When the Party's Over ~ A Look Back at My Parents' 39 Year Marriage
As a Wedding PlannerI often get asked for relationship advice. And I do my best not to give it. Instead I like to tell people that I am an expert on weddings, but not marriages. And, as disappointing as that may be, it's true. I know how to listen to a couple and build an experience around their story and preferences. I can devise and maintain a budget, a design scheme, a timeline, and all of the other elements that go into the creation and execution of a wonderful wedding.
But after a wedding, you are inevitably left in a marriage. And then what?!?!?
My first marriage (yes, I had a first marriage ~ It was 400 years ago when I was a wizard) ended nearly as quickly as it started. After over 5 years together, eighteen months of which were spent planning not one by two fantastic celebrations, we divorced after 13 month. Yes, 13 months. A massive and colossal failure for anyone. But when you have built your career around the celebration of love and life and the idea of forever...Well, divorce makes you feel like a both a failure and a fraud.
Fortunately, I have had my parents to look to as an example. Today my parents celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary. And as I look back at the 30-something of those years that I was lucky enough to bear witness to, I don't know that I personally have any answers, but here are the things that stick out in my mind...
...If you are going to be with anyone in this life for any length of time, make sure it is someone who you truly like as a person. Love, passion, sex - They all wax and wane over years. There will be times when you will lose common ground, times when you may not feel like you know each other or understand each other or love each other. But being with someone you truly like as a human being and that you respect as a person means that you will always have a pathway back to each other. As long as you chose to take it.
...Be with someone who makes you laugh. To this day my parents laugh with each other, at each other, about each other and in spite of each other. I remember being 15 years old and my mother told me that no one had ever made her laugh like my father did. All these years later, that still holds true.
...Fight. It's okay. It doesn't mean that you don't love each other. It doesn't mean that you don't like each other. It means that you love each other and the life you have built together enough to fight for it. So do it. Fight for as long as you have to, and as hard as you have it, in order to stay together.
...It's really the little things that come together and create a history and a life. My father is a man of big gestures. My mother is a lot quieter in those respects. But what stands out in my mind aren't the gifts or the dinners or the vacations ~ although they were wonderful and are extraordinary. But it's the countless family dinners that always took place at 6 o'clock. It's the way my mother brought my father his soda, because she knew he wanted it before he asked. The fact that my father gave my mother a card for every occasion. To this day, I don't remember a time when my parents weren't hold hands, even when holding onto 3 kids. When I look back on my childhood there are definitely stand out moments, but it's the stuff that they probably think we missed (and that maybe they didn't even think about because it was routine) that run together and create this tapestry and bond that remains unbreakable.
...It's friggin' hard! It's so much harder than you think, and much harder than even I know. Over the course of my lifetime I have seen my parents go through some unimaginable trials and hardships. Things that most people could never fathom. And even having lived through these things along side of them as their child, I am still an outsider when it comes to their marriage. There have been lots of days when I didn't know how they did it, or who. But 39 years into it, and they are still standing.
...So when you celebrate, celebrate big! And often. Celebrate your individual accomplishments, and the milestones you reach together. Say thank you to each other. Acknowledge the role this person plays in your life privately and publicly. Take that vacation. Drink that bottle of wine. Order the extra dessert. Turn off the phone and write that love letter, or that love text, or tweet. Life is short and life is hard. It changes on a dime and if you are lucky enough to find yourselves together, appreciate it and celebrate it in any way you can.
...Be married. I have heard it said that nothing is easier than saying words, and nothing is harder than living the meaning of those words every day. Getting married is easy. Being married is hard. Staying married is harder. Each and every day you need to wake up and make the choice to be married. It's easy to walk away. But if you want to be married, you both have to commit to staying.
I guess that's it. Fall in love hard. Be with someone you like. Celebrate the good times because life is hard, and as surely as you are guaranteed the good, there will be bad. Be willing to fight for what you have and do the work. Never forget the little things. Laugh. And no matter where you go and what you do, always remain committed to finding your way back to one another.
When compared to my parents' marriage, my 7 plus year relationship with "My Tony" feels very short in comparison. But the things that I am most proud of in my own relationship are the things that I feel echo theirs. And so maybe I didn't get the whole marriage thing right the first, time. But I'm getting it right now. So even if I did a poor job describing it here, there are unspoken lessons from my parents' marriage that I did learn.
And apparently, My Tony learned a few lessons of his own! After all, his parents share the same wedding anniversary as mine do, and today they celebrated their own 44 years together!
Good luck in life and love to all of you, and Happy Anniversary Mommy & Daddy...
And Thank You!