As of this weekend, Carole and I have been married for 50 years. Some have asked, “what are your secrets?” with the question mostly addressed to Carole, as in, “how did you live with him for so long?” I have been hard to live with I know, but Carole says she would do it again. (We didn’t discuss whether marrying George Clooney with an endless supply of Nespresso was an option.) Anyway, here is my answer to the “what are your secrets question”.
Having an enduring marriage is a good thing but not particularly virtuous. It doesn’t really take faith, hope, or love to outlast others or the expectations of others. Some didn’t think we would make it and, at times I agreed, worrying that I could not be for Carole what she hoped for and needed. But Carole was different. She knew we were good together. She always believed in us and in me.
To have a good marriage, a marriage “to be proud of” is more than endurance and more than counting years. Good fortune is one of many of those intangibles that helped us. It was my good fortune to meet her in high school where she was the secretary of the “future teacher’s club” and I was the president. She never came to one of my basketball games as her church frowned on men sweating in short pants. But we met young and we married young. That was good.
Over our 50 years, we have shared and talked a lot, as well as reading, worrying, studying, and loving God and people. But those vaulted virtues do not minimize our hunger to touch and hold and kiss each other. I read somewhere that good kissing is one of the best predictors of marital success. We continue to be good at that. Researchers say that shared saliva has a biological bling to sustain marriage when life is difficult. Amen.
We have been partners in so many things from church work, people in our home, conferencing, counselling, and most importantly, child-loving. My we love our two kids. It hurts to love this deeply. Parenting is so fraught with hope and love and pain. It seems to me that marriage carves out the capacity to be head-over-heals in love with kids. And now we have grandchildren and we share all their excitement and fear about their lives. It is as deep a pain as love gets.
Carole and I have crafted a common story where prayer and worship and wonder are integral. In the last several years we have become less churchly and more curious. But we are no less desiring of God and responsive to “them”. Our faith journey is less either-or and more hospitable. We like strangers. Me especially.
We enjoy our shared affections. Red wine, “The Chair” on Netflix, travelling to places like Uganda, Uzbekistan, and China to give back what has so generously been given to us.
Giving back is a shared value. We used to call it tithing but now we think of it as just giving back. Giving is the best gift one can receive. Rather than buying each other another gift for this anniversary we have decided to give to the Children’s Hospital for all they have given to our family over the years.
One more thing that is important to us and what has inspired our marriage: friends. You. And you. And you. Yes, you. You are our family, the people we love. And we are sustained by you. You continue to be faith, hope, and love to us.
Here is a great meditation on marriage. Mediate away!
Paddy and Carole
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