When I was a 8 year old baseball player, I realized that I would never be “Number 1” at anything on the diamond. Not that I couldn’t try to be really good, but simply by statistics, there’s only one “number 1” and the likelihood that I was going to be it was pretty slim. It also turns out that one must have a natural gift to start with to be number 1 at anything. I have gifts, but nothing that the world is beating down my door to have.
There are so many places in my life — all of them I think — where I’m not number 1, that I’m glad I figured that out. That doesn’t mean I can’t try or admire the people who are the best at whatever they are best at. My time at Deering taught me that I should be the best “me” that I can, and I work with that model as best I can.
Dawn and Derek or Derek and Dawn — I like to give them equal billing — are, in my experience, and without equivocation, the best married couple I have ever known. They posted on Facebook that they first started dating 16 years ago. In that time, I have never — literally not once — heard them yell at each other. I have never felt a stony silence between them. Neither has ever pulled me aside to say that they were mad at the other for something, or remarked “that’s just how they are” about the other one. In 16 years, I have once seen an eye roll directed at the other because one of them was tired and the other busy. Yes, folks, that’s once in 16 years. Psychologist John Gottman says that there must be a 5:1 ratio of positive interactions to negative ones in order for a marriage to work. By my calculations, they now have 90 years to break their relationship if they were going to. That means that they will be one of those couples that shows up on the Today Show of the future having been together for 100 years. You heard it here first.
It’s not that they haven’t had pain in their relationship. They have. But they, again to my knowledge, have never caused the pain in their relationship. People have said mean things about one or the other and it has hurt — a lot. That I know about, because we have talked. They have had health problems at one time or another, potentially big health problems, and they have seen them as something to bring them together and fight against, if they fought anything, but their spirits are calm and gentle, so I don’t think that’s the right word. They have struggled against things together, and not fought.
Both of them have had mental health challenges or learning struggles at times before they knew each other, I gather, and they have not turned those things on each other. That, in my experience with couples where such things are a part of their personality, is nearly impossible because it is basic perception — the building block of all interactions — that is at issue. But I say nearly impossible because I know Derek and Dawn.
There are those skeptics out there who will say that they don’t fight because they can’t fight or are afraid to. I honestly don’t think that’s the case here, because both are intelligent, caring people who can figure out how to do things they don’t how to do. More than that, there doesn’t seem to be anything closer than warm feelings between them. They don’t seem to ever get into the “red zone” of anger or the “yellow zone” before that. In short, they seem to only have love and caring for each other.
Also from the therapy world: the three things couples fight about most are 1)Money, 2) Power and 3) Sex. They have had job challenges so money may have been an issue at times. I view them as equals because they act like equals. I have never heard a complaint about sex, sexuality, looks, or anything from either of them. Again, they have had stress in their lives, but they don’t turn it on each other. That, I think, is what makes them so good together.
What other reasons are there? What is the secret to long-lasting like/love? I don’t know. I have theories, I have wisdom for everybody that’s not them but telling The Best anything is a waste of my time and theirs.
What can I tell you about how they got to this place? What positive things did or do they do?
Here’s my list:
- They are the first couple I know to have met over the internet (long before it was normal practice). They talked. They talked about everything. They agreed on things like the toothpaste they both like and for what reason. Then they met and dated.
- They are very kind, joyous people who know how to have fun. They enjoy life, so they enjoy each other.
- They are nature people — they like to walk, ski, hike, and generally enjoy time with nature.
- They are tech people. Derek works in IT for his company. Dawn is a teacher. They have to know how to deal with tech, so they do.
- They are grounded people. In addition, Derek works on cars and is good at it. They both do things with their hands. They both walk the dog. They don’t seem to have lofty goals and that’s what makes their relationship a lofty goal for others. (Life is weird that way).
- They are spiritually good people, not religiously good people. They were a part of a group I started a church with once, so I know they have religion, but they don’t seem interested in regular worship attendance after that experiment, and religion doesn’t have them.
- I thought about it as I was shoveling this afternoon. If they had mental health issues as kids, they must have had therapy. In fact, I know they did. But they had good therapists, I guess. (Yay therapy!)
To sum it up, “they chose wisely”. I have done many weddings in my 25 years of ministry. I had a blast doing theirs. Theirs is the best marriage I have ever seen. I am privileged to be associated with their marriage, long after their wedding.