During my late twenties my calendar was filled with weddings, showers, engagement parties, dress fittings, and tux fittings. I loved every wedding we went to—either as a guest or as a participant. I loved my own wedding and the year of planning and related events leading up to the big day. When I think back to that period of my life, I only smile as I remember the overwhelming happiness I felt as I made a commitment to share my life with my favorite person and as I watched my siblings, cousins, and friends do the same.
Now, in my late thirties, I have attended very few weddings and those that I have gone to were as a guest of the bride or groom’s parents (gasp!). Not only have I been deprived of these chances to celebrate and be merry these days but I have also been faced with news, more and more often, of a marriage falling to pieces. This news always makes me so sad but it also leads to reflection. With every divorce I think back to the previously happy couple on their wedding day and then I will, of course, think about my wedding day. Could my husband and I ever become so unhappy that our marriage will end? I think about how much LIFE has happened since we got married and how those events and stressors impacted our marriage. I know that life happened to those divorcing couples as well—children, career, money, health. Stress and frustration can bombard the bond between two people, no matter how much they care about each other. How come my husband and I are managing to soldier on while other couples are not? I worry and I wonder as I try to support my friends through this major life change.
I am not going to write about the causes of divorce. I believe that the reasons why a marriage ends for one couple are completely different from the causes of another couple’s divorce. I also cannot write about the “ways to have a long-lasting marriage” for the same reason. Each couple’s marriage is as different as the people IN the marriage. As I reflect upon my own marriage, however, I can point to a few things that are definitely holding us together.
We talk to each other. My husband is the first person I seek out with good or bad news. I talk to him about work related frustrations. I tell him every bit of gossip I may hear and he returns the favor. I tell him when he is frustrating me and why. We talk through all of our issues, questions, and concerns regarding the kids and their care. We talk about politics, world events, and the reason for our high taxes. There will be days when we end a mid-afternoon check in phone call and I notice that we had been on the phone for almost an hour. An hour?? We have been together for over twenty years and yet we still find enough to talk about, non-stop, for an hour.
We spend time together. We both work very full time jobs and it can be a challenge to spend any stress-free, fatigue-free time together. We accept that challenge, however, and make finding that time a priority. It is important to both of us that we spend at least a few hours, every weekend, as a family. We may put the kids in the car and take a drive. We take them out for a meal or for ice cream. We may all snuggle together in one room to watch a movie with a huge bowl of popcorn to pass around. We also take time for ourselves. We disappear for the weekend a couple of times a year to go to concerts, nice restaurants, and other fun cities. Every month or so we take an evening to go to dinner, stay out late, and wake up the next morning on our own instead of to a hungry three-year-old at six in the morning. We need this time to breathe, talk, and laugh (and eat a meal without cutting someone’s meat or taking someone to the bathroom).
We find ways to show each other that we care. My husband are I not the type of couple who broadcasts their love for each other in public or on social media. We rarely even say those three little words. Instead, we show each other in small ways. He will call to be sure I returned home safe from my run when he leaves for work before I’m back. I’ll grab his favorite ice cream at the store when I know he’s had a lousy week and needs a treat. He will throw a comment over his shoulder about how well I’m aging as he looks at a picture of someone he knew in high school. I try not to wake him up if the baby wakes up at night and needs me.
We support each other. Sometimes one of us may make a less than perfect decision and we both must then manage the consequences. Saying “I told you so” or “what were you thinking?” fixes nothing. Working together to fix it and move on has been the best strategy for us. We are two separate people trying to live our lives together. We may not always agree with a choice the other has made but we will find a way to understand and offer support when it is needed.
This month we will celebrate our fourteenth wedding anniversary. When I was planning our wedding I was on the hunt for beautiful quotes about marriage for my wedding program. I found one (which was actually used in a Ben Affleck movie) that I felt was somehow too sad for a wedding. It stayed with me, however, and now, fourteen years later, I can really appreciate it’s meaning:
“Marriage hath in it less of beauty but more of safety, than the single life; it hath more care, but less danger, it is more merry, and more sad; it is fuller of sorrows, and fuller of joys; it lies under more burdens, but it is supported by all the strengths of love and charity, and those burdens are delightful.” –Bishop Jeremy Taylor
I still look back on my wedding day with fondness and no regrets. I am still willing to work and fight for my marriage. It hasn’t been easy and we have had bad days…and weeks. We’ve had so much fun though and I’m not ready for that to end. As I face this new stage of my life filled with divorce announcements instead of wedding invitations I am trying even harder to appreciate my husband and our bond and I will never take it…or him…for granted. Happy Anniversary to Us.