Have you seen that couple? The one that seems they've been married a long time and still lovingly holding hands? If you have, did this thought enter your mind, "I hope we'll be like that, but I'm not sure we will"? Did you also think that they must have something special that you don't have and possibly have been in love like this for a long time?
It is possible that this couple is newly wed; it is possible they are simply companions enjoying one another's company; and it's possible they've been married for 50+ years...and...
YES, THEY'RE STILL HOLDING HANDS!
But what I'm really hoping to unpack a bit more here, is we don't know their full story. It could be full of sweet stories, even one where the couple talks about being madly in love for many years...one for the books, like a romantic novel.
However, let's explore what a lot of these couples still holding hands after 50+ years of marriage may have experienced, are possible scenarios, and may even be the glue to their hand holding:
They could have experienced the loss of a child; they could have experienced the hurt from extramarital affairs; they could have experienced the impact of addiction; they could have endured tragedy after tragedy; they could have come close to divorce, perhaps separated at one point. We don't know their story, but one thing I do know...it is very possible that your marriage, even after hard, challenging times can be like that: still holding hands. It may not feel like that now, but I don't want you to be under the illusion that this couple you see and admire is one very different from you and your spouse. Many couples are still holding hands BECAUSE of what they've endured, not because they lack any challenges.
What marital ingredients did they have baked into their relationship to still hold hands after 50+ years of marriage, including their many heartaches and disappointments?
I'm going to list a few that come to mind:
They're holding hands like a magnet...both ends have to meet and not repel one another. Because the reality is, as we well know, some marriages unglue and at times, must unglue. Some of these couples holding hands tightly after many years are the "second chance" ones, as well. Regardless of first or second marriage, etc..when we hear or see couples that have been together for a significant amount of time and still holding hands, we admire and may hope to aspire to that lasting, magnetic, hand-holding love.
One of my favorite books that put a stamp on my desire to enter the marriage and family therapy field, is called "Lasting Love: What Keeps Couples Together" by Judy Pearson. The author gave a workshop, introduced her book, and shared excerpts from it with us. She opens her book with the "What is real" conversation between the Rabbit and the Horse, in the Velveteen Rabbit by Marjory Williams:
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I LEFT THIS WORKSHOP IN TEARS.....
However, I was not moved solely because of the Horse's description of what is real, but what followed this example was a true life story that the author, Judy Pearson, shared from the many interviews she conducted over the years. This one couple had their share of trials and tribulations and what the husband said stayed in my mind, and on my heart, from that day forward. He was asked about what made their marriage last. He looked at his wife who was in a wheelchair, as he was the more able of the two at this particular juncture of their marriage..and said "Are you kidding? Look at her. She's the most beautiful woman in the world." Their love was real and long-lasting....whether physically able to or not, they were still holding hands.
As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I specialize in helping couples use the special ingredients of their unique relationship for marital growth. Seeking couples/marital therapy is a big and courageous step, but one that could very well lead to the long-lasting love that so many desire...the kind of love where, even after some tough years and challenges, you are still holding hands.
If you are in interested in couples/marital therapy, would like to hear how I work, and answer any of your questions, please call and schedule your FREE 20 minute consultation: 813-609-0438.