Feeling Safe and Secure | Opinion

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Ray cried when he read my birthday card. It was the last sentence, “I feel safe and secure with you, my love, for which I’m eternally grateful.”

Our couple’s therapist said in our final session many years ago, “You guys expect too much. You have a great relationship.” We do because we work at it.  

Reflection in my senior years makes clear just how safe and secure I’ve always felt with Ray. I’m astounded that I’ve never been so fully aware and appreciative. How could I not see? I suspect that some of my current cognition is due to the fear of him dying before me.

Whenever I traveled, I’d call Ray daily, if practical, and certainly write e-mails, once they were invented. He was/is my rock. Once I heard his voice, or saw his message, I’d relax in the comfort of his interest in my day and well-being. Whenever I’d drive, I knew that if I had an accident or a flat tire, Ray would be there for me, taking over the areas he knew were my weakness. 

“Ray, can you fix this?” “Ray, I’m sending you an e-mail from the doctor’s office that I don’t understand.” “Ray, will you please open this?”

I’m embarrassed to acknowledge that for many of our 48 years, I took it all for granted. He was simply playing out his role, and I was doing the same. He’d get the space heater and a fire going when we’d arrive at the snow-covered cabin, and I’d start dinner, turn on the electric blankets, and unpack the curtains I bought at Bloomingdale’s. 

What did we expect more of? Smooth sailing 100% of the time? Perpetual patience? Automatic forgiveness and acknowledgment of wrongdoing? Attention? Consistently good behavior?

I’m spoiled, as is Ray. We’re both used to having the other look for ways each day to make our lives easier, happier, and more secure. 

Ray’s the type to call AAA before he called me if there was car trouble, but he’d not expect the same from me. He learned very early that there was “Brian’s way,” and he never tried to change that. I’ve always felt secure that nothing would be expected of me that was beyond my skill, strength, or attention span. 

Sometimes I wonder what Ray’s life would be like after my death. What sigh of relief might he have? What behavior might he finally feel free to engage in without worry of my response?

Our relationship isn’t perfect. We each have learned to go with the flow. Small things that irritate us don’t merit confrontation. We each have our annoying behaviors but expecting that they can be eliminated by constant criticism only creates the bickering we see in some other couples. 

Ray’s tears on his birthday, I suspect, were prompted not only by my affirmation of awareness, but also by Ray’s relief that all of his efforts had succeeded and were gratefully acknowledged.


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