On Fifty Years of Marriage

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While most of my blog posts provide divorce wisdom and information, the following post provides marriage wisdom. It seems fitting to include this perspective as it may provide insight on reconnecting, healing, and how there are different stages to relationships and marriage. The nine tips at the bottom are essential life ingredients for everyone. Thank you to my friend, Judy Columbus, for her thoughtful words and her willingness to share her wisdom, and to Richard, her husband of more than 50 years.

A fifty-year wedding anniversary is special - BJ Mann Mediation ServicesI can only speak for myself.

Marriage doesn’t come in fifty-year chunks, rather as 18,250 individual days.

On some of those days I was a terrific wife. I thought of Richard’s needs first.

I made sloppy joes for dinner when I preferred a vegetarian entree; didn’t comment on the opera booming through all rooms when I was thinking; cut some time off business phone calls; played tennis with him; went to the gym with him; tried not to scratch the sink as I tossed the ladle from two feet away.

Once or twice I was a really great wife. I am sure of once—on his 30th birthday I surprised him with a sports car, a red Alfa Romeo Spider…his fantasy after viewing “The Graduate.”

These are not big items (except for the car) in a “give” list. There may in fact be no big things in a half-century of togetherness. What turns out to make a day very bad or very good between a couple are teeny things, quarter-inches on the yardstick of a long marriage. True, many things loom large at the time, but as calendar pages turn, some incidents blur, others erase, ink turns to Wite-Out.

The Weighty Topics

I was flip earlier when stating that there are no big things. Weighty topics for marriage include religion, money, ethics. Blessed from the start, we had no differences here, and therein lies a core truth. We shared values. Interestingly, our parents also had common values. Richard and I wanted the same kind of life, had the same dreams for our daughters, enjoyed the same friends. We liked exploring the same countries and picnicking in the same villages.

My two biggest faults over the years probably were (1) not saying what I meant and (2) saying what I meant.

I was guilty of errors of commission, accepting one-too-many social engagements for our hectic life, which blended child raising, professional and volunteer activities and placed a strain on us, on our “relationship.”

I was guilty of errors of omission: I did not articulate sincere “thank yous” when Richard bought the groceries, cleaned up the dishes, guarded and entertained our children when I went to show one home, showed six, wrote and negotiated an offer. I prioritized time for clients over time for my husband. AND, I flunked retirement after my non-compete ran out. Thus the pendulum swung, good wife to less-so wife and back.

Rolling with Our Roles

We had no assigned roles during our fifty years, more like picking up the slack or the pieces. When a hole arose, one of us filled it. We both had careers. We were both parents and equal members of religious, social, and philanthropic communities. We bit off more than we could chew, oh so often, and then we masticated together. We “handled” it.

Rolling with the “Wrongs”

We went to bed angry some nights. We woke up disappointed some days. In a word, we kept going. We kept trying. We knew our marriage, our love for one another, were strong at their roots while realizing there were times sans blossoms. I won’t complete the metaphor with the cultivating and watering thing, because it is not metaphorical when something goes wrong in a day, in a marriage. In time, we realized that more important than each slight was how quickly we forgot it. Moved on. If we are role models of something, it may be “getting on with it.” Aware that others sought deeper understandings, in sum, we tried, as in the tune I sang before an audience in fourth grade, to “accentuate the positive.”

We had no families to blend, just processes, the way we do things. I move quicker, make more mistakes. We are not equally introspective. Our levels of patience differ. Richard learned more of that in an engineering curriculum than I in journalism school. Dreaming of aging gracefully, I thought I would become a more patient person. I find to the contrary that, in general, the shortening of life’s time encourages speed in judging, in deciding, in accepting.

Advice for the First Fifty Years

My advice to others for their first fifty years together will be the same that I give myself for our next fifty:

  1. Take responsibility for your own happiness.
  2. Complete yourself.
  3. Act more out of love than out of anger.
  4. Strive to create and honor joy.
  5. Add up your blessings. Subtract silly differences.
  6. Value each other’s priorities even if you can’t act on them.
  7. Sense. Grow a lot of it. Common sense and a sense of humor.
  8. Try a “do better” before a “do over.”
  9. Again: Act more out of love than out of anger.

Photo Credit:
© Can Stock Photo / alexmillos

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