A couple of weeks ago, I meant to make a post commemorating my parents anniversary. How many years you ask? 51! After 4 years of dating, in June of 1956 my parents started their journey. 51 years, 4 daughters, 6 grandkids, and numerous pets later, they are still going strong. It's quite amazing isn't it?
I was thinking about them today and what the relationship has been through over those years. Many moves, hurricanes, tornadoes, unemployment, health issues, financial issues, 2 girls in college at the same time (during financial issues no less), deaths, births, time apart, time together and now semi-retirement (semi because those 2 can't seem to just not work). I must say, it is not a bad legacy.
We have a family reunion planned this weekend, so I was reflecting on the fun we always had when we all got together, coupled with my parents recent anniversary. I came to a startling revelation. My extended family as a whole has quite of a tradition of long marriages. On both sides actually, though mostly I think of extended family as my mom's side. My dad's side is very small. His parents died when I was young and I only have 2 cousins on that side. Both of which are WAY older than me (my oldest cousin on that side was at my parents wedding!). But on my mom's side, I have 20 cousins, with only 2 younger than me. Most are married - 3 have never been, and 3 divorces (one of which just remarried). I never really thought about it before.
I attended my grandparents 50th and they were together, holding hands for several years after that; mom's sister is now on her 52th, another sister has her 50th in a year or two, and the other siblings are probably in their 40-something anniversary years. That is pretty amazing in this day and age. Now, I realize that staying together that long doesn't necessarily mean it is a happy marriage or that you should stay married just to stay married. And to be honest, what does a "happy/good marriage" really mean? But whatever the marriages are, they seem to work. I am not trying to make our clan out to be some exceptional family - we have our problems of course - however, in these times where the divorce rate in America is reported to be 50%, it seems an accomplishment worth mentioning.
I don't know about my cousins, but what I learned from my parents about marriage is that perseverance is one of the keys to making it work. It is not love and romance all the time. Let's face it, every day life is not so romantic. There are times when being married sucks, when you think "why am I married to this person" (and come on, you know we all think that at times), when life throws you curve balls, and when things are so good, you're so happy - you are just overflowing with love. My parents also taught us how to fight, which personally I think is a good thing. We're pretty open about our feelings and fighting was not something my folks did behind closed doors. Of course, when I say fighting it does include yelling and arguing but not meanness or anything. It was more of a lesson on communicating and working through an issue, whether it be a problem, or frustration or whatever. As a kid, it didn't make me feel insecure, it was just part of life - heck, I fought with them and my sisters and we still loved each other.
As a result, my own marriage is strong because we are not afraid to let our feelings be known, good or bad. When we are angry or frustrated, we let it out and then move on. My own family laughs at us about it. (One time when we were moving, he really made me mad, I stormed off to our old house to clean and my sister called the new phone number. He answered, said I was not there, he had pissed me off and I had gone to clean. We laughed about it then and we laugh about it now.) As a family, we've never repressed anger or frustration. You communicate it in a respectful manner, and get over it. Getting it out in the open actually takes the heat out of it. And come on, our almost 6 years together have not been so rosy. Immigrating, assimilation into American life, working, unemployment, money and financial stress, health issues, being apart - then together - now apart again. We have run the gauntlet folks. There have been bad times and good, but always laughter. And because of these hard times, I can honestly say we are closer and more in love than we have ever been.
My parents also taught me that hard times are merely passing phases, and to keep that in perspective while looking at the grand scheme of things. We don't take marriage lightly in our family - it is a commitment that you work on and work through. In my opinion, marriage has become trivialized today which is a sad thing. I think divorce is sometimes inevitable and better for all parties involved; marriage is not for everyone. It in itself does not validate someone's life. And don't even get me started on the whole "we must protect marriage...we value marriage in the USA..." blah blah blah political statements, which inevitably will be forthcoming in this next election. UGH - PUHLESE. But I digress.
I think I had a pretty realistic view of marriage going into mine (as realistic as it can be without experiencing it) and I owe it to my parents. I appreciate the lessons they taught me and the example they have been. 51 years - its a lifetime. There is no perfect marriage. You can learn from others mistakes and successes but ultimately, you find out what works for you. Who knows if S. or I will ever see that anniversary (or live that long), but it is an accomplishment worth striving for =)