Sunday, April 24, 2016

State of the Union

No this post isn't about politics. ALTHOUGH, it does contain aspects such as diplomacy, negotiations, treaties, civil unrest, and maybe even an occasional war.  Today we are talking about marriages.

Last Sunday in the Kansas City Star in the "Celebration" section were a number of anniversary acknowledgments.  The least number of years for those listed was 40 years of wedded bliss. (can we dare hope for the bliss part?)
But as I scanned the assortment of years, I spotted a 68, a 73, and, WAIT FOR 80.  Wow, not everyone can live to see that number.

The write-up was in part as follows:

      On April 4th, Mr. and Mrs. Smith celebrated their 80th Wedding   Anniversary. As children they grew up on neighboring farms and attend the same one room school house in Settle, Kentucky......
As of April 4th, they have been married 29,220 days and counting.

Of course, I left out a lot of their story as I am not sure how Mr. and Mrs. Smith feel about my sharing their history but basically the article tells us that they moved from Kentucky to Kansas City, started two successful businesses, retired and remained in their own home until last year when they moved into a retirement center. Mr. Smith is 99 years old and Mrs. Smith is 97.

As it happens, the very day I read that article, my husband called from Canada, and somewhere in the conversation he tells me that a person that he is working with is celebrating a 35th Wedding Anniversary.  When the man
was announcing his big day to hubby, he used the phrase, "Impressive, huh?"
Dare, I be unimpressed as I was just reading about a couple that are celebrating 80 years together?

I am always intrigued by how two people find each other and end up vowing to stay together FOREVER.   Everyone's marriage is so different. Why some work and others don't is interesting to me. After all these years seeing both successful marriages and failed marriages, I can often see the reasons they went the way they did...but often not. The fact, is that only the two people in a marriage are equipped to gauge if the marriage is happy or not.

This fascination of mine probably goes back to the fact that both my husband's parents and my parents were divorced. Both of us were familiar with what "broken" looks like.  Our families didn't have amicable divorces but the "all-out war" kind of  dissolutions. We both had front row seats to the worst "reality shows" that ever were...and that was before people figured out how to make money off of these types of debacles.

You would nearly think that having lived through this, we would of been fairly cautious about who to marry, when to marry..or, for that matter, if marriage was worth the trouble at all. Not only did we think marriage was a "good" thing, we decided that while I was still in  high school.  Yeah, I know..CRAZY!!! Oddly enough, it didn't feel crazy to me at the time.  Boyfriend/now husband was in the Army and I had another year of school to complete before any of this would happen...but it did and now 44.7 years later, it still seems to have worked out very well.

ANYWAY...I was reading an article from the New York Times about the 13 things you should ask a person prior to getting married. The article was pretty much a cautionary tale of not jumping in a marriage "uninformed".  While I did notice that they omitted the section about not  getting engaged in high school, I am pretty sure it was implied.

So...on the outside chance, I can save you single people from going into marriage blindsided or help the rest of you married folks realize the error of your ways, I am passing along the 13 important things to ask.

Here are the questions, I was supposed to ask...and these are the ways I might of answered them back then.

1. Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down when disagreements arose? (throwing plates would of been a slow day)

2. Will we have children, and if we do, will you change diapers? (yes, we will have children but our children won't  poop...but if they do... we both will change diapers.)

3. Will our experiences with our exes help or hinder us? (what exes? I am in high school)

4. How important is religion? How will we celebrate religious holidays, if at all? (To be determined..he's  Dutch, I'm not..big problem... but love conquers all.)

5. Is my debt your debt? Would you be willing to bail me out? (Seriously? Debt...we hardly have a checking account yet.  BAIL?  Never in a million years would boyfriend get that is a non-issue.)

6. What’s the most you would be willing to spend on a car, a couch, shoes?

(that would depend if we ever acquire money and how much we acquire) FYI..we did manage to educate ourselves, become gainfully employed and live a comfortable life.

7. Can you deal with my doing things without you? (We are fine with separate time as boyfriend is currently in the army but thinking I'd rather focus on "together" time. )

8. Do we like each other’s parents? ("Like" is a strong word.)

9. How important is sex to you? (None of your beeswax.)

10. How far should we take flirting with other people? Is watching pornography O.K.? (NO, NO, NO)

11. Do you know all the ways I say “I love you”? (Yes, yes, yes)

12. What do you admire about me, and what are your pet peeves?

(List too long on the former, very few things on the latter.)

13, How do you see us 10 years from now? (We see ourselves as blissfully happy.)

I would venture to guess that most people don't put such a clinical approach to their courtship as to ask a list of specific questions. If prospective brides and grooms do want a list of questions, I don't think that one covers all the questions that need to be asked.  At any rate, I am not sure that it would have any bearing on if the marriage would endure.  Doesn't it really boil down to the fact that over time either "you grow together" or "you grow apart".

I have a group of friends that I meet for coffee every Wednesday morning.  We have women in the group that have been married 65 years, 55 years, and my soon to be 45 years among the mix.  We all know how each other met our spouses, if it was love, hate,  or indifference at first sight, and why and when we decided to get married. There is little commonality except for we all thought it could work....but then didn't every divorced couple feel like it would last as well.  I guess one of the real tricks is to find a person the envisions what a marriage should be and "look like" somewhat in the same vein as you think a marriage should be and "look like".  In order to get that vision ironed out you would have to be able to communicate effectively.

I had a friend (now deceased) that had been married somewhere around 35 years and it seemed to me, all she and her husband did was fight. For the most part, most of their fights were over petty miscommunications.  My friend took offense in the most innocently stated comments. She and her husband just didn't communicate well.  If he said she looked pretty in yellow, she would of taken it as she didn't look pretty in other colors or some similar type of imagined slight.  Frequently, these dust ups resulted in her moving down the hall to the guest room. which she referred to as her "apartment." Oddest marriage ever, yet it seemed that neither of them were unhappy and rarely did either of them talk about divorce.  When she became terminally ill, he cared for her until the night she died.  At the funeral he told me, he always thought she was the most beautiful woman on the earth.  I think he recognized that she was illogically hypersensitive to every comment he ever made and turned it into an offense...and that is who she was.  In spite of that, he loved her and she continually forgave him for his (supposed) inconsiderations and they were devoted to each other albeit in a bizarre kind of way. 

That might not be my vision of what a marriage looks like and it might not be your vision of what a marriage looks like, but it was the reality of what their marriage looked like.

So while marriage might be a crazy's my thoughts on why it has worked out for hubby and I...

We didn't go into to marriage believing in fairy tales.  We knew, first hand, that some stories have poisoned apples and mean dragons.

We had the expectation of a "happily ever after" but knew it wouldn't magically appear with a wave of a wand.

When looking for my Prince...I was less concerned about "charming" and more concerned about him having ambition, kindness, optimism, and sense of humor.

I didn't want a castle but I wanted someone that would work hard, along side me and create a happy, secure home.

I didn't require grand things but I did require that everyday he would be happy to be part of of the family we created together....and on the occasional day that it didn't feel "happy" that he was committed to  work at tomorrow being a happier day.

We might not make it to an 80th anniversary, but I do know that if we don't make it, it will be because one or both of us died trying.

What were your expectations for marriage, if you wanted marriage in your life? Were those expectations realistic?  Were you friends before you were "in love"? 


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