by learning how to paint with watercolors and, more recently, to allow myself to experiment with abstract images.
We’ve also been enjoying time with our two grandkids and hosting local Buddhist discussion meetings in our beautiful new home.
MIKE: In 2003, we were asked to speak at our older daughter’s friend’s wedding ceremony at a stately old mansion in the western part of Virginia. It took us two weeks of reflection and dialogue to describe some of the lessons we’ve learned about marriage. Here’s what we shared:
Communicate . . . set aside a regular time to talk,
But be flexible and willing to listen regardless of the time.
Recognize and accommodate your different communication styles.
Don’t go to bed angry, even if it means losing sleep to discussion.
Give your relationship constant attention.
Enjoy the good times.
Realize life’s challenges will cause you to grow and deepen your bond.
Reach out to help others . . . it makes your own burdens seem lighter.
Love deeply and passionately.
Always keep your sense of humor.
Celebrate each other’s strengths.
Reflect on your own weaknesses.
Respect each other.
Act with compassion when your spouse is struggling.
Spend quality time together.
Yet give each other space to develop as individuals . . . it will make the time you spend together more fulfilling.
Remember that spiritual growth is a key component of a happy, life-long marriage . . . all the money, recognition and status in the world won’t guarantee happiness.
Your marriage is truly a treasure.
And so are both of you!
TRUDE: After we had our second daughter, someone pointed out to us that children learn much more about relationships from watching how their parents treat each other than from what parents tell them. I am thankful that both the girls have grown up expecting to be treated with respect and dignity.
Over fifty years of marriage, we’ve learned that in good and bad times it’s most important to live with a never give up spirit. When we do this, “Winter never fails to turn into spring.”