By Rick Kraft
I am an advocate of long marriages. There’s just something about them that gets me excited.
When I meet someone who says they’ve been married 58 years or 44 years or even 30 years, I smile and immediately say “congratulations.” I think of all the ups and downs the couple has been through and that they’re still committed to one another and doing life together.
After the countless challenges of parenting, I think that having a healthy marriage is the most difficult thing for a person to do. And the best parenting should arise out of a long and healthy marriage.
My parents, who live in South Pasadena, celebrated 68 years of marriage earlier this month. That’s 136 years between them! I cannot tell you how proud I am of them, their commitment to each other, and the example they are setting for the rest of us.
I know my parents have repeatedly experienced mountaintop experiences and they have had to walk through some very difficult valleys. They are like two trees in a forest that lean upon one another as they age and grow taller together. My parents have each relied on one another for 24,837 days since saying “I do.”
I believe we were created to have a companion to live life with. Someone we wake up with each morning and say good night to each evening. Someone who we can cry with and someone we can belly laugh with. Someone we can share life’s experiences with as we live each day. Someone to sit next to on a long road trip and have a good conversation with.
My parents are people of deep faith. Before they were married they committed their lives to become missionaries in Africa. Within four years of getting married they boarded a ship from New York and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to Nigeria as missionaries, intending to live the rest of their lives on the mission field.
Everything they owned was loaded into 55 gallon metal drums, sealed, and shipped with them to a land they had never been to before. Their faith amazes me. They lived in a small village in eastern Nigeria out in nowhere with no paved roads and no telephone communication.
They had a child on the mission field, and he became me. My unique birth certificate reflects my Nigerian birth. From this beginning they have experienced almost seven decades together as husband and wife.
In wedding vows a couple, after saying “I take you to be my husband/wife,” often says something along the lines of “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you all the days of my life.”
In other words before saying “I do,” a couple is saying “we have no idea what life is going to bring us, but we commit to experiencing it together.” There’s not a single couple who has ever lived who has ever known what twists and turns their lives will take once the honeymoon ends and the marriage begins.
Two people pledge their lives to one another and then day after day, month after month, year after year they plan and respond to this thing called life. Ahead in the future of newlyweds are children, deaths of loved ones, financial struggles, job changes, health issues, temptations, celebrations, and everything that comes with living day to day.
As a lawyer I have been involved in hundreds of marriages breaking up over almost four decades. Each one is sad in its own way. People don’t marry planning to get divorced. But sometime after “I do” things fall apart. The victims are often the children. As I said, it is very sad, but it’s how life happens.
A few years ago I had a 70 year old man in my office asking me for legal advice that had nothing to do with family and he began his story by saying “When I was seven my parents divorced.” As I listened I had to wonder how many times over the 63 years since his parents broke up has this man began his story with this experience.
I understand more than anyone how marriages end. Maybe that is why I celebrate those that don’t. Understand in my comments I’m not judging those who have been divorced, only celebrating those who survive the test of time.
Next month my wife and I will celebrate 37 years of marriage. She’s my best friend. I can sincerely say that I’ve never loved her more than I do today. We understand that it’s a relationship that needs continual work. Each day we choose to get up and seek to meet the needs of each other.
There’s something to the peace that comes from a stable relationship. It allows me to serve others in my work and other organizations I’m involved in without worrying about what I’ll find when I come back home.
I believe every long marriage has two attributes that both member of the couple has. First is commitment and second is communication. If a couple has a commitment to one another and healthy communication, they can make it through difficult times. And if a couple does this enough times, they may celebrate their 20th, 30th, 40th, 50th, and maybe even 60th or 70th anniversary.
My challenge to you today is to have a long and healthy marriage. If you’ve woken up next to your spouse for decades, which some of you have, congratulations!
Regardless of if you’ve been married one week or 65 years, stick with it if at all possible. Seek to be the spouse you want your spouse to be. Find joy in your relationship. Meet the needs of one another.
Today I celebrate my parent’s 68th wedding anniversary, a couple who together have stood the test of time. To each of you reading this who have been married many years…good job. Keep it up!
And to all of you who are married reading this, even if it has only been one month, may God bless you with a joyful and healthy marriage and decades of wedding anniversaries in the years ahead.
Just a thought…
Rick Kraft, a South Pasadena High School graduate, is a syndicated columnist, a motivational speaker, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.