Fifty-five years ago today, in a small church in Eugene, Oregon, my parents got married. I’m very thankful for that day – for several reasons! But mostly I’m thankful for the example that I have had for the 43 years of my life, of what a real marriage is.
Things I have learned from watching my parents over the years:
Marriage is about working together. Whether it was preparing, planting, watering, harvesting, and then canning and/or freezing the results, Mom and Dad were always sharing the gardening duties – and yes, occasionally delegating them, too. They committed to having a large garden and they did it as a team.
Marriage is about having a unified front. I definitely remember examples of this in their parenting – when I made the mistake of asking one for something that the other one had just refused – but I also witnessed this in supporting each other in things that really matter to them. If Dad felt strongly about something happening at church, for example, Mom would defend and stand firm with him, even if the issue wasn’t one she felt quite as strongly about. Which leads me to:
Marriage is about respect. My parents do not necessarily share all of the exact same views about politics, movies, food, etc., but they do share a respect for each other that excludes putting the other one down in public or in private, and respecting the fact that having differing opinions is not an open door for subtly putting the other person down. Even if you disagree, you do it with a loving attitude.
Marriage is about compromise and never about blame. If a decision is made – and if that decision proves over time to be the wrong decision – the right response is not to blame, call names, or accuse. If you love and respect the person who made the decision, you need to love and respect them even after the failure.
Marriage is about surprise! My parents faced many surprises in my dad’s job over the years. They moved many times to different states, different countries, and different jobs, and they always did it with a sense of adventure, knowing that what mattered was being together and supporting each other – even if the need to move came as a surprise and was not a part of their original plan.
Marriage is about support, through thick and thin. Whether it was stress as a result in a change in job or city or health, my parents have always been there for each other, no matter what. When they had to be apart – like during the Vietnam War – they knew that the decisions made while apart would be supported by their spouse when eventually they were back under the same roof. Now, as my mom especially faces some health issues, Dad has taken on many more kitchen duties than ever before. He doesn’t do it grumpily or because he has to, he does it because he loves Mom and he wants to be a help to her.
Marriage is about trust. My father was an airline pilot and is also a retired United States Air Force full bird colonel, and as such, he was gone from home a lot, sometimes for weeks at a time. And my mom trusted him implicitly. She knew that his commitment was to God and to herself and his family, and she did not lose sleep over worrying about his behavior while he was away. Dad loves Mom…and he wasn’t going to compromise that love by acting like a jerk.
Fifty-five years ago today my parents got married. And seventeen years ago today Colin and I got married. We couldn’t think of a better day to have as our anniversary.