It’s been almost 39 years since Bill and I said, “I do”. Both of us came from failed marriages so no one was taking odds that this would be so long and happily lasting. You might say—through everything—we have a resilient marriage.We have grown through challenges, deaths, illnesses, and kids. Since February seems to be the month of hearts and flowers—not to mention dark chocolate and champagne—Bill and I started talking about what we have learned that could be shared with others seeking to craft a resilient love relationship.
Seems crazy but –as the song says—"what does love have to do with it?”
Truth be told, you can be in love but still fail at creating a long term, HAPPY marriage.We’ve all had friends who say, “I love him. I just can’t live with him." While love is the foundation, there are deliberate actions—from our perspective—that can be taken to grow a resilient relationship.
1. Create deliberate celebrations that underscore commitment.
We were married on May 18, 1980. It was the day Mt. St Helen’s erupted. And no, we were not responsible. But it sure seared the date of the 18th in our brains. For almost 39 years, we have celebrated our marriage on the 18th of every month. In the early years, the 18th of the month meant going out to dinner or having a special bottle of wine or doing “something” in the form of celebration. As always, our 18th was vocalized as “Happy Anniversary”. Then, as I traveled for my work, the task was to see who could be THE FIRST to say, “Happy Anniversary”. With time zone changes, I often had a 3 hour or so jump on him. That meant I could call, wake him up, and joyously proclaim “Happy Anniversary.”Thus we started our contest.
Today, with age, it’s the first who can remember it’s the 18th of the month. I don’t travel as much as I have done so it could be a nudge to the ribs from either of us and a proclamation of “Happy Anniversary” which normally happens a few minutes after midnight on the 18th. Inevitably, the other one responds, “Oh shucks—you beat me.” Then we are both back to slumber.
Here’s the deal. Just saying those words monthly underscores that—at least for this month—“ I chose you.” Think of it as taking a vow every month. Creating a resilient marriage isn’t about huge actions but rather deliberate small steps, repeated over and over again.
2. Courtesy and consideration create respect and gratitude.
Bill and I are both products of the Deep South where “yes, sir”, “no ma’am”, “please” and “thank you” are as common as grits and lightning bugs. In thinking about this article, I realized that these acknowledgements are part of our everyday life. Until a friend came to visit and heard us say things like: “thanks for taking out the garbage”,“please help me fold this sheet”, “Pass the salt, please, Ma’am” etc. I hadn’t realized these words naturally surface daily. I’m convinced that politeness and consideration go a long way in honoring the dignity of others. It’s often easy to take a partner for granted. Why would we not treat our spouses with the same kindness we offer to strangers?
PS: If you don't do this—better tell your partner that you are working on a new habit of courtesy. Otherwise, she’ll wonder what guilt you’re hiding!!
3. Laugh together—a lot!
I look at many long-time married couples and so many seem just unhappy. Their faces wear a perennial pout or frown. Smiles seem artificial or forced. (Think Donald Trump.) As Viktor Borge said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Even in the throes of serious events, small chuckles together can ease part of the burden. During the time my mother was dying, she came on and off hospice. One minute she’s dying. The next minute she’s not. She was up and down so many times, I called her “yoyo Ma”. Bill called her, “MaMoo” and when he’d enter her hospital room, he’d make a sound like a cow. We all laughed.
“A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs,” wrote Henry Ward Beecher, “jolted by every pebble in the road.” Marriage can have many jolts. But humor can calm the journey.
So, here’s to your journey in love. Let’s me know what secrets you have discovered with your partner. After all, love DOES make the world go ‘round.