Between sweethearts and between spouses there is, of course, a physical attraction or bond. That may be what leads into the marriage, but there are so many other things to consider.
What religious denomination will the children be raised in? Will there be a religion? Will there be children? If so, how many?
And the whole financial issue: Who will work outside the home — husband, wife or both? How much money is enough to live a good life? How fancy or plain of a house? Furniture from garage sales or Value City or IKEA or something fancier?
And where will that house be? How close to the parents? What state? What country?
Will there be vacation trips? When a child is sick, how soon do you call the doctor? How often do you visit the in-laws? Do you need a new car or will an old one do just as well? Do you tolerate clutter or must things, once used, be immediately discarded?
What do you do in your down time? Spend it together or apart? How much of each?
How do you handle anger and disagreement? Do you talk about it? Yell? Hold it inside and hope it goes away? Take a walk or a run?
These things do not need to be resolved before marriage. They can be settled later to the satisfaction of both spouses. Differences are overcome with compromise and with love. And, as the years go by, routines prevent every day from including major decisions and battles. The house exists somewhere; children come and grow; arguments happen and pass; daily activities occupy the time and space of a marriage.
And then the empty nest comes. Decisions must be made all over again — decisions never even considered at the time of the wedding.
Who will retire first? When is it time to retire? What to do after retirement — downsize, move, travel, sit around the old house and read? Volunteer work? Part-time work?
And what about those children, if you have had them? How often should you see them? Call them? How do you relate to your adult children? To your grandchildren? When and how often, if ever, do you give advice? What kind of presents do you give and how often? What if they are annoyed because they think you treat them like they are still 10 years old?
People who spent decades sleeping in the same bed but being apart most of the day may suddenly have daytime together — what to do with it?
When the kids were little, going out was rare. Now, the time to go out is limitless, but rather than being a blessing it can be a curse: what to do with that time? No one realizes how special it was to be stuck at home with babies who cried when you left. Freedom from that obligation is too much freedom, perhaps.
Sometimes, choice is limited. Money situations may require or prevent a move or travel. Illnesses impose their own restrictions.
Sometimes, there is no control and thus no choice to make. Whereas spouses may choose whether to have children, they cannot choose whether to have grandchildren. So, in fact, is where their adult children choose to live and what education and careers they pursue and whether or not they decide to marry.
Every stage of life has its challenges, but it seems there is a period of great upheaval and choice early on, followed by a long, fairly stable period of living without upheaval, and then — when one would think everything is resolved — there comes another period of upheaval and choice.
Many people write and talk about that first period; few talk about the second one, so it comes as a surprise. Get those decision-making skills ready, because the time will come, if one is lucky.
Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]