an election day anniversary
Only one more day until November 3, 2020, Election Day in the United States of America. It also happens to be the fifth-ninth anniversary of the day Jay and I met. Such a unique twist of fate brought us together that we celebrate the anniversary of that evening every year. One of the commemorations I remember best was the anniversary we spent campaigning. In 1966, November 3 fell five days before the first election of our married life.
Before my marriage, politics held a place at the edge of my peripheral vision. But marrying into an active, political Chicago family sharpened my understanding of the local democratic process.
worthy of honor and respect
My blog post for September 7 this year, “New Year, New Beginnings” announced my intention to share with you some principles I believe helped sustain our fifty year plus relationship. https://julewardwrites.com/committed-relationships/marriage/new-year-new-beginnings.
Near the top of the list I placed recognizing a partner’s expertise in some areas and accepting their lead in those domains. This premise resembles one of the principles found in John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, often cited as the definitive guide to developing a relationship’s full potential.
In his work, Dr. Gottman observed that admiration, the belief that one’s partner is worthy of honor and respect, is crucial for a committed relationship. Jay and I can’t help but notice each other’s flaws. (And living together 24/7 since the pandemic has only acerbated this.) Keeping in touch with what we admire about each other stops us from being driven to distraction by our individual idiosyncrasies. https://www.gottman.com/blog/how-much-do-you-admire-and-respect-your-partner/
politics, our everyday fare
Jay never ran for political office himself. His passionate engagement in the political life of our community,however, became part of the rhythm of our daily life as soon as we returned from our honeymoon. He involved himself at the most basic level as a Democrat precinct captain. The City of Chicago is divided into fifty legislative districts or wards. Each district is represented by an alderman who is elected to serve a four- year term. Each ward is divided into as many as forty-four precincts. And that, according to my husband, was where the real politics took place.
His work in the precincts was a far cry from our college discussions. Those, while fascinating since Jay majored in Political Science, were highly theoretical. Politics at the neighborhood level, I discovered, was a whole different animal. I watched as Jay went out every night to knock on doors in an effort to speak with every potential voter in his precinct and it swelled my heart with pride.
He worked hard all day, processing dozens of cases as a State’s Attorney in Traffic Court, came home, ate a quick supper and headed out. I could have felt abandoned. We were, after all, close to being newlyweds. The emotions, however, that filled my soul were admiration and respect. Jay said his precinct work was a necessary link in the democratic process. I chose to believe him rather than listen to the grumbles I heard at work about the cronyism of the Chicago Democratic party.
politics in his dna
Jay’s participation in the Chicago political scene also had another dimension. His father, John F. Ward, Sr., was the purchasing agent for the City of Chicago. He had been appointed to that position in 1948 by a reform mayor, Martin Kennelly. When Richard J. Daley was elected, Jay’s dad assumed he’d be asked to step down. Daley surprised him by asking him to stay, saying that Mr. Ward was known for his honesty and professionalism. Daley wanted that to be a part of his own administration. Because of his father’s position, Jay had sat in at lunch with the leaders of the city, county and state Democratic parties since he had been a young teen. What he learned from those sessions, he kept to himself. I honored him for that.
campaigning as celebration
It was no surprise, therefore, that when the fifth anniversary of the day we met came around, we found ourselves not going out to dinner and a movie, but passing out campaign leaflets. Although the Democrats felt their usual security about the city and county offices, there was enormous concern about the Senate race. Paul Douglas had held the seat for eighteen years. A prominent member of the Liberal Party, he was a great friend of most of the prominent Chicago politicians. For Jay and me, he was more than that. He was a passionate crusader for civil rights and had helped pass the Civil Rights Act just two years before. But he was in a tight race with a prominent Republican businessman, Charles Percy.
Our position for passing out the pamphlets was the Washington Avenue bridge that spanned the Chicago River just west of the Loop. Commuters streamed over this bridge on their way to Union Station as they headed to homes in the south, west, northwest, and north suburbs of the city. There were thousands of them. The timing was perfect. If they held onto our reading material, they could study it on the train. We were bundled into several layers so we could withstand the long hours on the bridge. The temperature did not drop below freezing until after dark, but the sun set at five-thirty. We remained at our posts until the last stragglers from the Loop offices scurried to catch the final trains around seven-thirty.
fondness and admiration: a system
My feet felt frozen to the bridge, but my heart was warm with pride. For four hours, I had stood shoulder-to-shoulder with my husband and collaborated with him. Together we had attempted to make a difference in the way our nation would be governed. Jay would always be more invested in politics than I would be. Sometimes his active lobbying took him from home for days at a time. My admiration for his dedication assuaged the annoyance I felt at being left to run the household on my own.
On his side of the coin, he often assured me that his confidence in my ability to care for our family on my own when necessary served as a ground for him to do the work he loved. Most likely this is putting what Dr. Gottman calls “a positive spin on our marriage history.” But that’s actually a good thing, a true test of a couple’s “fondness and admiration system” and a good predictor for future happiness.
evaluate your admiration system
Kyle Benson, who works in the “Love Lab” at the Gottman institute loves doing something similar to what I do in the Relationship Guides on this website. (https://julewardwrites.com/radicalpromises-2/for-better-rather-than-worse-fun-fill-ins-for-couples.) Benson takes the research on successful relationships and transforms them into practical tools for romantic partners. If you would like to try one of them, try his brief quiz designed to evaluate the fondness and admiration system in your own relationship. https://www.gottman.com/blog/how-much-do-you-admire-and-respect-your-partner/
If you take the test, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.