Half a century’s a long time. A golden wedding anniversary marks a long time. Wow! Come June, I will have been married to my guy for 50 years!
What does it really mean to have been married for 50 years? For one thing, it’s been the building of a life together that produced two beautiful daughters. Trials and tribulations that were overcome to build a successful business and a comfortable home. Certainly it was love that brought us together initially and, I believe, it is what still binds us together.
But the marker does give me pause for a little reflection about all those years and in particular, some thoughts about married life. What brought it to mind on this particular day was an opinion piece in our daily newspaper. The author, (an avid blogger, by the way) wrote it in recognition of Valentine’s Day and to honor the 46 year marriage of his parents.
Shankar Vedantam (his podcast is The Hidden Brain) said that right up until his father died he lived by the simple maxim: On all matters, big and small, his wife was always right! Wouldn’t that be nice, I thought, but probably not realistic in my marriage.
Not that my husband and I have the secret to a successful, long lasting marriage. I’m not sure any couple does. What’s important is that we’ve made it work for ourselves, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that. I’d like to think it’s been a team approach. Like the song, “You’ve got to give a little; take a little...” I gave up a career in the big city to follow my husband to a little town of 200 so he could be a community banker. A few years ago, my husband took to the campaign trail with unbridled devotion when I ran for and won a seat in the Nebraska Legislature. The Glory of Love.
Erich Fromm says: “Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose love.”
My godson authored a book about love. In fact he made it the subject of his doctoral dissertation. Rick is a brilliant young man, and his book, “Wisdom In Love,” is very much like its author — philosophical, deep and quite a task to understand. My godson is far more intelligent than I am, and while I enjoyed reading the book, I needed a more down-to-earth definition of what long lasting love is.
Like Spencer Tracy’s lovely monologue in the movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. He is struggling with the fact that his daughter will be marrying an African American man in the mid 1960’s and all the trials and tribulations that will involve. The mother of his future son-in-law chides him for forgetting what romantic love is and “what it’s like to love a woman.” But Tracy challenges her assertion: “I may be a burnt out shell of a man, but the memories are still there — clear, intact, indestructable. And they’ll be there if I live to 110.”
Today about half of all marriages end in divorce. I feel fortunate to be in the half that’s stuck together. But then I wondered, of that half I’m in, how many reach this 50-year milestone. I took a quick look. The first statistic, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University showed that only 7 per cent of all current U.S. marriages have reached the 50 year mark. That sounds pretty minimal, but keep in mind that includes people who got married only yesterday! A closer look by the American Community Survey said that of all people who tied the knot 50 or more years ago, and haven’t yet died, 50 % made it to the 50 year anniversary without divorcing or becoming widowed.
My grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary in 1962. In high school, I would often have supper with them before going back to school activities. They would sit on the couch, holding hands, telling me about their 50 years together. Precious memories.
Like Grandpa and Grandma Konkoleski, Mike and I beat the odds. But we realize those odds will diminish going forward. Clearly, we hope to live long lives together, and with a little bit of Irish luck we will grow old together. As John Lennon says:
Grow old with me. The best is yet to be. When our time has come, we will be as one. God Bless Our love.
Shakrah said that if you want to be happy, you can do worse than to have his father’s simple faith in his wife. He calls it “useful delusion.” Or like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s advice for a happy marriage: “It helps sometimes to be a little deaf.”
But perhaps the best advice for a strong marriage, or any life for that matter, is from 1 Corinthians Chapter 13: Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes. Love never fails.
Happy Anniversary, Mike