Every August they say it again.
As the first of the month rolls around, friends, family and casual acquaintances will take the time to congratulate us on another year of marriage. They mention how we have managed to keep our relationship alive so long in a world where the life expectancy of matrimony seems to continually be on the decline. They do a verbal inventory, spewing out a socially-macabre list of peer couples who embarked on the journey of wedded bliss alongside of us…and have since crashed and burned into the ditches of divorce and separation. They marvel at how lucky we both have been to have found that ‘special’ person in our lives.
Now and then, someone with a little more perceptive will take the time to ask how.
“What’s your secret Joe?” they will inquire, “How do you guys stay so happy after all these years?”
The secret is that there is no secret. Success in marriage is simple. It’s like success in business, or in school, or in a career…or in any other aspect of this thing we call life. It takes commitment and determination to rise to the top. It takes work.
Three decades after I walked down the isle of a little country church, and after more good times than I can remember, I think the thing I have learned (sometimes the easy way and sometimes the hard way) is that the most important thing is the “want”. Couples who succeed in marriage need to want it. They are the ones willing to battle through the hard times and the hurt. The ones who know it is easier to quit than to forgive…but choose to forgive and to forge forward regardless. Those are the couples who reap the rewards and contentment that comes from a job well done.
Perhaps author and relationship specialist Dr. Barbara De Angelis explains it best. Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb. It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your partner every day.
My advice for that newlywed couple who are still head-over-heels in love with each other because she likes the glint in his eyes when he smiles and he likes the way she makes him laugh? Great! Keep laughing and enjoy the good times. But understand that those initial attractions are not the makings of a good marriage…they are merely the foundation of a relationship. One that needs plenty of work, and perhaps some sweat and tears, before it is truly built. And one that is worth the effort.