Liguori Publications, Liguori, Mo., 2003; $5.95.
“Every marriage is a story with stories” – many stories, say authors Susan and William Rabior. Curious about what makes marriages work well, they interviewed apparently successful married couples. Seventy percent of the spouses were over age 55, most retired.
In this book the Rabiors, he a psychotherapist and she an audiologist, share some of the stories they heard from older couples. The authors’ intention is to offer insights for other couples desiring to make the most of the “mature” stage of marriage.
In an earlier book the Rabiors described ways to nurture marriage based on nine major factors contributing to marital success that they identified over the course of their interviews. In this book they focus on additional factors for older couples, including suggestions for dealing with the particular challenges of aging bodies and an aging marriage.
The older married couples the Rabiors met with were healthy and independent. Yet the authors and their interviewees are realistic about physical and emotional changes that take place after a person moves beyond the prime of life, as well as about the transformations in daily life after retirement. They are honest about the potential for marital stagnation and about the effects of longstanding traits that can be “relationship breakers.”
This book is easy to read and enjoy. Each of nine short chapters is comprised of real-couple stories illustrating the authors’ points, and each ends with questions to help married readers reflect and talk with one another.
Some couples might be able to read and discuss a chapter a day, and almost everyone could handle a chapter per week. That would mean taking five to 10 minutes to separately read a chapter and committing 10 to 30 minutes for dialogue over a meal or while walking. Over the course of two months that’s a 15- to 40-minute weekly investment in one’s marriage — with infinite returns.
While the Rabiors, in their title and Introduction, quote only the first two lines of Robert Browning’s poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” they could have quoted more. Much of their book reflects the entire first verse:
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”
This little book does not simplistically advise readers to trust God, sit back and expect all to be well. Its implicit message is to trust that God still has a purpose for your marriage after 30, 40, 50 and 60 years.
The children may have come and gone multiple times, your hair has turned to silver if it hasn’t already fallen out, and your joints preclude adventuresome sexual positions, but you have attained some balance. There is another “half” of marriage with depths to plumb and pleasures to enjoy.