In relationships, besides love, here is the one necessary trait you need to make it last

vicki-w.JPG GUEST COLUMN: VICKI WOODYARD

Vicki is a spiritual teacher and writer who lives in Atlanta, GA

Besides love, what one trait have you noticed in couples that have maintained a successful relationship for many years?

The question in the headline is a common one on dating sites, which probe people for their relationship attitudes when filling in the boxes in their profiles. I was asked the question not on a dating site, but by this site because I was happily married to the same man for thirty-eight years. And I am going to tell you something that will make me blush. We were both virgins when we married. Not only that, we remained faithful to our vows. It was not romantic love that drew this partner to me; it was karma. Destiny. Fate.

But it had no happy ending, not at all. I married him only to discover that our young daughter was destined to die of cancer at the age of seven. He died of the same illness when he was only sixty-three. I was the weak one in the family, which just goes to show you that reason has no say in the court of love.

Yes, you heard me right. I felt little romantic love for this man in the beginning, although he did for me. We were in the fourth grade together. As he told it, he saw me running down the stairs wearing a red skirt and a white blouse. I was only eight years old but he saw me as an angel, and always called me that. We dated in high school and married when we both finished college. Being an engineer, he was not the greatest speller. I remember one birthday cake that read, “Happy Birthday, Angel.”

A comedy-writer — I wrote one-liners for Joan Rivers — he never laughed much at my jokes. Sometimes he would say “ha ha,” meaning he didn’t really get it. He was proud, though. He bragged about me knowing someone famous. Later, I added Phyllis Diller, Jeff Foxworthy and Jay Leno to my “sold to” file, but I quit my comedy writing some time ago.

When Bob was diagnosed with his multiple myeloma. I said to him, “I am going to start a website to support you.” Someone else had done this for their loved one, and I knew I wanted to do one for him.

I had no idea how to build webpages but I taught myself slowly and surely during the first part of his cancer. I soon realized the satisfaction I got from stringing words together to tell our story. He seldom read any of the copy; he was living it. And I was strengthening myself for the inevitable day of his death. And come it did.

Five days before Christmas of 2004, this valiant man took his last breath. I was not even with him. Our son and I were at home resting. We knew it was a matter of days before he died and we were letting go on many levels, as was Bob. The truth is that he waited until we went home to leave, as often happens. Perhaps it was his Christmas gift to us.

My sister had driven non-stop from Pennsylvania to be with us. She sat with him that long last day. As she told it, “the French doors to his hospital room blew open and a single leaf blew in . . . as if the spirit had come to get him.”

He was buried during a sleet storm two days before Christmas. Few people made it to the funeral due to weather and the fact that everyone was busy. I stood beside his casket touching the only life-like part of his body . . . the hairs on his hand. “Stop, Mom,” my son whispered, fearing I would mess something up.

This is a long way to answer the question of what one necessary trait is important to maintain a relationship. That is a no-brainer. Commitment. And commitment grows into love. And love flowers in the face of death. He is the one I want to meet me when I cross over. I guaran-damn-tee you that he will still call me “Angel.” And I him.

Listen to Vicki’s new meditations, A Way Out of Suffering and In the Center of the Circle on the podcast page of her website

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One Response to “In relationships, besides love, here is the one necessary trait you need to make it last”

  1. This is a deeply moving story with a sense of humor.

    My own answer to the question would’ve been: a capacity to recognize, and withdraw, one’s unconscious projections. It’s the only way your beloved can be seen by you for who they really are, un-colored by the denied material in the basements of our psyches.

    But then again, I don’t have your track-record — so will defer to your wisdom :)

    Paul