Sunday was my parents’ 40th anniversary. We had a small family party for them on Saturday, and my brother and I both wrote on our cards: “Thank you for setting such a good example of marriage for me.” I know it sounds a little cheesy, but we both mean it deeply.
I consider myself to have a happy, healthy marriage; and whatever my part is in that happiness I owe mostly to my parents. Watching them together for the last 36 years has been more helpful in my own relationship than any “how to” article, any self-help book, any amount of therapy.
Here are just a few things I’ve learned from my parents over the years about how to have a good marriage:
- Support each other’s dreams. Both of my parents have changed careers over the course of their marriage. Usually such career changes involved major moves for the whole family. I never once heard either of them begrudge any disruption to their own life for the sake of the other.
- Trust your spouse to have their own life. When I was growing up, my mom had several men friends and my dad worked mostly with women. A friend commented to me once that it seemed odd for my mom to go out to eat with a man who wasn’t my dad. But it never seemed weird or threatening to me for my parents to have other friends outside the family. Or for them to develop interests or hobbies that might take them away from each other for awhile. It was obvious that they both trusted each other completely. Their individual lives were better because of their outside friendships and interests–and that made their marriage stronger.
- Don’t argue in front of the kids. Sure, plenty of books and articles tell you about this rule, but it’s easier said than done. After watching it in action for the eighteen years I lived at home, I’m pretty good at it.
- Appreciate the personality traits of your spouse.My dad is goofy. He has been known to drop whatever he is doing to dance to a favorite song. He has been known to drive donuts in an icy parking lot. Here’s one of his favorite sayings: “When you’re dancing with your honey and your nose feels kind of runny, some people think it’s funny, but it’s snot.” You can tell by the way my mom says, “Daaavvvid,”–with that gentle mixture of exasperation and love–that she fully accepts his deep goofiness.
- My mom is pretty much the opposite of goofy. She is one of the most serious and sincere people I know. If you watch a movie with her, she will provide running commentary on the quality of choices made by the characters. Whatever topic is being discussed, she cares deeply about it–whether she knows much about it or not. And while the whole family sometimes has a little bit of fun with her, I have never seen my dad belittle her in any way. It is obvious that he respects and honors her concerns.
- Show affection. I did not always appreciate this aspect of my parents’ marriage when I was growing up. Particularly through the teenage years. It’s not like they make out in public or anything, but they kiss hello and goodbye . . . and sometimes for no reason at all. They snuggle together on the couch when they watch T.V. They tell each other, “I love you.” Just a couple of days ago my dad asked my mom what she wanted for their anniversary. She pulled him to her and kissed him and said, “I want you. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.” That kind of stuff might sound corny in a movie, but it sure holds a marriage together.
- Maintaining a family is a team effort. Which is why I’m going to end my list here and help get everyone ready for church.
Thank you, Mom and Dad. Happy 40th Anniversary!