Years ago, when we were first married, I read an article that said if you wanted your husband to remember your wedding anniversary, agree that you will take turns for deciding how to celebrate the event each year. That meant that every other year it would be his turn to plan something and every other year it would be my turn. We have done that and the article was right. Hubby has never forgotten an anniversary and we have celebrated it in locations all over the world.
This year it was Hubby's turn and he decided it would be fun to visit Walla Walla and do some wine-tasting. As you know, we enjoy that little activity together. Let's just say we wined and dined!
However, last year it was my year and we went to Italy, so go figure, but I'm not complaining.
Anyway, while out and about in Walla Walla, I might have just mentioned a time or two that we were celebrating our wedding anniversary (you never know when that might result in a hotel upgrade, free drink or dessert!),
and two different people (younger ones, I might add) asked
"So, what is your secret to a long marriage?"
I had never been asked that before, so it really got me to thinking, and it reminded me of some articles I had seen lately about how to not only stay married for a long time but....forever.
How have we made it this long?
Now I wouldn't presume to give advice...well, yes, I would, I do it all of the time in this blog, but since I have been asked the question, I decided to try to answer it.
The article from "The Huffington Post" about staying married forever made many of the points that I made in my blog post two years ago - have a sense of humor, be considerate, pull your weight, have common interests, the usual stuff - except the last one. The last point was "Don't get divorced." Ha! They should have started with that one. Sort of trumps everything else, doncha think?
So, yes, if you want to stay married forever, don't get a divorce. Duh. But if you want to stay HAPPILY married forever, there is more to it than that.
So what is the difference between 32 years and forever? Not many if you are already in your sixties, but thirty two years can certainly feel like forever if you are not happy.
Though I think it's a good idea to go into a marriage thinking you are not going to get a divorce, to stay married forever for that reason alone is going to make two people very miserable.
Since both Hubby's and my parents were married for 50+ years, 32 years doesn't seem like a lot, but for us Baby Boomers, who drove the divorce rate up to 50%, I would say that is pretty good.
However, I know my parents were in it for the long haul no matter what. No one got divorced, and if you did, you were tantamount to being a hussy (the woman always got blamed). I had a cousin, whom I loved, who dared to divorce her husband and she was persona non grata within the family for the rest of her life.
I am sure my parents loved each other when they got married, but they had already gone together for eight years before that happened.
I once asked my Dad about that and his answer was interesting. He said, "What do you do after going with someone for eight years? You get married." Doesn't sound very romantic. I have a feeling my mother told him to get off the pot or take a hike.
They had three kids. All of us three kids were about five years apart. I was the youngest, so my sister was almost 10 years older than I was, my brother five. My brother was around during most of my formative years, but my sister was not. When I talk to my sister about how she remembers my parents, it's nothing like what I remember. I was 12 when she got married and moved away, and I was 14 when my brother got married. By that time, my Dad was working all of the time and my mother was making my teenage life a misery. What I know now was that my mother was frustrated and lonely and my Dad had mentally left the marriage.
So yes, my parents stayed married "forever," but it's not what I would call a happy marriage. Once we kids were all gone, my Dad should have left and become a cowboy like he always wanted.
And my mother should have gotten a job. I only say that because she talked longingly about her life before she got married when she had a "status job" as the secretary to the president of the local bank. She was a very smart woman who was denied a college education and I don't think she ever got over that.
I remember her trying to get a job when she was in her 50's and not being able to, and I could tell it was upsetting to her. She lived out her days babysitting for the neighbors' kids.
Yes, my parents stayed together forever but I don't think it was a happy forever.
I think we can all stay married forever if we want to by gritting our teeth and if we are willing to put up with all kinds of crap, but the trick is staying married forever and being happy as well.
Now Hubby and I haven't been married forever, but if one of us dropped dead tomorrow we could say we had been. Forever means what we vowed when we married - "Til death do us part." But so far, Hubby and I are still going to the gym and don't need to carry around a respirator or anything, so I would say we have quite a few years yet before we get to "forever."
But now it's been 32 years and that feels like forever. I only say that, because it seems like forever since I was that young woman of 36 who married Hubby (and just so you know, I was not on the shelf until I was 36 and Hubby rescued me from spinsterhood - a few men before him deemed me worthy of marriage. Just so you know).
Anyway, here is finally the point.
It's only been 32 years for Hubby and me, and considering our age, forever could be close by, but it's been 32 HAPPY years. We still like each other, we still hang out together and we still plan for our future together.
Over this last weekend when we were asked what the secret to a long happy marriage was, I quickly answered, "It has to be fun." Hubby, of course, had to be a smart aleck and say, "Keep your mouth shut." He meant his mouth, not mine. You know, those usual "Yes, dear" and "Happy wife, happy life" clichés that I hate? Anyway, fun came to mind for me because I don't think marriage should have to be work. Yes, we have to be considerate and all of that, but if there isn't more fun going on than work, then what's the point?
But as I thought about this more and more, I realized it was way deeper than that, and I came up with three things that I think will get you to the "f word"...Forever.
One is trust.
And I am not talking about trusting Hubby to not cheat. At this point, after all of these years, if a beautiful young thing told Hubby how handsome he was and wanted to give him a lap dance, I wouldn't be surprised if he couldn't say no.
No, what I am talking about here is more important to me than that. I am talking about the kind of trust where you can expect your partner to be consistent in ways that affect your daily life. For example, if the brakes went out on my car in the Whole Foods parking lot and I called Hubby to come help me, I can trust that he will drop everything and come right away. I won't have to cool my heels until it's convenient for him to get away. If he says he will come home after work, I can trust that he will. If I am in the middle of a recipe with my hands full of flour and I realize I am out of sugar, I can trust that Hubby will run to the store and get what I need. And when things go wrong, I can trust that he will choose to be there for me. And I will do the same for him.
But even more important than that is being known.
If you feel someone really knows you, then you know it will last forever. And that doesn't happen very often. Being known, really known, is what we humans all crave. But to get there requires vulnerability and a level of intimacy that some of us are not capable of. It requires listening, understanding, empathy and compassion. When we share our deepest secrets and insecurities and we are made to feel OK about them, then we know we are known.
Finally, I think for a marriage to last forever, you really have to enjoy each other.
And I am not talking about enjoying each other's company as you go to the theatre, out to eat or visiting friends. That is important and we certainly enjoy those activities together, but I am talking about enjoying the little things about each other, still getting a kick out of each other's little habits and peccadillos after so many years.
For example, I might bitch at Hubby from time to time. Well, OK, a lot of the time. Though I am sure Hubby doesn't like me to nag and bitch at him, Hubby also gets a kick out of my pursed lips, flaring nostrils and narrowed eyes when I get going. It makes him laugh which in turn makes me laugh. And what can I say? He enjoys my company so much he will watch "The Bachelor" with me.
Early in our relationship, Hubby confessed that there was a time when he couldn't imagine being with just one woman for the rest of his life. Hubby was a bit of a lothario when I met him.
When we got married, I used to tease Hubby about our being together "forever," as if that was something we couldn't possibly imagine. We would say "We will be together forever and ever and ever..."
Now 32 years later, we are getting closer and closer to the "f-word."
So if you find someone who not only loves you, but who you can trust to be there for you when the chips are down, who really knows you, warts and all, and still loves you and actually enjoys being around you, if your partner is your "person" and you are his (or hers), then you have a shot at the "f-word" -
So here's to the "f-word!"
Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday
for my review of
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
and the latest on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
I Die Project."
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