I sat in my office the other day and watched an elderly couple as they walked along the sidewalk. You couldn't tell which one was holding the other up, but you knew that they had been supporting each other for many years. It made me think about our lives together as couples. It is hard to imagine ourselves at that stage of life, but it is inevitable. I asked myself if my husband and I would be holding each other up when that day came. I'd like to think so.
Actually, the longer we're married, the better it gets and I'd like to think that is a pattern that will continue. Whether you have been married a few years, 25 years or in the planning stages of your wedding, know that there is a future filled with rewards from the work you are putting into your relationship now. The "gold watch" or the "bonus" from years of marriage cannot be seen or worn or spent, but felt by an invisible connection between you and your partner. Sharing your house, your bed and your children is the surface part of a good marriage, sharing your thoughts and spirits are the best part. Knowing you will be with each other after the kids are raised, your friends have moved away and your parents have died, is a comfort like no other we know of.
It is a good feeling to know that your partner will be with you through the best and the worst parts of your life. Here is a friend who is offering unconditional love, appreciating you for who you are and for who you have become. To be able to sit in a room with another person, not saying a word, and not feeling like you should be talking, yet knowing there is an invisible bond between you, is like the safety you feel when coming home. To share common thoughts and feelings with someone over a period of years is a history no one can take away. To exchange looks with someone and know what they are thinking, and better yet, know you are thinking the same thing, is a bond shared by few. It is something you don't share with anyone else.
These feelings and bonds do not happen overnight. Like anything worth having, it takes time, work and patience. There are days when things aren't going so smoothly that it doesn't seem worth the effort. More often, there are days when you look at your partner and understand completely why you are working to make your marriage stronger everyday. There is joy in the journey as well as heartache. The goal of a good marriage is to create a path where the joys far outnumber the struggles. As we look at our marriage, we know that everything we have done has been worth the energy we have put into it. That alone, gives us the love, the strength and the desire to keep on building. We still have many challenges and changes ahead of us. We never take for granted that our years behind us will support the years ahead of us. We can't stop caring, grooming and appreciating our marriage simply because it has worked this long. We use the tools we've found to work for us on a daily basis. We sharpen our tools regularly, we add new ones now and then and we pull out some old standbys that haven't seen the light of day in years when we need them. We never assume that because we are walking on air today, that tomorrow or next month are going to naturally follow suit. Not unlike a garden, our marriage is tended to, nourished and appreciated.
As a couple, we keep a vision of growing old together. It's part of our plan. And we'll do it together, taking turns being the leader, holding each other up, but most importantly, as a loving team. Happily ever after truly does happen one day at a time.
When I think of trying to come up with my wedding vows some forty years ago, I wish I would have known what was in my future. These simple words would have said it all: Grow old along with me Mark, the best is yet to be. Pretty much says it all, don't you think?
More:Growing Old Together Growing Old Long Marriage Long Married Couples How To Have A Long Marriage
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more