“We are celebrating 50 years of marriage, can you believe it,” Jan said to me in the church kitchen as we counted Nilla Wafers for 250 children attending vacation bible school.
“Fifty years, she’s put up with me or I’ve put up with her,” Tom winked at us and laughed as he filled the water cups for the kids.
I’ve been volunteering with Jan and Tom every summer for the past eight years, so I felt comfortable asking for some advice. “How in the world did you guys do it?,” I asked. “I mean 50 years! That’s some kind of amazing.”
“Well, it takes a lot of patience,” Jan said shooting me a smile that said “you know what I mean because sometimes husbands geez right?” She added, “We enjoy being together, that’s something. And boy, it just went so fast.” Jan looked down and smiled wistfully.
Tim and I have been married 14 years. Which I thought was a super long time until I talked to Jan and Tom. Just like Jan said, it’s gone by so fast.
We met in our early 20s, fell head over heels in love, got married, bought a house, got a dog and started having babies. In our 30s we had financial setbacks, got promotions, had to quit jobs, short-sold a home, became renters, suffered miscarriages, had to put our sick dog to sleep, potty-trained four kids, got a new dog and started freaking out about having pre-teens.
Now we are entering into a new phase full of scary, hormonal pre-teens that will become teenagers that drive and have their own minds and get in trouble and need money for college and who knows what else. There will be different jobs, maybe a new home and there will be more joy and loss and maybe a vacation every now and then.
Sometimes it can be overwhelming to think about all the responsibilities that we have–to our four children and to each other. It can also be stressful and exhausting and the cause of a lot of fights. Yes, even thought we are still in love, we do fight. We say ridiculous things to each other. We even go to bed still mad at each other some nights. I have never believed in that whole “don’t go to bed mad” idea. We have gotten into more fights at bedtime because we are tired and the only resolution needed is sleep. Usually the next morning, we feel better and realize we weren’t really all that mad anyway.
Fourteen years into this whole marriage thing, we can sort of see the big picture. We get mad, we make up. We get tired, we sleep. We make mistakes, we forgive. Through it all we love each other and this messy, wonderful, overwhelming family of ours.
If some young overtired mother in the early years of her marriage asked me how I’ve managed to stay married for so many years I’d tell her this:
Don’t forget the love. I’m not talking date nights, even though those are important too. I just know that sometimes the whole reason you are together can get lost in the busy-ness and exhaustion of life, especially parenting. The reason you are together is you fell in love. Marriage is a love story. It’s about loving each other through the good and the bad, growing with each other through the different phases of life and being patient with each other through all of it.
Don’t forget to laugh. We laugh a lot. We laugh about the silly things we said to each during our “we are so tired from life” fights. We laugh about how young and certain we were in our 20s. We laugh about things our kids say. Laughing is always a good idea and having someone who gets the joke makes it even better.
Here’s to Jan and Tom, Tim and me, and all of you exhausted married people out there. Here’s to 50 and to 14. Here’s to love and laughter and marriage.