On Couplehood – by Patti Holdraker

(BY GUEST COLUMNIST — PATTI HOLDRAKER)

I am…a woman,  mother, daughter, grandmother, aunt, sister, wife, student, rotarian, republican, writer.

I am not defined by one of these titles, but certainly by all of them.

My life began as the female child of very loving and supportive parents, in a house full of siblings (1 brother, 3 sisters), who I learned to fight with, play with and care for. This is the first place we learn about relationships, loyalty, love. My parents made me believe that I was smart, pretty, fortunate, and loved. I did not always believe these things, but it helped knowing that they did.  Growing up in a large family, one learns to be tolerant, to be loyal, and to be part of a group, as well as standing up for yourself as an individual,

I refer to being a student, not only in grade school, high school and college, but in the business world and in life. If you don’t learn something everyday, you will not grow. This may have led me to my current occupation as a writer.

I learned to love children by helping to raise my younger sisters, by meeting and cherishing my nephew and nieces when they came along. I also became attached and loved my husband’s family when we became involved. That early love helped me to prepare for the indescribable heart-connection of being a mother, and now grandmother.

I am  defined also by my affiliations in politics and community groups.  Being a member of a community is more than just living there. It is about being involved and connected. The people I have met with and interviewed as a writer, and my service as a Rotarian and politician have also had a great  impact.

Now, to the most deeply ingrained part of my being….I am a wife. I am one part of a couple. This relationship effects exactly who I am.

Though I am person on my own, and individual  with views and accomplishments, I am deeply defined by my 43 year relationship with my husband, Ron. I am part of him, he is part of me. We are so much the other’s better half. Silly? Maybe, but true.

We complete each other. We make each other think deeply, we help each other dream, we challenge each other, we share responsibilities. I wake up every morning, wondering how he is and what we will do together that day.

Our days begin with, honestly, telling each other that we love each other, and asking how we  are – mentally and physically. (That question of health and well-being takes on greater meaning as we age).

I know from the moment we hit the shower in the morning, and my husband sings a silly tune, (or doesn’t) how our day will go. We rely on each and feed off each other. All of this respect, reliance and love comes about, surprisingly, after working 24/7 with each other for over 40 years. We have owned our own businesses since we left college. It has helped to shape us, financially and emotionally.

We are strong because of each other, we are engaged every day, because we care about what happens in our community and the world. We are strong because of we gain from the triumphs or troubles our children and grandchildren share. We are strong because we care so much for each other, that what each of us is individually, also strengthens our couplehood.

Marriage is not always easy. Let me try again — marriage is rarely easy — but, to me, it is far better than living and working, and being alone. Our marriage has had its ups and downs. I’d have to say, except for health issues, everything is great and gets better everyday. Have I mentioned that I love my husband? I love him for his mind, his caring nature (that many do not see), his love and respect for his children, his absolute every-day spoken love for me.

We are a team, we are connected. I am a better person for knowing him.

I was just 20 when we met. I was shy and often afraid to give my opinion on anything. I could not speak in front of a group of people. I did not know real love.

Ron has given me confidence and respect for myself. After years of his support and enthusiasm, I find that I love to speak in public and get involved. Don’t ask my opinion – I will give it! I know real, true, honest love. I am part of a couple, I am in love. I am complete.