What does it take to achieve "forever" in marriage? In a world where young people complain that it takes "forever" to upload a video to Youtube, and the diamond industry promises "forever" with the purchase of a diamond engagement ring, the word has certainly lost some of its meaning.
But if we understand the true meaning of this word, we would have to ask ourselves how it is possible to apply it to American marriages in the 21st century. When promises can be empty and divorce is common, it behooves us to learn a lesson or two from the couple married longest in America, John and Ann Betar of Fairfield, Connecticut.
On November 25, 2013, this sweet, still-holding-hands couple celebrated 81 years of marriage. Nominated by the Worldwide Marriage Encounter as the couple married longest in America, John and Ann can look back at their 81 years together -- including five children (two now deceased from cancer), 14 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren -- with smiles and gratitude.
This is especially true considering their non-traditional elopement, which in 1932 was a real shocker to their families. Ann, 98, explains that they had no choice since her father was set on her marrying an older man though her heart belonged to the boy across the street, John, now 101.
John relates that "Everyone was hopping mad, and my wife's aunt consoled my father-in-law by telling him not to worry, the marriage won't last." Well, who has the last laugh now? Certainly John and Ann, and their extended families.
So what's their secret? According to John, "The key is to always agree with your wife." Did you hear that one, men? And in a recent Reuters interview, Ann stated matter-of-factly, "Marriage isn't a lovey-dovey thing, you know, for 80 years. You've learned to accept one another, ways of life, agreements, disagreements..."
As quoted in the NY Daily News, the Betars can also finish each other's sentences, an oft-considered hallmark of old married couples: John began, "We'll be together forever." And Ann added softly, "somewhere we will be."
Let's just take a minute to contrast the Betars' real "forever" with the illusion of "forever" in an overpriced diamond ring. While De Beers has brainwashed generations of Americans to believe the slogan "A diamond is forever," we are starting to wake up and realize that no, a diamond won't last forever (it can chip, get lost, get stolen) and it need not be the only symbol of marital bliss -- especially when it becomes a contest of who can score the biggest rock.
What truly matters, after all, is not what you wear on your finger -- and I'm going to venture a guess here that John did not propose with a diamond ring -- but rather how you give to and honor each other, and yes, listen to each other. This, I believe, is the real lesson for married couples trying to achieve "forever" today.
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