A few weeks ago while on a road trip I dropped by Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco to enjoy the view of Alcatraz and, let's be honest, to buy chocolate. After my stop at the chocolate store where I enjoyed a free Milk Chocolate and Caramel Square, I made my way down to the beach. The sweetness of the chocolate-caramel combo was lingering in my mouth. I plopped down on a bench, soaked in the sun, smelled the fresh cut grass, and started to read.
The perfect afternoon.
I was completely immersed in my book when suddenly something took me out of the zone. Someone was approaching my bench.
I looked up and saw Jerry. "It's a great day for a read, isn't it?" he asked as he plopped down beside me, scooting closer to make room for his wife. "Isn't that book you're reading a best seller?" Betty asked. Jerry, Betty and I were instant friends... because talking about books is the best way to become friends.
Jerry and Betty have been married for 62 years. They've experience more together than most people do in their entire lives. Here are four lessons I learned from my short conversation with this awesome couple:
Create Rituals Together
When I met Jerry and Betty, they were out for a walk together before their weekly lunch in San Francisco. It's been their weekly tradition for years. They told me about how they both love the outdoors. They grew up in Southern California during the depression where they spent every day at the beach bodysurfing.
When Jerry retired, they moved to Hawaii for a decade and, as Jerry said, "We spent every single day together in the ocean for 10 years. Every day!"
"It so nice that we both love being outdoors," Betty added.
Doing the things you enjoy is important. Spending time with the one you love is also important. Combine the two, and do things you enjoy with the one you love, and you've got magic.
Take Care of Something Together
As we got to know each other a little better, I learned that Jerry and Betty had two daughters. Both had been through divorce, and at least one has since remarried.
"Do you have any grandkids?" I asked.
"Nope," Jerry replied as he reached for his wallet. He obviously wanted to show me something. "I don't keep pictures of my kids in here, but I do keep a picture of our Grand-dog."
He pulled out a photo of a Golden Retriever. "He's our baby," said Betty.
"He sleeps at the foot of our bed, sprawled out on his back with all for legs pointing in the air!" laughed Jerry.
It was obvious that they both loved their dog. A lot.
Sharing and investing in a mutual love brings people together, whether it's a plant, a pet, or a child. Find something to nurture and love with the person you care most about. Then invest in it, and watch your love grow (figuratively and literally).
Have a Sense of Humor
After talking about kids, and dogs, and Hawaii, and lunch, I asked these two wise souls what is the secret to 62 years of marriage.
Without missing a beat, Betty said, "You have to learn to go with the flow. You need to just relax and enjoy life. When I got married, my Father gave me one piece of advice. He said, 'If you hold on to one thing, make sure it's your sense of humor.'"
It was obvious talking to Jerry and Betty that they did not take life too seriously. Nor did they take each other too seriously. The accepted each others good parts, and were able to laugh at the rest.
What are the things you can choose to laugh at instead of getting annoyed? Can you find the humor in the challenges that life inevitably throws at you instead of casting blame? How can you learn to just go with the flow?
Don't Ever Give Up
"Too many people give up when things get hard," said Jerry. "You have to stick with it for it to be worth it. It isn't always easy, but things get bad, and then they get good again. You just have to hang in there."
Nothing worth having ever came easy.
Whoever tells you that love is easy is lying. Love can be simple, but it's rarely easy. Putting the desires and goals and happiness of your parter above your own is not easy. Nurturing a relationship involving two constantly shifting and changing lives is not easy. Being kind and loving when you are tired and stressed is not easy.
Love is not easy. But with the right attitude and enough effort, it's worth it.