On May 15, 1976, two young people (who probably did not know much) got married. The ceremony was memorable. It took two preachers, and two trips by an absent-minded caterer before the service could start…45 minutes late.
The night was memorable for many reasons. It included cold hamburgers from room service that closed early and car problems.
The two people were my wife Vickie and I. Today, we have been married 46 years.
What creates a marriage that lasts 46 years and beyond? Some say it is a long time, and many years have become even rarer in American society. I doubt I have all the answers, but I will share mine.
Many couples start a marriage with an escape clause. If it doesn’t work out, we can get a divorce. It sounds like, “if I get a hole in my sock, I will buy a new pair.” But socks and relationships never orbit in the same universe.
I knew couples who, in their playful way, would say, “if you don’t stop that, I will divorce you.” They said they were joking. But language implanted into the mind becomes a possibility, a future reality.
Don’t play with the idea…ever.
When Vickie and I got married, that was not in our minds.
Couples that last are like Hernan Cortez. Arriving in the new world, he and his men faced daunting challenges. Neither he nor his men were going to retreat. So Cortez sank one of the ships.
Strong marriages don’t have a trap door. Instead, commitment welds it shut.
Life brings difficulties of all kinds. Kids get sick. One day, you open your checkbook and find that moths emerge.
The two-headed dragon of where to spend holidays and how to spend money breathe fire on young couples in the early years.
Successful couples navigate the rapids of life. They learn to compromise. They know to ask, “will this matter in 10 years?” Life stretches the relationship rubberband in the long term, but devoted people will make sure it doesn’t break.
In my ministry, I have told young couples that the best thing that they can do is move 300 miles away from their parents for at least three years. The reason is to develop their own identity. (What my youngest married, she and her husband moved across the country. My wife asked me, “Happy now?”)
Most overlook a simple secret of marriage. Do life together. Become best friends. Then, you have something that lasts as years wear on.
I watch couples who go through life on parallel tracks—seeing but never crossing. They look for ways not to spend time with their spouse. Some take a separate vacation or have a weekly “girls’ night.” Their marriage becomes two strangers in a big house.
Unless you have a friendship as the foundation, it is a house built on sand.
So here is to 46 years of marriage and onto 47. I hope yours can be as satisfying. I love you, Vickie, and thanks for 46 years.