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Friends and lovers (11/11/2007)
By Janet Lewis Burns

"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness."

-The Dalai Lama

Kindness is food for the soul as well as nourishment for a marriage. As the days of cocky attitudes and high and mighty pride fade into the more humble, needy, and mellow years of senior citizens, we have arrived at living's calm plateau.

Contented couples who have survived 40 to 60 years of marriage, and feel closer and more bonded than ever, have each no doubt remained individuals within their marriage vows. Partners can appear worlds apart in character even as they carry on from day to day in harmony. Mutual respect and nurturing strengthen the union year by year.

You seldom hear a wife or husband use the term "Soul Mates" when referring to their life together. It's a beautiful concept, a man and a woman who seem to "click", who always have this ethereal glow about them when they're together. Likely such couples have risen above senseless nitpicking and petty emotions. It takes maturity and common sense bordering on wisdom to succeed in a permanent relationship, not necessarily age. Sadly, "I'm a lover, not a fighter" is not a one-size-fits-all mantra.

A plastic marriage is one that would likely fall apart during a financial crisis. It could ultimately make or break a marriage when a frivolous lifestyle is doomed by catastrophic or extravagant spending beyond one's means. Stripped bare, a couple may stand before each other only to realize that nothing worth salvaging remains.

On the flip side, seeing life in a new light, discovering that they can sacrifice the materialistic as long as they have each other, forging on together may be less of a burden and more of a blessing. Going back to simple pleasures and appreciating those qualities that brought them together in the first place can turn out to be a panacea that rejuvenates a (once) stale, phony way of life.

Harmonious relationships usually possess certain positive traits, such as unselfishness, compassion, complete honesty, a healthy sense of humor, thoughtfulness, and a joint checking account. If you have all of this, who needs a prenuptial agreement?

Romance? An aging couple who ignite the embers on occasion and who keep the pizzazz in their marriage are actually more vibrant and happier together! It doesn't take an earth-shattering act or an expensive gift to trip one's trigger. What begins with apprehension and maybe embarrassment can turn out to be just what the doctor ordered for both partners.

"Please pass the humble pie!" One of the hardest things for some people to do is to apologize. What happens when you assume that your husband or wife will just know that you're sorry or that you didn't mean what you said? Bitterness can build up and cause a rift that can last for years. If one's ego and pride doesn't allow for apologies, the partner who is hurt feels that the total responsibility to forgive, forget, and to move on is on his or her shoulders.

Another marriage breaker is self-centeredness. A selfish and stubborn individual who refuses to grow and to see things from another's perspective can sour a union in a hurry. Talking it over is good, but it only reaps positive results if each party can enter into the conversation with an open mind and a willingness to really listen to the other and to admit when he or she may be wrong.

Every marriage must allow ample opportunities to clear the air, to reaffirm love for one another, and to reflect on the future together and as a family.

Riding off happily into the sunset together can be a glorious dream come true"¦if, in any season of your married life, you know deep in your heart that you married your best friend.

Happy trails!

Janet Burns has resided in Lewiston all of her 62 years. She can be reached at




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