After writing about the changes in the attitudes of the youth of today (youth being roughly defined as anyone younger than the reader of this post), I felt that I really wanted to expand on that topic a little bit.
In a sense, the beginning of a “new” family comes at the marriage of a man and a woman. While that “new” family is really a continuation of previous generations within the overall family, each tends to have its own influences on the dynamics of the evolving of a family unit.
Much of what I am going to write today is strictly my opinions and observations. Should I think of a story or set of statistics somewhere that are appropriate, I may include them. Also, keep in mind that my opinions and my interpretations of my observations are based on my religious beliefs, founded within the church of Christ and handed down from the Bible and my ancestors.
While I think the beginnings of the “Lax Marriage Attitude” began before I married, I was not one to adhere to that belief. That “Lax Marriage Attitude” is the one where one or both parties of the marriage have the attitude that if the marriage doesn’t work out, they will just get a divorce and try again with someone else. Sadly, that attitude was readily accepted within some of the “older generation” at the time of my youth, but I am pretty sure they weren’t taught that by their parents. I’m pretty sure selfishness reared its ugly head and ruined marriages.
Prior to marriage, I had learned from Bible and my parents that a marriage was a sacred bond between a man and a woman. That bond was not to be taken lightly. My early teachings were that if one married it was to be for the life of one or both of those in the marriage. If a divorce was absolutely necessary (say because of abuse), then the couple were expected to remain unmarried until their previous spouse passed away.
Yeah, I can imagine shaking heads even now at the thought of my words. Hey…I said it was my opinion and beliefs. Anyway, with that in mind, when it came time that I was really interested in a girl, it was Jo. So, I gave it a LOT of thought of whether I wanted to marry this young lady or not. Eventually, I asked her and she accepted. We were married on Christmas Day in 1968 in my home town. (Yeah, guys. Getting married on Christmas Day means one only has to buy ONE gift and two cards....)
Over time though, I’ve my thinking has evolved. In fact, less than two months ago, a thought came to me in a conversation with a young lady who was contemplating marriage. We were at a Verizon store doing something with one of our phones and in the conversation, it came up that Jo and I had been married for over 42 years. I was really surprised in the reaction that I got from all those 20-somethings working in the store.
After congratulating us on our lengthy marriage, the young lady asked me, “What was the secret of a long marriage?” My answer came readily to mind and leads to the following observations and beliefs.
1. Early Commitment: This was the point that came to me in the conversation with the Verizon lady. I told her, and the others listening, that my belief was that before one even asked another to marry them, they should ALREADY have an absolute commitment philosophy in keeping the vows of that marriage.
2. Absolute Commitment: This is not just a hasty agreement to marry, but one where BOTH participants have the belief that theirs is NOT a 50/50 marriage. It is a 100/100 marriage in that both need to be prepared to give 100%.
3. Be Like a Reed: Selfishness will stiffen the resolve of an individual, leading them to believe that they deserve or need some thing or some act on the part of the other that is strictly for the benefit of the selfish individual. In a good marriage, each person needs to be like a reed in that they can “sway with the prevailing winds” but still keep their foundations strong.
4. Hey!!! There Are No PERFECT Marriages: That is why I mentioned “good marriage” in point number three. Whether you are a religious person or not, we are all a work in progress. (I’m 65 years old and I’m still progressing.) It is the nature of mankind to be a flawed individual, so don’t look for nor expect perfection from your partner. Like in me, it ain’t there.
5. Be prepared to go to God: The Bible speaks of a man “cleaving” to his wife and they become one. Marriage vows refer to being married until “death us do part.” If one has a religious faith, that will be a strengthening power within that marriage and it gives one an outlet when struggling. In my case, when I go to pray, there are no set words that I speak or think. My prayers evolve as I pray and there have been times that a revelation came to me that led me to realize that I HAD A PROBLEM and it wasn’t Jo!
6. Choose your friends carefully: While I’ve not experienced this problem, I have heard of it. One’s friends can lead them astray and rush them headlong into destroying their marriage. It may come in the form of advice like having a secret bank account, seeking the counsel of a divorce attorney, or other supposedly “helpful” ideas, that can lead one to forget one’s true friend. That true friend should be one’s spouse. Do you know that I’ve NEVER had a truer friend than my wife? After all, she’s been by my side for over 42 years! She’s not just been acquainted for that long….she’s BEEN THERE!
7. Relish Your Time Together: If one’s love for their spouse is a true love, one will want to spend as much time as possible with them. Not only does this let couples get to know each other better, it helps build that relationship that one can be firm in the knowledge that one’s spouse will want both to be together. Time can be short and one’s spouse can pass away at any time. Relish your time and your memories, even while both are still alive, will prove to be a tasty dish.
8. Let It Always Be “Ours”: While Jo and I have had separate checking accounts, they aren’t really separate. Both are “ours.” We both work but both incomes are “ours.” We seldom have ever had separate vacations; they have been “ours.”
9. Don’t Make Demands: I am not a demonstrative person. I am not one wanting to hold hands, kiss relatives (including my wife), or do other things of endearment. One time, my oldest son made a comment about my lack of being demonstrative in a negative way. I simply asked him if he had any evidence otherwise that indicated that I didn’t love Jo. He didn’t have an answer. But, I have seen marriages in trouble because one made demands that seemed excessive by the other. That leads to the last comment.
10. Work Things Out: If one’s marriage is in trouble, try to find a way to work things out before taking the drastic step of destroying a marriage. A destroyed marriage can also lead to destroying the lives of the children of the marriage. Use every means possible to keep the family intact. Believe it or not, a movie can help. Whether you marriage is struggling or not, look for a movie called “Fireproof.” It has a powerful message.
Always keep in mind that one’s marriage has an immediate and lasting effect on the children of the family and their future relationships. If one shows selfishness, and especially if one expresses selfishness, it will literally lead to one’s children trying to mimic their parent. We are their best, and worst, examples.