"And because he loved her, it wouldn't matter that she wasn't twenty-two or thirty or forty anymore. In his eyes she was truly the most beautiful woman in the world. That thought brought tears to his eyes. A sucker for love indeed." Kristan Higgins
We were both 23 when we met, fell in love, and got married. Now Marcie is turning 70 and I’ll follow suit exactly six months later.
Last August 19 marked 46 years of being married. My love for my sweetheart has never waned; it is far deeper today than the first time I laid eyes on her as she was teaching Sunday School. In that moment, I was immediately and eternally smitten.
Together we have birthed, raised, and sent into the world six marvelous and talented children. We have lived in six different states, traveled to several different countries, and shared many delightful experiences. I have had consistent and heart-felt joy during this journey, largely because of my partner and traveling companion, Marcie.
Five years ago, I wrote a Wednesday Wisdom article that remains my favorite. The title was Falling in Love 14,975 Times. I think it bears repeating here as we look forward into our 70s and 80s to the next stage of our sojourn. Here is what I wrote then:
“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, and always with the same person.” Mignon McLaughlin
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 that 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.
Here’s to you, Marcie, for 14,975 wonderful, amazing days and nights, and a million, zillion more!
* * * * *
By the time she celebrates her 70th birthday on November 14, 2021, the tally on our time together will be 16,889 days and nights. I will love her even more then than I do now, and the same will be true with each passing day, week, month, and year. As Nenia Campbell wrote, “I don’t know how many nights remain to us, but I know I want to spend them all with you.”
In contemplating this subject, I ran across two additional quotes that I fully agree with. Michael Bassey Johnson said, “Sticking to one person for a lifetime is not a waste of time or lack of better ones, it means you've found your place of eternity.” This is so true! She — or better said, we, together, side by side — is MY place of eternity.
The other quote is from Nehali Lalwant: “They say that nothing lasts forever, but I am a firm believer in the fact that for some, love lives on even after we’re gone.” I am a firm believer that loving marriages and families can be forever. Our eternal love is based on sacred covenants made in the House of the Lord. Through the unparalleled suffering and resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we will live forever, and through His matchless power and grace, so will our marriage and our family.
Building and nourishing our relationship is without a doubt the most valuable and delightful thing I have ever done. It is the success of which I am most proud. And it will ever remain so, always and forever. Marcie, “the only magic I ever really made was the love I had with you.” Eden Butler