50 Years Married (and we would do it all again)

As of this weekend, Carole and I have been married for 50 years. Some have asked, “what are your secrets?” with the question mostly addressed to Carole, as in, “how did you live with him for so long?” I have been hard to live with I know, but Carole says she would do it again. (We didn’t discuss whether marrying George Clooney with an endless supply of Nespresso was an option.) Anyway, here is my answer to the “what are your secrets question”.


Having an enduring marriage is a good thing but not particularly virtuous. It doesn’t really take faith, hope, or love to outlast others or the expectations of others. Some didn’t think we would make it and, at times I agreed, worrying that I could not be for Carole what she hoped for and needed. But Carole was different. She knew we were good together. She always believed in us and in me.

To have a good marriage, a marriage “to be proud of” is more than endurance and more than counting years. Good fortune is one of many of those intangibles that helped us. It was my good fortune to meet her in high school where she was the secretary of the “future teacher’s club” and I was the president. She never came to one of my basketball games as her church frowned on men sweating in short pants. But we met young and we married young. That was good.

Over our 50 years, we have shared and talked a lot, as well as reading, worrying, studying, and loving God and people. But those vaulted virtues do not minimize our hunger to touch and hold and kiss each other. I read somewhere that good kissing is one of the best predictors of marital success. We continue to be good at that. Researchers say that shared saliva has a biological bling to sustain marriage when life is difficult. Amen.

We have been partners in so many things from church work, people in our home, conferencing, counselling, and most importantly, child-loving. My we love our two kids. It hurts to love this deeply. Parenting is so fraught with hope and love and pain. It seems to me that marriage carves out the capacity to be head-over-heals in love with kids. And now we have grandchildren and we share all their excitement and fear about their lives. It is as deep a pain as love gets.

Carole and I have crafted a common story where prayer and worship and wonder are integral. In the last several years we have become less churchly and more curious. But we are no less desiring of God and responsive to “them”. Our faith journey is less either-or and more hospitable. We like strangers. Me especially.

We enjoy our shared affections. Red wine, “The Chair” on Netflix, travelling to places like Uganda, Uzbekistan, and China to give back what has so generously been given to us. 

Giving back is a shared value. We used to call it tithing but now we think of it as just giving back. Giving is the best gift one can receive. Rather than buying each other another gift for this anniversary we have decided to give to the Children’s Hospital for all they have given to our family over the years.

One more thing that is important to us and what has inspired our marriage: friends. You. And you. And you. Yes, you. You are our family, the people we love. And we are sustained by you. You continue to be faith, hope, and love to us.

Here is a great meditation on marriage. Mediate away!

Paddy and Carole

 

(If you would like to respond to this or anything else on our website, you are invited to write us at life@theducklows.ca.)

Keep On Keeping On

Carole and I are working out how to “keep on keeping on” in the midst of increasing demands for our counselling time. We are both concerned about our long waiting lists and the urgencies caused by the covid crises. And we are also aware that we can’t work as hard as we have up until this point.

We love the work of listening, wondering, consoling and challenging and we hope to continue our work with you for some time to come. So, to be able to do this and to do so effectively, we are making some changes. Here they are:

  • First — we are going to limit the number of new clients so that we can better serve the people we visit with now. This started on April 1, 2021.
  • Second — we are going to re-package our workdays so that we are not carrying as many hours each day. This will be in effect by September 2021.
  • Third — when covid restrictions have lifted, and this looks like it is coming shortly, we are going to limit in-office visits and keep much of our work online. We will probably open for in-office visits around October 1st. Watch the calendar and this blog for updates.
  • Fourth — we will actively refer people who inquire about working with us. We have an extensive network of counsellors and we think we can match clients and counsellors quite effectively.

In summary, this means that we want to continue to work with you because we have a commitment to you, and we value the work we have accomplished together. But we are going to restrict new commitments to others.

Let us know your thoughts. Write to us at life@theducklows.ca. We will be sure to get back to you. And thanks.

(Updated July 1, 2021 — Happy Canada Day!)

“Bid Theory” and the Spirit of Marriage

Of all the people who marry, only 30 per cent grow towards a quality of marriage that they hoped for when they started out. So says Ty Tashiro in his book, “The Science of Happily Ever After.” A lot of us divorce or separate, and many maintain a “just reasonably content” compromise, and a few of us are “happily ever after.”

By the way, this is true if one is a faith-follower or if one is something else from the spiritual-psychological neighbourhood.

Seattle’s John Gottman, the current marital-parenting guru, has studied married couples for four decades and distilled the nature of their success – and it is completely ordinary. “Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity or contempt, criticism, and hostility?”

According to Gottman, people whose relationships thrived “scanned the social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully.” Those who gave up on their marriages more than often scanned for their partner’s mistakes.

This part of Gottman’s research is obvious to those who identify gratitude as evidence of God’s Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-20).

Gottman found the key to success in the everyday interactions between couples. He calls them “bids.” Say my partner makes a thoughtful and generous dinner for the family and asks for my response with the hope of some appreciation. I thank her blankly because I’m immersed in my own thing. She has made a “bid,” according to Gottman, for my attention and appreciation and I didn’t deliver. And neither do the kids for that matter.

Did you know that the majority of “bids” between unhappy couples go unanswered or worse, dismissed with contempt?

Here is something interesting: when Gottman examined the decades of marital data, he found divorcing couples responded to bids only infrequently, less than a third of the time. What about couples that thrived? They approached and appreciated the bids nearly 90% of the time. They had “emotional intelligence.”

Seems simple enough but sometimes hard to do.

(Adapted from a July 2014 Vancouver Sun article by Michael Pond.) Updated December 2020.

Tele-Psych with Paddy and Carole (Video-Counselling with Doxy.me)

[Updated August 2020]

For the Fall of 2020, Paddy and Carole will be counselling, cajoling and comforting over Doxy.me, a hyper-secure teleconferencing system. (Did you see the pun? “Doc-see-me.”) As of September 1, Paddy will visit with some of his clients in-person and continue with others online.

Using Doxy, you don’t need to download anything — you just get an email from me on the time you have booked. Click that and you are in.

To go directly to Carole’s Doxy waiting room, click here.

To go directly to Paddy’s Doxy waiting, click here.

We are moving from Skype and FaceTime to something that is simpler and more secure. You can look up Doxy.me here. It will take you a couple of minutes to orient, but it is pretty basic and easy to use.

Having said this, if you wish to visit Paddy at our office, this is again being offered on his Monday and Thursday appointments and not on his Tuesday and Wednesday off-time mornings (“What the heck are those?”). In this case, please read my blog “Current Covid-19 Concerns.” This will explain our approach to minimizing contact and thwarting this disease should you visit our home office.

Prior to starting video-counselling, I want to go over a few things with you. Here is my list.

  • There are obvious benefits to video-counselling. If you are out of the Vancouver area or if you have some sickness. Some busy business folk who are trapped in meetings video-call me from their offices and cars!
  • There are some risks too. We are using technology (and wires and stuff, that I don’t know much about) to make this work. This is why we are switching to Doxy.me. It is just more secure.
  • Confidentiality still applies to all telepsychology services.
  • We will not record our sessions and I can’t see why we would wish a recording – so we won’t record. We hope that you won’t either.
  • Note that you need to use a webcam or smartphone during the session. Otherwise, it is much more difficult with simply voice.
  • It is important to be in a quiet, private space that is free of distractions (including a cell phone or other devices) during the session. Kids can be a problem too.
  • It is important to use a secure internet connection rather than public/free Wi-Fi (eg Starbucks).
  • It is important to be on time. If you need to cancel or change your tele-appointment, you must notify us in advance by phone or email. Can you give us a day or so? Sure helps us.
  • We need a back-up plan (e.g., a phone number where you can be reached) to restart the session or to reschedule it, in the event of technical problems. Make sure we have your phone number.
  • You should confirm with your insurance company that the video sessions will be reimbursed; if they are not reimbursed, you are responsible for the payment.
  • As your psychologist, I may determine that due to certain circumstances, telepsychology is no longer appropriate and that we should resume our sessions in-person.
  • Get your coffee or pour your tea and let’s get going. Connect with Doxy.me.

Best to you all and stay healthy.

Paddy and Carole