This past Monday was our 42nd wedding anniversary.
When we got married on July 14th, 1972 I was one week shy of my 18th birthday, and my husband was a much older man of 19. I don’t think many of our family members or our friends believed our marriage would last. I do know that a few of those who were the most critical of our chances of staying together, themselves married at more “socially acceptable ages”. They all have had at least one divorce.
We often are asked what the secret is to staying married. The answer is both simple and complex. If you want to stay married—then you stay married.
We have no illusions, either of us, about the state of Holy Matrimony. It’s not sunshine, lollypops and rainbows all the time. It is damn hard work, and sometimes living peaceably is not easy. If asked, we will both tell you that neither one of us has ever seriously considered divorce. Murder, on the other hand...
We do have a list of things we have learned both to do, and not to do.
We don’t live in each other’s pockets. We each allow the other to have personal interests, opinions, and a life. We don’t tell each other what to do, as we are each of us adults, capable of making our own decisions about things. On the other hand, we don’t either of us make major decisions without discussing it with the other first.
Do you know what else we don’t do? We don’t expect each other to assume responsibility for our own individual happiness. It is not my husband’s job to make me happy—that is something I must accomplish for myself. It’s not my job to make him happy, either. However, it is my job to be there for him, to be his main supporter, the one person he can count on to have his back. He can and should expect that I will listen to his problems, and give him the best advice I can, if he asks for it.
We both understand the concept of compromise. Neither one of us always gets our own way. Sometimes one will seem to bow to the other’s wishes more often – for a short period of time. And then the trend reverses.
Love changes over time. It doesn’t stay the new, thrilling, exciting emotion it was at the beginning of a relationship. It grows to include children and grandchildren. It weathers the trials and tribulations of living, and of coping with disappointment and heartache, tragedy and loss.
Love endures even as it evolves, and remains steadfast even in the quiet times.
This year, we did nothing special to celebrate the day. My beloved went to work, and I stayed home and worked. I made him his favorite dinner, and we exchanged small gifts. We sat side by side for a time in the evening, relaxing in our new power love seat, and read. We do this often – or are side by side at our computers. We don’t talk a lot some nights. We don’t have to.
Just as I always do most of the cooking and the cleaning, in the evening, if I need a cup of coffee or some water, he gets it for me. If I need my feet rubbed, he rubs them for me. Sometimes I’ve been too busy with this career of mine to have made the bed that day. On those occasions, he makes it for us.
My husband could probably give you a long list of things that I have done to tick him off. Believe it or not, I could do the same. But we will also tell you that there is one thing we’ve both done that’s right, and returns to the original question of how we’ve stay married so long.
We haven’t quit—not the marriage and not each other.