What should I get my parents for their 50th wedding anniversary, I asked my lady. "Duh, Goobi (term of endearment), get your ass there and spend some time with them," she answered. Rina was right. The best gift a child can give their parents is spending time with them.
My trip is a surprise. On the plane ride to Florida my excitement builds, as I write down some thoughts that are running through my mind on what it takes to stay with someone 50 years.
I have spent the better part of 30 years studying relationships, and of course, have had a variety of them myself. I would love to tell you that I was able to hold my marriage together, but I couldn’t. What has come together for me, is the understanding of what we all need to know about upholding an “until death do us part" vow.
The list I have compiled was forged from the space of upholding the pledge of “until death do us part." Everything else in the marital contract, in some form, and at sometime, will most likely not only be broken, but shattered. Are you ready? If so, check out some of the reasons these incredible marriages have lasted!
1. Forgiveness is the only action a couple needs to perfect. Since neither person in the relationship is perfect, imperfections will show up in many forms. None of which will necessarily be fun, for either person, and for some, those imperfections may seemly be intolerable. Forgiveness is the cornerstone to any successful relationship, especially a marriage, in making it last a lifetime. Everything has to be forgivable to make things livable! Mark Twain said, "Forgiveness is the fragrance a violet sheds on the heel that crushes it.” Think about that! Live it! Then you will find it easy and freeing to forgive.
2. Two Lanes: There are only two lanes on the marital highway. One is staying married. The other one is leaving! You have to choose the “staying married” lane over and over again. That has to be more important than anything else that happens in the marriage. There is a glory and a story that one can only have by staying in it. There are so many chapters to the story and you have to be steadfast on finishing your book. There will be many tragedies and triumphs throughout your story. There will be times of despondency, as well as emotional, physical and financial bankruptcy. There will be births, deaths, laughs, and celebrations. All the while, you need to keep choosing to stay in that lane. Those that leave may find incredible loves, but they will never know if their choice was a good one, because they left before the story was over. No one who leaves will ever find out what it would have been like to stay. It's a huge commitment! Staying is huge! It may end with one or both parties not being entirely happy. However, if either one truly understands the value of holding that space for decades, then that in itself is an experience that cannot be matched by any other in this world.
3. Courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain etc., without fear! Need I say more? Of course there may be fear, but fear never overtakes either of you. Fear never dictates decisions. In short, it never wins the war. Some battles yes, but not the war.
4. Loyalty and Stubbornness: These qualities came straight from the horse’s mouth. When I asked my father how did you two manage to stay together for 50 years? My father responded, "I am too loyal to leave and Marlene is too stubborn". After reflecting on that statement and what my father truly meant, it made perfect sense. I call it L.A.F., which stands for loyalty, allegiance, faithfulness. All of these words can be found in the other words’ definitions. They are one in the same. One could substitute them for leniency, affection and friendship. Point being is that you have to have many laughs and hold the principles of L.A.F.
5. Never say Never: I have seen marriages explode because one or both partieshave unintelligently created a deep seeded belief of what should never be acceptable. I am not suggesting I know your moral compass. I am stating that "I would never stay with someone who cheated on me," along with other such statements, are guarantees that a marriage will not last. In a long term relationship, you have to take things as they come. You have to be willing to see through many different lenses, and have an in depth understanding of the human condition. By saying, “I do” forever, you cannot say, "but I won't put up with this shit..."
I tip my hat to all who have somehow, someway, held their marriages together. Few realize that the relationship they dream of, is just that; a dream. Reality is a long lasting marriage with many nightmares. There is no fantasy. The fantasy is thinking it will be anything less than the most difficult thing you will do in life. However, the more difficult it is, the more gratifying the work will be. The reward from staying in a marriage is not just what the couple feels, but the gift of wholeness that they give to their families, their friends and their community. In a fragmented world with so much divisiveness, married couples give us unity. The more unions that stay intact, the more unions that will be created.
Thanks to all who make it their life’s commitment to grow a successful marriage.