FALLING IN LOVE 14,975 TIMES
"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, and always with the same person."
On Friday, Marcie and I will be married - happily, peacefully, blissfully - for 41 years. So how did it happen that two very different and imperfect people could live in love and harmony for 14,975 days?
"Happen" is probably the wrong word, because it was not happenstance. As Paul H. Dunn once said, "When you see someone standing on a mountain top, it's quite likely they didn't fall there." Besides choosing wisely and prayerfully in the first place, we consciously applied a few bedrock principles in our marriage that have fostered a sweet and tender atmosphere all these years. I'm not sure if these would work as well in other people's marriages, but they have worked for us.
First, we were "all in" from day one. We chose, at no small sacrifice, to be married not just "as long as you both shall live," but for this life and for all eternity. We saw our marriage as sacred and forever. That meant no going back, no bailing out, no hanging it up if things were harder than expected. In our hearts and minds, there was no running home to mama, no "try it and see if you like it," no swapping partners if this doesn't work out. We determined up front that we were eternally committed to each other and our marriage, and we would treat it and each other accordingly.
Next, I recognized early in our marriage that my own happiness is inextricably bound to Marcie's happiness. In a paradoxical blend of selflessness and selfishness, the more I seek to assure Marcie's happiness, the more happiness I find for myself. But it must be done in that order. Deep and abiding happiness does not result from pursuing your own happiness directly. Instead, it is a natural byproduct of seeking the well-being of those you love. Happiness is like a butterfly. The harder you chase it, the more it eludes you; but when you decide to promote your spouse's happiness first, it comes to you of its own accord. Once I understood this principle, it was not hard to live "happily ever after."
Finally, we have disagreed agreeably. When differences of opinion arise - and they will - there is a right way and a wrong way to handle them. There is no place in marriage for disrespect, sarcasm, anger, arrogance, bullying, belittlement, pettiness, rancor, rolled eyes, cold shoulders, or the silent treatment. Hello?!?! This is your lover and your best friend! Disagreements call for patient listening, genuine and generous attention, an earnest desire to understand the other's point of view, and a healthy dose of flexibility. With these and a commitment to seek win/win outcomes, we have successfully navigated our differences.
So here's to you, Marcie, for 14,975 wonderful, amazing days and nights, and a million, zillion more!