Forty years is made up of a whole lot of individual days.
It is what happens routinely in those days that add up to make a life, or a marriage. Sure, vacations are nice, breaks from the routine, opportunities to do some different things and see some different places. But vacations are just that – temporarily vacating the familiar. Then it is back to the familiar. One of our philosophies of creating a happy life, and marriage, is to make the familiar – the everyday days with the everyday tasks – to be as good as they can be. Here are a few of the things we have always tried – and continue to try – to get as many of these as we can into every day:
Walking: Any day with a walk is better than a day without a walk.
One of the reasons we so love living where we do in Beulah is the easy opportunities for walking. We walk in all seasons, and know that even in the coldest of conditions, all it takes is the right warm clothes to make for a good walk.
But in every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~John Muir
Music: When we made a living making music, this was easy.
Now that we have different jobs, it sometimes takes a bit more of an effort to get a good hit of music each day – we mean something more than just background music. Sometimes a day of meetings, appointments, work tasks, and other activities requires a deliberate effort to incorporate some good music time – closely listening, dancing, kicking back, singing. But whenever we do, we are glad we did.
Talking: We have always loved talking – just plain old talking – to each other. It helps us feel connected, up-to-date, closer.
Our talks include planning and strategizing, as well as sharing gratitudes, interesting stories or facts we read or heard, things that are “up” for one of us, something that needs “getting clear” on… We usually try to separate out our work talks from our personal talks, although so much of our work is so tied to our personal interests and values, so these two often bleed into each other. Our talks do include a lot of listening which may be one of our ‘secrets’.
Eating together: When the kids were little, eating together was an important part of our family life.
As they got older, sharing breakfast and lunch was not always possible, but we always made a point to eat dinner together. No TV, no eating in their rooms – we ate together at the table. Always. This also contributed to keeping our small cabin clean. And this has carried into our empty nest – breakfast and lunch are often on our own, but we almost always eat dinner together.
Preparing food together: Helene is certainly better and more confident when it comes to cooking, but that hasn’t stopped us from preparing our meals together.
We’ve lately noticed that we have evolved this very pleasant flow when we cook together, knowing without having to say what comes next, what needs to be done…
Chores: We find doing chores together makes the work easier.
So when it works for our schedules, we often put on some music and do a tornado clean of the house, or a part of the house. We both like things to be organized and uncluttered so together we meet up to accomplish what needs to be done. And…we have learned to not tell each other how to do things…or micro-manage each other.
Making the bed together in the morning: There is something about making the bed together, right after we get up, that feels good – like we start the day, right off the bat, with a completion.
It is also a way that we connect to each other across the bed and creates a pause to nurture each other in the moment. Sometimes we talk; sometimes it is in quiet; sometimes while listening to the NPR morning news. But it is a symbolic action that mirrors how to attend to our marriage. And then the pleasant payoff: getting into a beautifully made bed together each evening. Now that brings luxury to our relationship.
Going to bed at the same time: Most of the time we do.
Naturally there are times when our schedules are busy and our needs for rest vary, but getting into bed together is a sweetness that can’t be beat for us. And the cuddling is a part of the healing connection that our relationship is based on.
Helping each other: It’s pretty great to have your best friend to walk through your days with.
We always seek to help make each other’s life easier; high on the list of what we are to each other is help-mates. It works for us and infuses our marriage with mutual support, along with the joy and the fun! And…when we built our GrowingSpaces.com greenhouse our great family all came and helped in this learning experience. We are the lucky ones for certain.
Dave and Helene Van Manen know the secret to their 40 years of loving and it includes green smoothies, making the bed together and falling into bed laughing each night. They share their journey as they honor for 40 days their relationship started back in the 70’s when they were teens. Today they live and teach in the mountains of Colorado.