A friend sent me this picture and it reminded me of something: 41 years is a long time to be married.
Anyone’s who’s been married will testify to this. (On some days, a day is a long time to be married.)
Being married to someone for 41 years means making tremendous sacrifices, sometimes giving more than you think you’re getting, forgiving things you didn’t think you could forgive, living through the worse parts of “for better or worse”. It means not bailing, running, or looking to trade-up when things get messy or boring or painful.
It means occasionally surviving Hell together—even if you helped create that Hell together.
Marriage sometimes means staying when going seems like the rational, healthy, or even wise decision. Sometimes people leave before they should or stay when they should walk away, but even for those two people, knowing the when is almost impossible.
I haven’t been married 41 years, but long ago I learned that anyone else’s marriage isn’t my jurisdiction. It is not within my capacity to properly critique. It is not something I’m qualified to speak to with any accuracy or clarity. We all think we can see another’s marriage clearly from the outside, but we simply can’t. Only two people are within it, and they are the only ones who really understand it. In love, this proximity is everything.
My wife and I have a million moments and tears and scars that no one else on the planet has access to, and it is our specific sharing of those things that makes our marriage sacred. As much as we are spouses and best friends, we are fellow soldiers who have fought together in the trenches of loving and changing and failing and forgiving and repeating. No one has been with us, in the way that we have been with one another—and this is where the sanctity of our marriage is.
Being married is really, really difficult stuff; like Master’s Degree living stuff. Staying married to one person for life isn’t easy, or every couple who began would still be married. (That “till death do us part” thing is not for the faint of heart.) Couples who manage to persevere aren’t better, but they are different. They have battled to survive—and they have somehow survived; wounded, weary, and wrinkled, but they have. There is no single secret to this. There is only the stumbling, awkward, glorious working out of a partnership that has never existed before, by two people trying to hold on to it and to one another in real-time.
So I’ve learned to respect any marriage that endures, because I know it came at a great price, and because I realize that only those two people and no one else, understand what they have together, how hard they’ve had to work, what they’ve shared, and what they mean to one another.
You and I don’t know the people in this photograph, not as much as we might believe we do. Like all marriages theirs is the unique, once-in-history property of the two people who began it, who shared it, who built it, who sustained it.
41 years is a long time to be married.
May we who choose marriage, all find a way to love with perseverance.