“Oh, so you’re still a newlywed!” my new acquaintance, Bonnie, exclaims.
I guess so, although I haven’t thought of myself that way in a while. Since about August of last year. I’ve moved beyond those early stages, I think. I’ve made progress, right?
Bonnie tells me she got married for the first time at 46, her husband was 50, and they’ve been married 12 years. “I kissed a lot of frogs along the way,” she tells me when I ask her for any tips. What I want to know is, how do you make it work for 12 years? Do you know the secret to happy marriage, as a 50-something woman and wife of 12 years?
She’s checking her email at the hotel lobby’s computer after dropping her husband off somewhere. It’s a drizzly day, one of the first of many to come. She responds directly, thoughtfully, without hardly glancing away from the screen as if a steady focal point helps her articulate her thoughts. “The first thing that comes to mind,” she tells me, “is accepting the other person for who he is. You’re probably not going to change him. And then listen. And also patience.”
Funny, I’ve heard this advice before. From friends who have been married 3, 4, 10 years. From my parents, who have been married 31 years. From mentors and friends who are single, but have learned from deep friendships. I bet my grandparents (married 64 years!) would also agree, although they might phrase it slightly differently. I’ve thought it myself before.
Bonnie’s right, I am still a newlywed, having nurtured marriage with my husband to the grand old age of 17 months (as of tomorrow). It’s crazy then, isn’t it, that she and I are working on some of the same things? We both need to accept our husbands for who they are, to listen to them, to be patient with them (and with ourselves). And how many members of other marriages have testified they are working on similar projects after 3, 4, 10, 15, 31, 64 years and ongoing? I find myself recognizing (yet again!) that, like so many other parts of life, marriage will be a work in progress, for better or worse, in sickness and health, til death do us part?
I understand now one of the reasons my choice of a marriage partner mattered so much. It is not so much about picking the person who will perfectly complete me or who will make my life “happy ever after,” but more about choosing a partner who is just as invested in building marriage and working on it for the rest of his life as I am. Because that is exactly what we will get to do together.