This week my parents will be married for 49 years. I love that they are still laughing, still having fun together, still living life together. I am so fortunate to be their kid (albeit a 45-year-old kid). But I still wonder…how do people stay married for that long? I have read countless articles on this topic. Probably due to the fact that I am divorced, never planned on being divorced, and want to make sure that if I get married again, I do it right for the second and last time.
I believe in marriage, in what it stands for, what it means for the two people who partner up in this formal way. My parents’ marriage is the best education I have to learn about how to stay married for (almost) 50 years. It can be hard to just listen to a co-worker crunch their mid-afternoon snack sometimes. How can we manage through with the same person for an entire lifetime (and possibly with all that crunching)?
- Laugh. A lot.
My friends still comment about my parents’ laughter. Laughing at each others’ jokes, their own mishaps and joking with their friends. Even though we have all heard my Dad’s jokes one thousand times, we all still laugh. As he said the other day about my mom, “everyone needs a straight man”.
- Don’t be too sensitive. Shake it off and fast.
I wish I had learned this much, much earlier n life. People say stupid things sometimes. They say hurtful things sometimes. Sometimes it’s ok..forgive and move on. It only ruins your day or your vacation or your work, to hang on and hang on.
- Let It Go.
Akin to number 2. My parents did not use the words ‘always’ or ‘never’. I used these in my marriage often…’you always’ or ‘you never’. People can improve over time. They can change. I did not or do not hear my parents re-hashing old arguments. And after 49 years, I am sure there is plenty to re-hash.
- Take care of yourself.
I always remember my mom putting on lipstick right before my Dad got home from work each day. I didn’t really get this until later in life. Be attractive for each other. That was the first thing they noticed about each other anyway. And I guess that’s how it all starts anyway!
- Have friends (yours alone and together).
My parents have a lot of friends, friends from before they were married and lots and lots of friends built throughout their marriage. They travel together, they have fun together and they share all their old stories together. Unfortunately, these days they are going to a lot funerals together too. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs in my house listening to all the grown ups laugh and carry on together. I wanted to be a grown up and have friends like that too. And I do.
- Have your own life.
My mom stayed at home with us four kids while my Dad went to work. But she was always busy volunteering, being president of the PTA, taking us from place to place. After the kids had left home, she went to school to become a nurse at age 63. My Dad retired at that time and took over making her dinner every night. He now studies to teach Sunday school and she manages a class of 130 senior citizens at church. They have their own unique talents and lives. They are individuals.
- Children come second.
I am so thankful my parents planned to raise adults and not children. Their marriage is not centered around the children. The children come second to their relationship. Always. Mom supports Dad and Dad supports Mom. They are a team. And we tried to pin them against each other to no avail. Sorry about that, Mom and Dad.
- Choose Easy. Work Hard.
I am thankful that I have my parents as role models for marriage, should I get married again. I have learned so much about staying together through them although they are just one example. Certainly there are hard times, difficult conversations, decisions that have to be made that not everyone is aligned on, maybe even some tears. And for many, myself included, we chose hard relationships. I will choose much easier and work on it hard.
Will these ideas work for everyone? Of course not. These are the ways I noticed as their child that made my parent’s marriage work for almost 50 years (they very well might NOT agree). And I will use these ideas as the second part of what will guide me next time. The first part goes like this:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.