It seems like everywhere I look recently, someone I know is celebrating a wedding anniversary. I previously wrote about a friend celebrating her 25th anniversary in Disney, and now she is joined by my sister’s recent 41st anniversary, my friend Jack’s 60th, and friends in the neighborhood who celebrated their 21st anniversary…on his birthday! I can’t think of a better birthday present than a best friend for life and soul mate.
Weddings are also all around me right now. Kristen’s friends are getting engaged and my nephew recently got married. This isn’t a blog about getting married though, it’s a blog about staying married. It’s a blog about marriage.
While driving back from Dallas yesterday Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love” came on and it got me thinking even deeper about marriage and the state of it in our world. For those of you who aren’t Bruce fanatics like me, The Boss’ “Tunnel of Love” album was written during a time in his life when his marriage was struggling. Listen to words of the title song, “Brilliant Disguise,” “Two Faces” or “One Step Up” and it’s clear the 1987 album is anything but one filled with love songs.
Springsteen is not the only one who would agree that marriage is tough. There is no denying that. Smitty and I are in our 29th year (more than half my life!) and every day I’m grateful we are not part of the “nearly half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce” statistic. I’ve always thought anniversaries are a bigger deal than birthdays and no amount of effort to change the definition of marriage or the rise in divorce rates can change that. A married couple makes it through another year? That, my friends says a lot.
My director posted that earlier this week and I really, really like it. It speaks not of perfection but of performance and perseverance, sacrifice and sentiment. It speaks of giving, not receiving. Things that truly help a marriage perform better.
There are many things that contribute to a healthy marriage, including the famous “3 C’s of Marriage:” compassion, communication, and commitment. Most who claim their marriages are strong say it’s due to the constant presence of trust, respect, selflessness, common interests, a shared faith, honesty, touch, loyalty, a healthy sex life, laughter, and sharing…sharing feelings, sharing joys, and sharing life.
On the flip side, there are certain things that may increase the chances of divorce, including genetics, where you live, income, education level, and family history. No one goes into a marriage with anything less than hopes for a long and happy one but as with any rules, there are exceptions. You would think that after 40 years of marriage one would feel pretty secure in it but that’s not always the case as I just this week discovered when my girlfriend told me her friend’s wife up and left him after 40 years of marriage. Seems she just didn’t want to be married to him anymore. Wow.
Then there’s my friend who recently received a beautiful wedding ring in honor of her and her husband’s 25th anniversary. This from a man who is not emotional or romantic at all and who totally surprised her with it. Yes it is a stunner of a ring, but that’s not the point. The point is he went out of his way to make her feel special and wanted. It probably could have been cubic zirconia and she still would have appreciated the effort, the gesture, and the words that came with it.
I like to think of marriage as just that: teamwork. Team members don’t necessarily “keep score” all the time though, but instead support each other, help each other, cheer for each other, and value each other’s strengths and weaknesses without demanding equality or superiority. It’s also a sacrament and it is most definitely a gift.
Making someone feel loved and noticed is, in my opinion, also huge in a marriage. But that’s me. Respect and appreciation also rank up there and are all part of the bestselling book “The Five Love Languages.” The book, which millions of couples have read and swear by, works around the premise that unhappiness in marriage often has a simple cause: the husband and wife speak different love languages. Author Dr. Gary Chapman identifies the five love languages as Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. Think about it: if your husband only speaks French and you only speak German, you will never understand each other. Literally. Figuratively it’s the same with love languages. If you desire more “quality time” you will not understand his “acts of service” and vice versa. It’s all about “filling each other’s love tank.” If you don’t work to fill it up, kinda like the Marriage Box, it will become empty and ultimately stop working, the results of which are indifference and perhaps even cheating. The mere thought of either makes my skin crawl and my heart ache.
In the end, love is a choice and marriage can be its fabulous reward. You choose how you show that love to the certain someone you chose to share your life with. I’m so happy for all my friends celebrating engagements, weddings, and anniversaries and wish them years of joy, friendship, and a box full of love and respect.