On August 9 Barbara and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. In June we celebrated our eighth.
No, we're not living on 'dog years'. We were married twice - and divorced once. We celebrate both anniversaries equally.
Several feet of shelf space in your local bookstore are taken up with books on how to stay married, so there's little need to contribute another one. Instead I'll sum up my personal thoughts in a blog post - because it's really enough.
What does it take to stay married? One word - acceptance. Acceptance of the weird things your spouse does and says, acceptance of the fact that a significant portion of the time you will be in disagreement, acceptance of mistakes, and acceptance of the fact that you are no longer single.
We all have peculiarities, and most of us hide them pretty well during the dating process (though it was hard to explain away an airplane wing in the breakfast room, when Barb first came to my house). Courtship puts us on our best behavior, and it should - it's a special time, a romantic time, a time when emotions and hormones are running in tandem. It's fun.
But living together, that's when it can get strange. You REALLY put ketchup on your pancakes? Gosh, I never realized you drove like THAT! (I heard that one a lot.)
The thing is, most of the behavior we find odd is just something to which we're not accustomed. There's nothing inherently wrong with it - it's just different (well, except my driving). You either get used to it, or you make up your mind to accept it. And acceptance means NEVER commenting on it, NEVER making kight of it to your friends, and NEVER EVER using it as a 'stick' in an argument. It's a discipline
You also have to accept that you will fight, and it means nothing in the long term. You'll fight over bills, sex, television, and dinner. In a day or a week, the fight will be totally forgotten, buried under more layers of real life. It's easy, and masochistically tempting, to think that a single fight has 'changed the character' of the relationship. In very rare cases it does, but generally, it's just part of the natural friction of life. Smooth times end, and so do rough times.
Accept mistakes, and after they're talked out and buried, never exhume them. Never. People screw up, sometimes badly. Your spouse will disappoint you terribly, and you'll return the favor. Never keep the memory of a mistake alive.
And, finally, accept the fact that you're married. period. You have made a promise that gives you comradeship and companionship, and the loyalty all that implies. For that, you've given up the right to stay out until you feel like coming home, the right to watch whatever you want to watch on TV, and - most especially - you've put constraints on the way you deal with the opposite sex.
Billy Graham once said that a married person should not ride alone in a car with a person of the opposite sex, except their spouse. I used to think that was unspeakably harsh...but there is sense behind it. Not because men and women are violently and spontaneously polygamous, but because such a rule underlines the changed state of life, and the depth of the commitment we should have, that we owe our spouse.
I'll stop here. Four points are enough, and they're all I can usually remember. Do this, and your marriage will not be 'bulletproof', 'fireproof', or 'affairproof'.
It'll just last a long time. And you may just be happy.