(This is another special posting by Suzy. I hope you enjoy it.)
We were the youngest couple present at a milestone anniversary celebration for a couple who were friends of Walt’s parents when the husband asked the assembled group if any of us knew what it took to achieve such a long marriage. The jovial atmosphere seemed to be put on hold as each of us began to think about what we were doing that was enabling us to have, what we each deemed to be, successful marriages. Before the quiet became too deep, he answered his own question. Just live for a long time. Then looking at his bride he added that you needed to marry when you were young. With that he chuckled and the party mood was restored.
In the years since, as we have chalked up each additional anniversary, I’ve thought back on that somewhat simplistic answer. In the most basic sense he was spot on. I believe that life is tremendously sweeter when you have someone with whom to share your experiences. Good experiences only seem so much more intense when you feed into each other’s enjoyment of the event. Strength is derived when you have a positive underpinning to help you endure the sad or rough times. We need this support throughout our lives. That’s what causes us to look for a soul mate not just a sexual partner.
When I was dating, I knew that it wasn’t just for “going out and having fun.” Going out with a group of friends provided that. When you were “seeing” someone it had a more serious purpose, even though you were doing entertaining things together. I told several young men that if they ever put a ring on my finger it was never coming off. A few disappeared. That was fine. They obviously weren’t keepers. One argued with me that as time passes people may grow apart. To which I responded that marriage meant you did everything in your power to grow together. Even though we were young, the man I married didn’t even blink when we had this conversation.
Caring for each other entails helping the other maintain health, both physical and mental. We don’t have the same interests and skills, but over time we have learned about what intrigues the other. Our pleasure reading overlaps. We enjoy each other’s humor. We took up ballroom dancing to be able to do something physical together. It enabled us to meet some beautiful people, which is a wonderful side benefit. As a child, my family traveled because the location of my father’s job caused us to pick up and go somewhere else. Walt’s family took “real” vacations, returning to their home at the end of the trip. Today, we both enjoy travel.
I have read that in ancient Gaelic culture, one of the legally acceptable reasons for divorce was if a spouse demeaned or told false stories about the other in public. That is most likely a watered down generalization of something a lot more detailed, but I like the sentiment. Don’t embarrass nor abase each other in public. Each of us does things that annoy others. So that these things don’t fester and harm a marriage, we need to tell the other – just do it when you are alone together. Two other related adages my mother used frequently:
- Don’t go to bed before making up after an argument.
- Don’t air the dirty linen in public.
It all expresses the same value of caring for each other’s emotions.
I don’t diminish the importance of sexual attraction. Sex is a good thing. There is immeasurable joy it the act and the children you produce. But marriage is more than a romp between the sheets. It is a contractual union, an alliance of purpose, a fusion of hopes, a mixture of belongings, an amalgamation of talents, a blend of desires. Simply, a merger of two souls.
Marrying young only increases our chance of achieving a long number of years together. The important part is all we give and obtain from each other no matter how long the time we have. So to my husband of 44 years, I’m glad we are doing it together.
The last word:
I have attended a couple of seventy-fifth anniversary celebrations in my family over the years. We’d like to have more. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, the longest living married couple was married in December of 1925 and currently living in the United Kingdom. The longest ever was a couple in New York who were married in 1772 and stayed together until she died in 1863, 91 years later. They were married fairly young, at 13 and 14, so they got a good head start on us.
Hopefully, ballroom dancing will help preserve our balance and mental acuity.
Keep your sense of humor.