Here’s a fun fact about me: I LOVE celebrations. I’m up for any excuse to pop a cork, but especially those times that celebrate the people I love. The ones who have shaped me, for better or worse, into the woman I am today.
Can long-term marriage be happy?
Today I celebrate 40 years of marriage to the man that pursued me, waited patiently as I checked out several more options (I had to be sure!), and on January 12, 1980, took my hand as we started the greatest adventure.
When people learn that I’m a marriage counselor, I often get the question, “What is the secret to a long-term marriage?” One young wife asked me, “Do you know ANYONE” over 50 who is happily married?” It kinda broke my heart that for some, spotting a happy marriage is likened to a Sasquatch sighting.
2 Secrets to happy marriage
While there are many things that contribute to a marriage that thrives through the seasons, I would boil it down to 2 things. Looking back, I don’t think either of these was an intentional part of our marriage at the beginning.
1. Keep working at the friendship: We knew that we were best friends when we married, but we could not anticipate the challenges that were ahead. At 21 and 22, how could we have known the toll that:
*Suicide of a dear friend
*Betrayal of trusted friends
would have on that friendship?
Yet somehow, we worked at finding ways to deepen our friendship. And by friendship, I don’t mean a platonic friendship. Marriage is different than the friendship I have with my dearest college friend or my sisters. The physical intimacy that cements and reconnects a marriage is unique for a reason. I know that sounds old fashioned, but it is true. Sex is often treated as casually as having coffee with someone, yet it creates the most profound connections known in our human experience. So yes, we have worked through many different seasons of physical intimacy. At 60, it is vastly different than our 20’s, but it is still an important connection, and will be till the day we die.
While the physical connection is important, our friendship is like a multi-faceted diamond. We have worked at ways to communicate, to support/ask for support, to argue without killing each other (I did throw our wedding picture at the wall in our first year of marriage. Good thing I wasn’t aiming at you, darlin’!) We have evolved in our interests, and discovered new activities and experiences. We learned to parent together, work as a team, develop “us” even as we have grown as individuals. All part of an ever deepening friendship.
This past year, we have been working our way through “40 new experiences” to celebrate our 40 years together. We’ve had a lot of fun, and when I slow down to get it all down, I’ll share some of the fun we had in 2019!
“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Manon, Ballerina
2. Take the long look. I don’t remember where I first heard this phrase. Maybe a version of this quote:
“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
There were times, as in ALL marriages, that we didn’t feel warm and fuzzy towards each other, or the current season felt as cold and dark as an Alaskan winter day. Or we were in a difficult place, and it would take time to see the fruit of our labor. But by choosing to focus on the good that was present, and doing the next right thing, spring eventually came. We could find joy again, or feel the love that had become lost in anger, resentment, or distraction. We looked to the future, mindful of our goals, and celebrated the victories, big and small, together.
I am a grateful, changed woman. We are not the same—how could we be? I have been loved by one who never gives up, who seeks to better himself and serve our family with devotion. He defines commitment.
I love you with my whole heart, babe. Cheers to many more! 🥂