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Until the end of time…. June 23, 2011

Posted by Barbara in Art.

Today is the 69th year of wedded bliss for my wonderful parents-in-law.  I want to wish them a VERY happy anniversary!  Not only that, but this fall will bring my own parent’s 65th anniversary. Among the siblings in both families, we each count marriages that have lasted, to date,  30 – 40 years, and counting.  So, while I’m no expert, I do offer some observations about what it takes to make marriage work.

No worries.  It’s a very short list.  In fact, there are only 3 basic rules.  Break any of the three and you’re on your own.  Keep all of them, and you are almost guaranteed a successful relationship.

Number 1: Base it on real friendship. No, I didn’t say love.  People misunderstand and misuse the word love way too much for it to convey any clear concept these days.

What most people think of as ‘love’ is emotion.  It’s a ‘feeling’ – and we know that feelings change from one day to the next, one moment to the next.  Feelings are created by chemicals in your brain that are manipulated by external inputs:  situations, illness, foods, exercise, medications, the list goes on.    The first flush of love is a pleasant feeling, to be sure.  Just not one you can count on as a basis for a lifetime relationship.  The kind of love I see so clearly in those hands, the kind that develops such a deep and lasting bond,  is built over years of shared laughter and shared tears.

Friendship, on the other hand, makes one think of words like:  dependable, tolerant, happy, memories, loyal,  compadre….    Those words describe a consistent continuing  mutually giving relationship between equals.  We enjoy spending time with friends – working, playing, just hanging out.  Friends usually share our most basic values, but beyond that we tend to be tolerant of most differences.  We seldom believe we can re-make a friend into something he or she is not.   If changes are required before you can accept and enjoy your future spouse, it’s a recipe for failure.

If there is such a thing as a good marriage, it is because it resembles friendship rather than love.  ~Michel de Montaigne 

2.  Respect works.  It makes no difference what the topic is, treating each other with respect is the only way to create a win/win.    You will still feel angry, sad, hurt, or frustrated at times.   Respect is simply how you choose to act when you feel those things.   You can show respect when you talk about money, kids, jobs (or the lack thereof), sex, dirty socks, whatever.    Respect allows you space to see your spouse’s perspective on the issue and keeps you from negative and hurtful actions or responses. Treat each other in any other way, and you both lose.

For some reason, we find it so easy to abuse this tenet with people we claim to love.  Maybe we expect them not to feel hurt.  Maybe we expect them to always love us regardless of our actions or words.  Don’t believe it.

Every good relationship, especially marriage, is based on respect. If it’s not based on respect, nothing that appears to be good will last very long. ~Amy Grant  

3. Commit to forever.  There is no out.  Every situation requires that you work together for a win/win.  Period.   If you did good with the first two, this seals the bargain.   Commitment is what creates family out of what was friendship.  It’s the component that makes sure the rest of the world knows and respects your plan to be best friends forever.  It bonds all the most important people in your life in a mutual support system of the closest kind.  It gives children the complete assurance of safety, stability and unconditional love.

Here’s to forever.

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.  ~Mignon McLaughlin 



1. Brendan - June 23, 2011

I do believe you have just written the rule book for marriage. This makes so much sense and is so clear. I will certainly be using this article for when I consider the big commitment.

Sea - June 23, 2011

Thanks, Brendan. 🙂

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