My husband and I are nearing our 50th wedding anniversary, which will be in November. This has caused me to look closely at our life together and wonder how we managed to stay happily married for such a long time. I often think, "What do you know when you are 19, about choosing a partner for life?" I am happy to say that we both knew more than we thought!
At the time we became engaged, Carly Simon had a song out called "That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be." I would listen to it and think, "Oh please don't let that be us." The song paints a picture of a father sitting in a dark living room downstairs while the mother is in an upstairs bedroom, a very separate world from her husband.
As I traveled through life, I saw couples who stayed married but lived in two separate worlds. At times when we went to dinner, I would see couples sitting at a table with no interaction between them. I’d think how lucky we were there was still so much happiness and passion between us … As well as chatty conversations over a meal!
Life is a journey and, as I look back, I realize we traveled it well. We got through so many bumps in the road and wondered why people thought marriage was hard. In the course of our marriage, we both went back to school, got degrees and started successful careers — while rearing five children.
It was important to keep time for each other so that we were not just relating to each other as "Mom" and "Dad" but as husband and wife. Every October we would leave the kids with my sister to travel to Lake George for a day and night away. And when my oldest was able to babysit for an hour, we would go down the block to a diner, a date-night for just the two of us!
Were there bad times? As my husband says, "You like me until you don't!" So yes, there were, but they were infrequent and never lasted very long. I learned the magic of what to do when a fight was brewing. I realized that if you are in a disagreement, never fight with the word "you" or point your fingers at each other. I may have thought my husband did something wrong, but I looked at what I did — my reaction to the situation — and I always could find something I could have done better. Once I could see things in a positive way, so could my husband; we never got into what I call the "negative roll."
We never had a lot of money, but that didn't seem to affect our life much. Bills got paid, and we were content with our lot in life. He did his things and I did mine, and there was never a disagreement about one of us doing more than the other, or one of us having more than the other. And there lies another secret to a happy relationship: Letting each other be who they are with no resentment.
I recently retired from my job as a hospice nurse; I did it with much sadness because I loved the work I did. With retirement came the new challenge of being home 24/7 and staying happy. I don't sit well but love to be on the go — which is 100% different from my husband, who loves to read and knows how to relax.
We both marvel at how different we are but how well we get along, each letting the other do the things that make us happy while still staying content and close.
I don't know what lies ahead, but given our track record, I am confident it will continue to be steadfast and happy. I pray a lot and give God credit for helping me find the right guy. With that thought, the two gifts I would give my children — if I could — would be a good mate and faith. And OK, maybe a few of my own tips for staying happily married!
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