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Marriage is a dance of growing together, apart, together

What does it take to walk alongside another human being over time? Writer Dani Shapiro set out to explore the beauty and the troubles of enduring love. Shining a light on her and her husband’s life course together, Shapiro offers her humble opinion on keeping the flame alive.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Most of us would agree, to make love last takes work, patience and forgiveness.

    Tonight, writer Dani Shapiro offers her humble opinion about keeping the flame alive.

  • Dani Shapiro:

    It was with great trepidation that I set out to write a memoir about my marriage.

    We talk in our culture about marriage in either terms of romantic perfection — what does happily ever after even mean? — or in the blistering, miserable terms of bitter divorce.

    But what I wanted to explore was the beauty, along with the troubles, of duration.

    My husband is a former war correspondent. He is well-acquainted with and even a seeker of risk. I’m a homebody, happiest when everyone I love is together under the same roof.

    When we met, he had just returned from Somalia and had planned to continue to work in war zones. But I wasn’t cut out for that life, and so he made the choice to stay home, a choice that profoundly altered his path.

    In these 20 years together, we have become the people we are in part because of each other.

    What does it take to walk alongside another human being over time? How do we form ourselves and against another person who may, or rather, will, grow at a different rate and in different ways? In any long marriage, no matter how happy, there is disappointment, anxiety, disturbance woven into the intimacy and love.

    While I was writing “Hourglass,” my 93-year-old aunt, one of the wisest people I know, called me one afternoon. And, as we were chatting, she asked me how my husband was doing. “How are his spirits?” she inquired. It was a rough moment for him professionally, and her gentle question made me cry.

    My aunt paused, and then she said, “I remember a particularly difficult 23-year period.”

    And I thought, what, 23 years? She went on to say that, on the other side of those years was incredible bounty.

    Even though a difficult period lasting decades is daunting, to say the least, I also understood that I was on the receiving end of a great piece of wisdom, the kind that perhaps can only come from having living for most of a century.

    We never know what’s around the corner. So often, we succumb to our own terror, and we flee, either by actually leaving or just simply shutting down.

    There is something exquisite in sharing life in all its complexity, a common language made between two people who have grown together, apart, together, apart, a dance over time.

    I’m often asked why I wrote this book. After all, revealing the truth of one’s marriage is essentially taboo. But shining a light on something only strengthens it.

    A long marriage creates its own stakes with every passing year, and those stakes are worthy of examination. I wanted to take a close and careful look at an enduring love.

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