Staff members at a local Starbucks I frequent for hot chocolate learned that my wife and I recently celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary. They are all relatively young, and 60 years seems like a long time to them. So they asked me to write about some of the things a couple have to do in order to make it together for that long.
In this day and age when so many married couples find they are not a match for each other and call it quits, it is not surprising that today's younger adults find 60 years of marriage to be very unusual. When my wife and I were married, celebrating a 50th anniversary was hailed as the "golden" anniversary that everyone was in awe of. The 50th anniversary is still very special. But today, many marriages bypass the golden anniversary, as well as the 60th, and it is not unheard of for people to celebrate 75 years together or even longer. So there are many others who are more qualified than I to write about what it takes to make a marriage work. But I will share my thoughts about making a marriage a lasting relationship.
LOVE is the basic foundation for a solid marriage to be built on. But love alone is not enough. There are many other attributes that need to be added to the foundation of love for a marriage to be filled with happiness that lasts for as long as the two people live. Here are many of the things I have found to be important; you may be able to add more.
• Forgiveness. Sometimes people intentionally say or do things in the heat of an argument that are really hurtful to their spouse, and there are other times that people unintentionally are guilty of hurtful words or behavior. Either way, the end result is the same, and much forgiveness by the other person is essential.
• Mutual respect for one another's needs, including the need for privacy and downtime.
• When you disagree about things (and you will), willingness to meet your spouse at least halfway, and all the way if it is really important to him or her.
• Talking "with" your spouse about things and not "to" him/her.
• And when you disagree, talking things through and sorting things out.
• Listening to your spouse's point of view, realizing that sometimes you may be wrong.
• Always being honest with your spouse.
• Prior to marriage discussing whether or not you want children, if so how many, and views about birth control.
• Acceptance of one another's family members, including scheduling mutually agreeable times for trips to visit them and vice versa.
• Agreeing how and where national and religious holidays will be spent, including whether you will spend time with his or her family, or both, or neither.
• Respecting the career aspirations and opportunities of your spouse.
• Willingness to sacrifice your own wishes and needs in order to give your spouse the things he or she wants or needs.
• Willingness to start a discussion about matters that are important to you -- to your happiness and self-worth.
• Accepting constructive criticism from your spouse without getting mad or defensive.
• Agreeing about money matters prior to getting married. When my wife and I were married, most couples shared the same bank account; now many couples have separate accounts. The two of you may have differing opinions about borrowing money, buying things on time, using credit and debit cards, and saving for retirement. Do one or both of you have student loan debt, and how much? And are there other debts? Talk these things through! (Note: Money matters of one kind or another are the number one underlying cause of stress, irritability, and arguments that lead to infidelity and eventually to divorce.)
• Prior to marriage, discuss your opinions on religious doctrines, church membership, worship attendance, important religious observances and practices, and agreeing how as a married couple you will put into practice your religious beliefs. (Note: Religious disagreements are the second most frequent cause of divorce, many times not showing up until it is time to baptize or rear children.)
• Finding time to do inspirational and fun things together is important, even if it is nothing more than going to a good movie or spending a weekend together some place.
Sixty years may seem like a long time to many people, but I can assure you that the years go by too quickly. Many of us wish we could start over, making up for our hurtful actions and mistakes. But we would always want the same end result: after sixty years, or whatever the number may be, having as many more years as possible with our beloved spouse.