Soucheray: Solid marriages aren’t on cruise controlWe often read or hear the comment, “They have a long-term marriage.” But what does that mean, exactly?
We often read or hear the comment, “They have a long-term marriage.” But what does that mean, exactly? Most experts agree that the long-term aspect of a marriage is represented by a 20- to 25- year commitment. So according to these experts, next week will mark a long-term marriage for my husband and I as we celebrate our 30-year commitment. It seems nearly unbelievable to think about where 30 years have gone, and so quickly.
We were married in St. Paul in 1982, having met when we both worked in Stillwater in the late 1970s. We moved to Woodbury because we loved the biking paths and the country feel of this outer ring suburb. We joined a church, the one to which we still belong. We went to work, had babies, joined ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education), enjoying all of the camaraderie this group provided, and became involved in our community.
I remember when we became engaged and I was scared. I told my then-fiancé that I didn’t think I was ready for this kind of commitment. He responded, “Tell me about Saturday, Oct. 12 (1982).”
I said, “I don’t know. We’ll probably get up. Make a pot of coffee, go grocery shopping, maybe to the Farmers’ Market, go for a bike ride and meet some friends for dinner.”
He said, “Kate, that’s marriage.”
And that is completely true. Marriage, especially a long-term marriage, is really about the small things we do each day to honor the commitment we have made to this person to be in his or her life, one day at a time, honoring the “yes” we articulated at the altar of a church or the bench of a court house.
It’s the daily response to this “yes” to remain committed and loyal, each day arising, giving a kiss and a well-wish for the day. It’s the willingness to share the moments of our lives with this special person, with whom we have created a family, and on whom this family depends for leadership and a model for an ethical, value-driven life.
That is marriage, simply put, which becomes the lived example of our love and desire for the best for our partner. On our wedding day, we present our “yes,” but it is all the days that follow which provide the model of our lived yes. And this occurs in all the little ways we show our love toward each other and becomes the quality of our marriage.
If the quality becomes sour, scratched or tarnished, due to experiences in life of any sort, we have the opportunity to look closely at what has happened and make a choice about that. Will we let go of our marriage or will we address the difficulties that have arisen, the scratches that have caused pain, or the tarnished nature of our interactions that cause us to dislike or mistrust each other?
A long-term marriage, especially in our day and age, carries with it the expectation of happiness, which has not always been the case. In previous generations, marriage was more often seen as an obligation and a means to propagate the species and provide workers for the farm. That is not the case today, and a focus on being fulfilled and happy in our marriages is something that has become an assumption, and only within the past 60 years.
If you are married, and wish to make yours a long-term marriage, consider it to be like your car. If you attend to regular maintenance, your car will provide you with reliable service. If you ignore the warning lights, however, you may find yourself sitting on the side of the road, wondering what happened. So if you are married, take time today to attend to the quality of your commitment. And remember, we never set a long-term marriage on cruise control.
Kate Soucheray is a Woodbury resident and a licensed family therapist