May 21, 2020
I am updating this anniversary message as Carol and I celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary today:
Since I started my working life as a paperboy at the age of 10, I have had fifteen different jobs. Since I started driving when I was 16 years old, I have owned fourteen different cars. Since I was born, I have lived in eleven different houses. Since I married Carol thirty-six years ago, at the age of 23, I have had one wife. Carol and I celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary today.
I have spent some time recently reflecting on our time together: How much we have grown as a couple, how much we still love one another, and how odd it seems that we have been married thirty-six years, despite being so different. My friends actually had a wager pool going on how long we would last.
Now that I am a grandfather of eight, I think ahead to a time when I will be sitting in a rocking chair after attending my granddaughter Ellie’s engagement party. (Ellie is the only girl out of the eight grandchildren – so I am plugging her into this scenario as the most likely to ask this question) Ellie will sit down next to me and ask, “Best Grandpa in the World (which is what I’m thinking she will probably call me), how have you and Grandma stayed married so long?”
I am a planner by nature; so in order to prepare for that day, I have compiled a list:
- Carol and I have celebrated our differences, even found humor in them. She is an extreme extrovert; I am an extreme introvert. She talks to think; I think to talk. She is shopping at a downtown mall; I am fishing in a boat on a quiet lake. Carol is messy; I am neat. These differences could have proven to be frustrating and unmanageable, but we have each allowed the other to be genuine. Acknowledging and celebrating our differences, and laughing about them, allow each of us to grow as an individual while we also grow as a couple.
- We remember why we married one another. At one point in our marriage, it drove me crazy how Carol did (or didn’t do) the laundry. She would start the laundry when we were completely out of clothes, then do it all in one day. Wash them all in one day – fold them and put them away over the course of the subsequent 3-4 days. It was more than my left-brain self could handle. After quite a lengthy period of frustration, I calmly asked myself, “Why did I marry Carol?” I was able to give many reasons. Not one of those reasons was to do my laundry. So if I didn’t like the way Carol did laundry, and I did not like being frustrated, that left me one choice. I started doing the family laundry and have been doing it ever since.
- We make a decision to love one another each day. As corny as it sounds, I believe in this and do it. We have not always done this. Carol and I began facilitating marriage prep retreats about twenty years ago and “love is a decision” is a unifying theme of those retreat weekends. We bought into it. When you wake up every morning and put yourself in the mindset of I will love my spouse today, it makes an impact. Even if we are getting on each other’s nerves, we can say, “I may not like you much today, but I am committed to loving you today.”
- We are deliberate in acknowledging our love for one another. We say, “I love you” to each other all the time: when we wake up in the morning, when one of us leaves the house, at the end of a phone conversation, and in any text or e-mail we send to one another. We hold hands. Gentle touches are administered by one of us if the other is struggling. The struggling spouse may not feel like talking, but will appreciate the acknowledgment and concern shown.
- We are sensitive to one another’s needs. Sometimes Carol needs to talk and I need to listen. Sometimes I need to not talk and Carol needs to respect that. When she cries, I don’t tell her, “That’s not something to cry about,” even if I do not find it cry-worthy. Although I had to learn it over time, I now know I need to respond to her when she speaks. Early in our marriage, she would talk for a while and then get frustrated because I didn’t answer her. And of course I, a male, was thinking to myself, “You didn’t ask me a question.” Her point was that I needed to acknowledge her and let her know she has been heard.
- We share our faith and prayer lives with one another. This final piece came along later in our marriage and has made us even closer. We pray together. We share where we are in our faith, our doubts as well as our discoveries. I believe that this has allowed Jesus to enter more fully into our marriage. We feel His presence.
Now, when Ellie asks me the question about the longevity of our marriage, I will be prepared.
Happy Anniversary, Carol. I have made the decision to love you again today!