In their book, “With Ossie & Ruby,” the late Ossie Davis and his wife, actress Ruby Dee, talked about an annual ritual they once shared where they wrote each other letters. In those letters, they would reflect on their personal experiences, meaningful memories, their marriage and their desires for the upcoming year. Considering that they were married for 56 years before Mr. Davis’ death in 2005, I think they might have gotten something right. Despite the years, and the rigors of two Hollywood careers, they managed to stay connected with practice and effort.
My sister-friend and her husband were considering divorce last year. After 12 years of marriage, they found themselves at a crossroads with no clear path for their future together as husband and wife. It was a hard decision because they have a nine-year old son, and of course, lots of stuff together, both tangible and intangible. Yet, they’d come to the conclusion that divorce was the right thing for them because they had also become virtual strangers.
Personally, I saw the decline happen after the birth of their son. My sister-friend shifted her focus from her husband to her baby. And, he shifted his focus to being a great provider for his family. With her transformation into super mom and his into super provider they began to drift apart. I remember almost a year had gone by and my sister-friend complaining that they’d only been intimate twice in that time period. However, on paper, things were going well and they were progressing.
As the years went on, the great divide between them widened. Both of them vacationed separately and rarely together, their friendship circles became disconnected and the only things they caucused over were their household and their son. Literally, by the time their son was six or so they were living separate lives under the same roof. But, no alarm sounded because, despite the distance, they got along pretty well with very little disagreements or discord.
When my sister-friend told me about the divorce, I took it as an opportunity to express what I had witnessed from my outside perspective. In my opinion, their situation was actually fixable with some attention. I bought her the Ossie & Ruby book and told her about how my best friend and her husband practiced the letter writing. I encouraged her to take a pause on separating and really put in some work on her marriage. Namely, she and her husband needed to try to reconnect.
I’m no therapist, but I am happy to say that it worked. Truly, they had allowed themselves to become disconnected by circumstance and time. As Ruby & Ossie say, it really is about the simple things. Touching your spouse or lover on the shoulder, taking time out before bed to go over the day (not just about kids or finances), the weekend trip to a hotel to do things you rarely get to do, date night, and, of course, the practice of taking stock every year of how the other person has grown and what they think of the relationship.
It’s so easy to get focused on other things, but you have to stay committed to growing with your partner. Not an easy task, I know from experience, however, it is a necessary one if your goal is to stay together. If you want a marriage or relationship that is really “until death do us part,” you have to make a strong effort to stay connected.
Wishing you LOVE & CEASLESS JOY!
Nathan’s book INSPIRATION: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World is available now.