I swear thirty years has flown by in a heartbeat. To say out loud that we’ve been married thirty years it sounds like a very long time. Having lived it, though, it doesn’t seem long at all. Maybe that’s because it’s been a pretty good thirty years overall. Like any marriage we have had ups and downs. We have experienced overwhelming joy and delight, extraordinary sadness and loss, the mundane trials of daily life, the stress of illness, raising two fabulous daughters together, financial woes, arguments, and laughter – lots of laughter.
When we married thirty years ago we were both hard working people in low paying jobs. We could not afford a big wedding, so we didn’t have one. Instead we had a small wedding with family and very close friends on hand. My mother sewed a wedding suit for me out of fabric I had chosen. We had a beautiful autumn wedding with potted mums as decorations, and were married outdoors on a day that turned from drizzle in the morning to warmth and sunshine in the afternoon. My parents picked up the tab for a very nice luncheon reception at the country club where my father was a member. It was lovely, memorable, and meaningful.
Note to young people on the verge of getting married: your wedding day is not about the wedding. I enjoy watching Say Yes to the Dress as much as anyone. But if you can’t afford a lavish one-day party that rivals the cost of a brand new car or even a house, then you should think of a creative, stylish, and less expensive way to get married. Because the real focus of your wedding day should be on the MARRIAGE. It is about bringing together two people, and two families, and two sets of friends, and making sure that these two people are supported and loved as they embark on what can be a fabulous journey, creating their own family and building their lives together.
If I could sum up what has made our marriage work for thirty years, I guess it would be commitment, respect, and laughter. Just to be clear, it is only in hindsight that I can recognize these things as significant. We never set out to make them happen.
Commitment is sometimes hard work, and sometimes requires frequent re-commitment, not even in a substantial way but more as a thought in your head or a gentle gesture. You can develop other friendships, outside interests, and other activities on your own, but a strong commitment to your marriage means you will always come home at the end of the day.
Respect leads to conversations that are more caring and important, and actions that reflect true admiration. Respect is the essence of a loving relationship, far more than passion. You can only truly trust a person whom you respect.
Laughter is salvation in the challenging times and makes the ordinary easier. Find a life partner who makes you laugh and you really will have married your best friend.
I am fortunate to have a husband who allows me to be myself, has helped me grow as a person, demonstrates his commitment to our relationship, cherishes his role as a father, and makes me laugh almost every day. He is caring, kind, and as patient as the day is long – a perfect counterbalance to my always impatient and often hot-headed Irish-Italian temper.
Our marriage has not been perfect. Just like thirty years ago we are still hard working people in fairly low paying jobs, and there is still a lot of room for improvement in us as individuals and as a couple. Maybe we’ll really get it right in the next thirty years.