Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Secrets To A Long And Happy Marriage

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 by Sara Mattinson.

Six years ago this week, I went on a blind date with a Nova Scotia country boy. Five years ago this Saturday, we were married so I’d say our matchmaker knows me better than I know myself.
In advance of this anniversary, I phoned our cupid , a.k.a. Gary Mundle, to ask him what he thinks the secret to a long and happy marriage is (I realize people don’t have to be married in order to enjoy a long and happy relationship but for simplicity, one word includes all partnerships). 
According to Gary, “Marriage is only what partners put into it. You have to talk. Every day, every night. It’s all about communication. I find most couples who break up don’t know how to talk to each other.”
And even after 22 years of marriage, Gary said, “I never leave for work without kissing Carol good-bye.”
My father-in-law Donn expressed the same idea when I sat down on the front porch with him and Mary, his bride of 64 years.
“I kiss her in the morning and I kiss her good night,” he said. 
Their union, too, came out of a blind date. A mutual friend fixed them up on a double date (although they don’t remember the movie they saw in Springhill) and two years later, at the ages of 19 and 21, Mary and Donn married. What do they think is the secret to a long marriage? 
“You just make a point of getting along,” Mary told me. “Years ago, when a couple got married, it was for life so you had to overlook things.”
A lot can happen in 64 years years, let alone five. There will be challenges, there will be trials.
“Through a long marriage, you hold each other up,” she said. “And there are a lot of times when you have to hold each other up.”
That’s what my friend Jane, married 21 years to Jerry, told me, too. 
“Whatever is going on, we have each other’s back,” she said.
She also echoed something my father-in-law said about being happy despite being poor. 
“The fact is we didn’t have a lot of money,” said Jane, “ so we couldn’t do anything and get in trouble. We had to make our own fun and make our own fun with the kids.”
My parents’ 46th wedding anniversary is coming up in August so I couldn’t write about marriage without talking to my mother, who lost her husband three years ago.
 “You have to love the person almost more than you love yourself,” she told me. “You both have to love each other unselfishly. We’ve lost the word ‘cherish’ in our society. That covers love and trust. And you have to laugh. You have to be able to laugh with each other and at each other when things happen.”
Watching my mother take care of the husband disappearing into dementia made me aware that whatever time we have together -- six years or sixty -- should not be taken for granted. 
“We had a good life,” my mother-in-law said. “And it’s almost over. We’ve climbed the mountain and now we’re heading down the other side.”
Which is both a blessing and a miracle. And a lifetime of good night kisses. 

My in-laws in 1948:

My parents in 1966: 

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