It was thirty-six years ago today.
I stood, looking past the friends and family members who had gathered to witness the occasion, watching as my closest friend proceeded down the aisle towards me. Having barely a clue about what we were committing to during that wedding ceremony, we walked out of that church with the mindset of being one.
Linda and I were not close to being prepared for the difficulties that lay before us. I’m not sure one can be. But because we saw ourselves working as one unit – together from the start – on everything, we were able to face each trial as a challenge to grow and an opportunity to become stronger.
Even when we almost divorced around our five-year mark, we sat down and made a decision to double down on our focus to work together, in hopes of renewing the spark of shared purpose that we’d allowed ourselves to drift away from.
The decisions we made during that particular crossroads saved us many more times through the years because we had experienced the consequences of neglecting the seemingly insignificant acts of care that nourish a relationship, regardless of outside forces that may seek to tear it apart.
Difficulty can be a wedge that drives you apart — or the glue that binds you tighter. I believe it’s a decision that is made together.
The second half of our marriage has produced a glut of potential landmines we’ve navigated our way through including being foster parents, buying a farm, starting a farming business, surviving the destruction of the stock photography industry and our primary business focus, caring for aging relatives, the implosion of a church family dear to us, our own personal financial collapse, going through multiple re-configurations and re-builds of our businesses, surviving four rancorous years of fighting through two nasty lawsuits surrounding a family member’s estate, and Linda’s near death and brush with cancer.
But as we’ve turned the pages from most of those chapters, we’ve found ourselves closer and stronger because of the trials.
The lessons I’ve learned through the commitments we’ve made and have fought hard to keep have found their way into my relationships with business clients and friends. Although I don’t like conflict any more than next guy, I’ve come to realize that commitment stakes its ground in the midst of conflict.
I don’t believe in setting ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ ultimatums. My decision on whether I move forward in any venture is based on how committed the other person in the relationship is to working together so that a stronger bond is formed. In my experience, a ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ threat is going to end badly at some point. I’d just as soon end it early.
When we drive our stake in the ground and say that we value another person – stress, challenge, difficulty and all — over and beyond our own comfort, and then make the decision to face challenges together, we can have a powerful impact on the world around us.
I credit whatever impact I’ve had to the lessons I’ve learned through the journey I’ve shared with my wife and beloved partner, Linda. Words cannot express how thankful I am for her patience and perseverance with a man who does not merit the depth of grace and kindness she offers me daily.
What stakes have you driven and what have you learned from them?