Reflecting on almost a half century of matrimony I considered how it came to be—grace, luck, sacrifice – all of the above and more. When you consider the odds of holding it together for the long haul, you might get better odds at Choctaw. Years ago when Oprah heard the divorce rate was fifty percent, her question was, “What shape is the other half in?”
Like most of you it’s hard to grasp the idea that you’ve actually been together that long. It seems almost yesterday that we started out on this journey. It doesn’t seem like something you can measure in terms of years or any other unit of time. What it does seem like is a jig saw puzzle with a million little pieces. You begin the majority of your adult life putting this piece here and that one there. Sometimes it fits, so you leave it in place; other pieces look like they might fit, but they don’t.
Think of a good marriage as a shoe store. You sit down trying on different pairs. Some styles look good but end up not feeling good or practical. Others feel better, and you have to finally pick a pair. Early in the marriage each of you gives your input on an issue. As time goes on there’s less need to spend as much time on issues because you come to know what will or will not work or be acceptable to your partner. Occasionally you’ll still have a thorny issue that takes some compromise. Some things are worth fighting over; others are not.
Those early years with little kids, little sleep, little margin for error, those were like a haze or sometimes a blizzard as we struggled to hold it together. Little by little the puzzle pieces kept falling into place. After a few decades you come to be able to quickly assess what fits and what doesn’t. As you’re heading into the golden years the engine is running pretty smoothly, each partner understanding and fulfilling the roles they’ve helped determine for each other.
There is no magical formula for every couple. I remember the song “It Works” when the lyrics mention that the husband rattles his glass, and the wife knows to refill it. That sounds chauvinistic until you learn the things the husband did to earn that privilege. A friend freshly divorced saw my wife bring me a glass of tea. He commented what a special thing to have to have a wife willing to do that voluntarily. I briefly mentioned several things I do to help earn that benefit. A good marriage is made up of a million little pieces that in the end help produce a picture of two souls blending into one, each one more clearly defined than before.
By Dr. Juan Harrison