October 29 was my forty-seventh wedding anniversary. Amazing! And we were together for two years before we married, so we’re getting close to fifty. My husband’s aunt and uncle celebated their sixty-fifth anniversary. They must have married right out of the cradle. The principle of my school—a great southern lady—refused to say how old she was when she married, but she did admit she grew two inches the first year. She celebrated sixty plus anniversaries too.
These days there is a bunch of talk about ‘serial monogamy,’ which seems to mean that a couple stays together until one or the other of them wants out to go find somebody else more exiting. In many marriage ceremonies where the couple writes their own vows, they don’t bother with ‘for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health until death us do part.’ They seem to be agreeing to stay married so long as things go well, there’s enough money, and nobody gets disastrously sick. In other words until the going gets tough or uncomfortable or sexually boring. My mother (who was divorced before she married my step-father) didn’t believe in “amicable divorces.” If you were still friendly, she believed, then stay married and work it out. If not, then run and don’t look back. Except to wonder why on earth you got married in the first place.
But it does take two decent people to stay together. In that great movie Friendly Persuasion, when asked for his daughter’s hand, Gary Cooper asks the young man, “I know you love her, but do you like her?”
And along with liking goes respect. Beyond the passion, do you please one another? And I don’t mean just sexually. Do your views of the world mesh? I don’t mean do you agree about everything. That would be terribly boring. But do you trust your spouse is an honorable person?
Do you still worry when your partner is late on a rainy evening? Do you still feel relief (and then anger that he didn’t call) when you hear his footstep? Would you remember how he likes his coffee even if you were separated for years? Do you trust that you have one another’s backs?
I fell in love at first sight. But that first flush only opens the door to explore the relationship. From there on in, it’s hard and often agonizing work to maintain. But to know that he is somewhere in the world and I am not with him would be impossible to conceive.
Despite the inevitable problems—and there have been doozies—we are still together and still love one another. As I said earlier. Amazing!