For Better For Worse

marriage married couple exchanging rings

This week my husband, Mike and I will celebrate (gasp!) 49 years of marriage.

We met when I was a freshman and he a junior in college. By Christmas break, we were engaged. We married 18 months later after Mike graduated. I took a year off, or so I thought, to accommodate his post-graduate plans. Seventeen years, four colleges, five moves and two children later, I finally graduated. Obviously, life does not always unfold according to plan.

As a therapist, I spend a significant amount of time with couples who are trying to work through their marital problems. Most of them never thought they would be contemplating divorce. I also spend time with individuals who are trying to put their lives back together after the break up of their marriage. These folks are not having a good time. Most of them are in a great deal of pain. Regardless of the casual attitude toward marriage in the popular culture, there is no easy out.

At the end of such a day when I join my husband, Mike, for dinner, I know I am blessed. Our lucky day was 07-05-69, and we are still working on happily ever after.

Some days, weeks, months, and years have been happier than others. Like anyone in a long-term relationship, we have our ups and downs. The important thing is that we always manage to find another up.

It has taken more than luck to get us this far. Commitment, acceptance and emotional connection come to mind.

We took our marriage vows seriously but had not a clue what they might entail. We assumed that “in sickness and health” applied to old age. It did not occur to us that sickness could be a child’s illness or that it could mean over 20 surgeries in 18 years. Nor did we know that depression and anxiety would have a profound effect on the quality of our lives.

We assumed that “for richer or poorer,” meant richer. We joked that we didn’t get married on a shoestring, but on the wrapper that went around it. It is true we have a lot more now than we did then, but we have yet to find a home on Easy Street.

We are not naturally compatible. To this day, we do not enjoy the same kinds of music, books, movies or food. My idea of relaxing is to spend hours vegging out with a good book or a movie. His idea of relaxing is working in his shop.

When it comes to problem solving, he prefers 30-second conversations while I prefer 30 minutes of in-depth analysis. When it comes to conflict, he would rather ignore it, while I want to address every issue.

We have learned a few things in the last 49 years, albeit slowly and painfully at times. We learned to accept each other for who we are. We learned to compromise and to let go of unrealistic expectations. We learned to let go of disappointments, that tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity.

We learned that in the most important ways, we are compatible. We share basic values of faith and family. Both of us have a strong desire to make a difference in the world. Though we have often differed on the route to take to reach our destination, we have always been headed in the same direction.

From the beginning, we have been committed to “until death do us part.” It has been possible to stay the course because neither of us has participated in the deal breakers of abuse or unfaithfulness. We respect and trust each other. We know that when the chips are down, we will find in each other that soft place to fall.

And there is this. We love each other. And most days we like each other. We are friends, lovers, partners. May all couples be so blessed!

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