This past weekend we went to a 50th anniversary party for my aunt and uncle. They were an example of “Teen Mom” back when it wasn’t cool. Three children, 7 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren later, as well some rocky unemployment times and the usual family ups and downs, they are still together. They are happy and comfortable. And they are headed to Vegas later this week to celebrate some more. It got me thinking about marriage.
I asked my aunt what the secret was to staying happily married so long. She said “learning to just shut your mouth sometimes.” I love that advice. My father, who has been married to my mother for 47 years, said sometimes it’s just easier to stay married than to get unmarried. I thought that was a bit pessimistic. I know another couple that had a 50th anniversary a few years ago who should have divorced long ago (and freely say they are not really “married” as in they do not have a husband-wife relationship). I’m not even sure why they had an anniversary party, other than to prove they hadn’t killed each other. That was an example to me of what not to do.
My grandparents were married over 65 years and although my grandmother wasn’t one for waxing nostalgic, I think that they were completely interdependent on each other in way that could never be unraveled. They loved and trusted each other completely.
My friend Alisa Bowman put her marriage back together when she was sure she was done (you can read about it on her blog and in her book: Project Happily Ever After). So, I think I have some good examples of what to do and what not to do and from watching all of these couples (and being married 23 years myself), and I’ve gleaned the following:
– I think it is wrong to say marriage is work. I think that it shouldn’t be work, it should be the underlying structure of your life. I don’t want to work at being married, just like I don’t work at being a mom. It’s just who I am and part of me. If it becomes work, I don’t think it’s happy anymore.
– It is always important to make sure you grow together. No one stays the same for 50 years but if you change in one direction and your spouse in another, you’re growing apart. The happily married couples I know went in directions together.
– Shut your mouth. I totally agree with my aunt on this one. I don’t think you gain much by saying things in anger. In fact, you often say things you don’t mean and which don’t get to the heart of the issue. Instead, I would rather stop talking, ruminate on what’s bothering me, and be able to crystallize it into something helpful, not hurtful.
– Be on the home team. Don’t criticize, denigrate, or purposely anger your spouse in front of others. You’re scoring a goal against your own team. I know a couple that seems to have an argument every time they are in the company of others and it’s shown me how hurtful it can be.
– Although I thought my father was being a bit rude with his comment about staying married being easier than getting divorced, he’s right and my past life as a family law attorney definitely affirms that. Avoiding divorce is definitely worthwhile (although I think the pain of divorce is worth it if it means you come out much happier on the other side: some people should NOT be married to each other).
– Marriage should be about the future. Yes, there are problems and bumps in the road today and tomorrow, but it’s about building a lifetime together. I want to be the happily married gray-haired seniors who travel and sit on the beach together. I want to have a home filled with grandchildren and great grandchildren surrounding us when we are older. I want to experience it all together.
– While marriage is about the future, it’s also about what you do and say today that will affect the outcome of your future. And today is just one day. Today does not make or break everything. You get to have another day tomorrow in which you can be a better or more supportive spouse – and your spouse gets the chance to do that too.
What advice have you found useful about marriage?
This past weekend we went to a 50th anniversary party for my aunt and uncle. They were an example of “Teen Mom” back when it wasn’t cool. Three children, 7 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren later, as well some rocky unemployment times and the usual family ups and downs, they are still together. They are … Read more