The elderly couple were holding hands in the hospital room when the assigned nurse entered. The nurse was experienced and she particularly enjoyed caring for older patients.
She gazed at the couple and was moved by the way they tenderly held hands and spoke to one another.
After the gentleman’s wife ended the visit and left, the nurse respectfully asked, “May I ask how long you have been married?” He answered, “Sixty happy years.” With that the nurse said,” Then I must ask you, what’s your secret?” The old gent smiled, leaned back and said, “AREA, young lady.”
The nurse often asked her older patients questions about their lives, knowing that they frequently possess great wisdom for those willing to listen. But she had never been given such an odd answer to the question of a happy marriage. “AREA is your secret,” the nurse asked, a bit befuddled. “Yes,” he answered,” let me explain.”
He began with the first letter of AREA and said, ” The ‘A’ stands for affection. A couple must have affection for one another, and this is greater than just attraction. The letter ‘R’ stands forrespect. You can have affection for someone but if you don’t respect him or her, it’s hard to sustain your love. The ‘E’ stands for esteem and I use it here to reflect a kind of appreciation, honor and reverence for my spouse. The final ‘A’ stands for admiration. It doesn’t matter what your spouse does, whether she’s a doctor, gardener or mother…it’s important that you have admiration for her.” The nurse was speechless that such a simple acronym could so beautifully sum up essential qualities of a long and happy marriage.
I met my wife nine years ago when her brother in law introduced us. I found her immediately engaging, intelligent, articulate and attractive. We began dating and as the relationship deepened, our conversations about life and love expanded.
In an effort to define the things that mattered to us, our discussion inevitably turned to marriage. “How do you define the qualities of a perfect marriage?” I asked her one night. She smiled and said, “AREA” I was as befuddled with her answer as she was years ago, when the gentleman told her the same thing.
My wife is still a licensed nurse but is currently not practicing. She shepherded her own grandparents through their end of life transitions and after that simply needed a break. I watched how she took care of her grandparents. With the same love, patience and care she afforded her patients at the hospital. As the years have passed I never forgot AREA, and strive to live up to these ideals in my marriage.
I don’t know whatever happened to the gentleman who shared his marriage wisdom with my wife years ago. I wish I could tell him how much his advice has meant to me and my wife. I suppose that beyond the lesson of AREA the other lesson here is to take the time to ask questions and listen to the old ones among us. You never know what you might learn