Recently, someone asked, “what’s the secret to a long marriage?” I did not have a good answer.
I do now.
On May 15th of this year (2018), my wife Vickie and I celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary.
I took her to a nice restaurant for a nice, quiet dinner (the second part is becoming more preferred to both of us). We had a pleasant waitress who asked, “Are you celebrating anything special?” We told her it was our anniversary, the next question was obvious.
“How many years?” “Forty-two,” we said.
“Wow, that’s a long time.” It is, but it doesn’t seem like it.
She went on to explain that she and her husband had been married a few months and then asked a question.
“What’s the secret to staying married?”
Even though our marriage has lasted, neither of us had a ready answer.
I’ve have thought of that question since that night. I confess I never like the word “secret” in this context. It sounds like an easy, “do this one thing” concept.
Our society is seeking “secrets,” the magic pills that make difficult things go away. Do this one thing, and happiness follows. We cure baldness, lose weight overnight, and cook food with secrets.
Marriage doesn’t work like that. It is not a series of well-executed moves that, when done, makes it happen.
So what is my answer? As I thought about it, the only real solution I have is this:
Weave your lives into each other so much that two people become a single being.
I realize the limitation of that advice. The next question is how. That is a long list that takes a lifetime to achieve. No secrets. No pills. No shots. No shortcuts.
While my answer seems enigmatic, I can describe the process of intertwining lives in a few brief comments.
Spend time…a lot of time together.
For many years, one of our daughters lived 17 hours away. We were also instructed to bring the dog on visits. So, we piled into the car for a long car ride. Those are great times. Phones don’t ring. In the mountains, there’s no internet. All you can do it talk.
Through the years we visit the sick…together. We go to the grocery store…together. The truth is nearness knots people together. Spend the time together.
Some say, “but that is not of interest to me?” One first principle cements successful marriages. Do what is best for “us,” not what is best for “me.” If time spent together builds your marriage, why not invest that time?
Live through hard times.
Over the years, we’ve faced peril together. We lived in hurricane alley and fled from impending storms. We’ve moved. We have had to care for aging parents. We have both buried our parents. It is not the good times that weave the cloth but the tough times.
Strength grows from howling winds, not fair breezes. You don’t have to look to difficulties; they have you on their radar. Problems faced together, and two lives become tight.
Take time every day to thank God for your spouse.
It is easier to list faults of spouses than virtues. Make the first list non-existent and the second list never-ending. No one can burn with hostility with gratitude in heart and mouth.
I don’t know what my wife would say (but I hope I do), but for me, the highest early gift I have received is her. She is patient and the kindest person I know. Not a day passes without words of gratitude for her reaching heaven’s gate.
I love the story of the woman who went to her rabbi and said, “I want to divorce my husband in a way that will crush him.”
The rabbi said, “If you want to hurt him, you must do the following. Every day, tell him how special he is and cook him his favorite meal. Ask him about how his day was. Hug him tightly. Come back in two weeks, and I will grant your desire.”
Two weeks passed. The woman returned. The rabbi asked her if she complied. She answered she had.
He said, “Good. Now divorce him!”
Her face fell. Tears welled up in her eyes. “I can’t. I love him too much.”
I still don’t know the “secret” to staying, but I do have a better answer when asked.