I’m sure there are some exceptions, but who doesn’t love a good love story? Aren’t ideas like true, deep, long-lasting love with another human the things that kinda keep us hopeful in a cynical, jaded world?
Tomorrow, my parents will celebrate their 40th anniversary.
Some people make it that long simply by stubbornness. They respect the institution but not so much the person they married. But there are also those who survive this thing we call marriage by other means. Love, forgiveness, respect, and common goals.
My parents are in that exceptional latter category.
To be perfectly honest, I stand in awe of it. Of them.
Here we have two very, very different individuals who made a start, made a family, made a future….and made it last.
I’m 10 years in with Shey, made it almost 6 with my first husband, and I’m here to tell you that, second only to parenting, marriage is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Never are you as tested as when you become accountable to one person for what is supposed to be the rest of your lives. They see your best, but more often your worst. They know your secrets and when you are being completely phony. They know your moods, your fears, and your insecurities. They put up with your bad decisions and support you in your good ones. They see you naked, and not just physically.
It’s a roller coaster ride, my friends. And it ain’t for the faint of heart.
My parents have given me several pieces of advice regarding marriage over the last 15 years or so. Some are universal, some are not, but one thing is certain, they have found what works for them and have 40 years under their belts to prove it.
I only ever remember seeing my parents throw down and fight one time in my childhood. As in, really get angry and yell at each other. I’m sure there were a lot of arguments that went on behind the scenes, and Lord knows they got pissy with each other sometimes (and still do sometimes). But whatever has tried to separate them over these last 40 years, they have found ways to overcome, and not just that, but still be in love.
That’s the part that is downright inspiring. To go through everything I know that they’ve been through as husband and wife, and not only still love each other but be in love……. It keeps me from giving up in my own marriage on the days when I can’t see past the present moment.
I’ve seen them lean on each other in situations and teach the other new things. There have been times when they were each dependent on the other, one person having to bear more weight than the other. That’s kind of how I view a successful marriage: a constant tipping of the scales, but never to the point that it stays off balance permanently. That’s why it’s so hard. Because achieving balance, in any way, requires effort. And that effort generally involves the things that are sometimes hardest for us to give: sacrifice, humility, forgiveness.
That’s why marriage is work. If anyone tells you it’s not, then bully for them, but I think they’re lying. It only becomes NOT work when you just let the scales settle in one direction or the other and stop attempting the balance.
My parents hadn’t known each other for very long at all when they married. There wasn’t a big wedding – they got married at a courthouse in Ardmore, Oklahoma in 1977 with a judge presiding and a wedding cake that, according to my mother, tasted like soap. This proves, to me, that you don’t have to have a “perfect” beginning to get a happy ending. But what you do need, and it’s what my dad has told me for years, is the desire for the same things.
And I think that’s where most marriages succeed or fail. If you ultimately desire the same things, even if you disagree on how to get there, you will always have common ground.
In my own marriage, I return to that place of common ground, again and again. Sometimes, it’s the only place to go. It’s absolutely necessary to keep proper perspective when you’re at odds with your spouse to keep asking yourself, “What are we building, together?”
My parents have given me quite a legacy. Through their imperfect marriage, I have seen that it is possible to weather some of the hardest storms life can throw at a relationship and still be holding on to each other when the storm has passed. There are always things to be rebuilt, debris to clear away, but if you’re working with each other and not against each other, the storms not only strengthen you, the rebuilding does too.
My parents are the exception to the rule. Having them as an example to look to is a priceless gift that I treasure, and I realize just how incredibly rare it is in this day and time to have what I have in them, what they have in each other.
Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad. Thanks for living your example of balance in front of me every day for the last 34 years. You have built a beautiful thing, together, and I am so very thankful for you both.