Imagine being married for 50 years! That's what my mother- and father-in-law have done.
The Pilot often publishes stories about couples celebrating major marriage milestones, but the weight of such accomplishments didn't really hit home until my in-laws celebrated the big "5-0" on Christmas Eve.
Fifty years! In this fast-paced, throw-away world, who does anything andndash; school, career, hobbies, relationships andndash; for that long?
My parents have been married for 42 years. Again, amazing! Especially when recent studies show that about half of all marriages end in divorce within five years.
The secret to a long marriage? Depends on who you ask andndash; the man or the woman (and whether they are in the room at the same time.)
For my in-laws, perhaps it's because she's a night owl and he's a morning lark (they go hours each day not seeing one another). They also recognize and respect one another's differences andndash; and accommodate them.
My parents? They simply listen to one another, and often let the other person be right (even if their egos screams otherwise).
My wife and I have are far from hitting the 50-year mark andndash; we've only been married for 14 years andndash; but I've learned a few things from the examples set by our parents.
The factors in a successful marriage are many, and they change as we age and follow life's unpredictable path.
One factor that doesn't change is paramount: a firm belief that marriage, and family, is a fundamental aspect of human society. That's tempered with the knowledge that it's not easy to maintain the love and happiness experienced during courtship and the honeymoon phase.
I'm not saying everybody should get married andndash; and people certainly shouldn't stay in abusive relationships andndash; but to not give up too easily.
Life andndash; with jobs, kids and other commitments vying for our attention andndash; can be hectic. All too often, the marriage relationship can drop to the bottom of the priority list. When that happens, we have a choice andndash; leave it at the bottom or pick it up, dust it off and treat it like the treasure it is.
I'm no expert in marriage, but I'd like to offer a short list of tips andndash; from a variety of sources, including my parents and in-laws andndash; that have help me. And I'd like to hear yours andndash; send me an e-mail at email@example.com and I will publish them in a future column.
Here we go:
andbull;Keep communicating: No matter how angry you get, as long as you keep talking, there's hope of solving any problem.
andbull; Listen: Truly pay attention to what the other is saying rather than contemplating your next point.
andbull;Follow the Golden Rule: Do unto the other as you would like it done.
andbull; Share in household chores: Research shows that couples who work together stay together.
andbull; Go on a date: Get a babysitter and spend some time having fun andndash; not discussing serious issues.
andbull; Be grateful: Gratitude has been statistically linked to happiness and hope. Focus on the positives in your relationship daily.
Even the smallest positive changes can renew a stale relationship and, ultimately, take it to a new place.
I'm sure there have been many bumps and lumps the last 50 years for my in-laws. But if they can do it, so can the rest of us.
Happy Anniversary Jim and Joyce!