By Tom Quiner
Today is my 35th wedding anniversary with the love of my life, Karen.
Ours has been a very happy and blessed marriage. It hasn’t always been perfect. We’ve had disagreements. We’ve had fights, all of them resolvable sooner rather than later.
We had occasions when we’ve had to “agree to disagree.” Again, those incidents have been few and far between.
Why has our marriage worked? I have a few thoughts with this caveat: each marriage is different. I know people with great marriages who relate to each other in a very different way than Karen and I do.
So here are my thoughts on the “art of marriage.”
Good families. It helps to have parents model a good marriage. Mine did. It was the luck of the draw. My Dad loved my Mom and expressed it and showed it for us to kids to witness, as did my Mom.
I emphasize my Dad’s role in their marriage, because many men have trouble expressing and showing their love. My Dad had no problem with it. His example served me well.
Karen also came from a loving family with parents committed to each other.
Shared values. We embraced the same essential values of life, which broadly include God, family, and mutual respect.
Our religious backgrounds were different when we met. She was Catholic. I was Protestant. But differences were de-emphasized and common beliefs embraced.
Respect. Before and after we were married, we respected the dignity of each person, which nurtured trust. Trust is an aphrodisiac in a marriage. Even more, Karen knew when not to push me. She respects my space and knows what makes me tick. For example, she never pressured me to join the Catholic Church. I came into the Church four years after we were married because I wanted to.
Shared Prayer. We prayed together early in our relationship and have kept it up for 35 years. We have put God at the center of our relationship and our family life. We have a shared goal: I want my wife to go to heaven, and she wants the same for me. We want our kids to go to heaven. Our life is driven by that desire, fueled by prayer, community, and regular Church attendance.
Teachability. I was teachable. Let me tell you, I needed it. My Mom did a great job of preparing me for marriage. Karen took it the rest of the way. I think men, broadly speaking, are more selfish than women. The ability to learn to become more of a giver and less a taker takes time and patience. I am a better person because of my wife. Frankly, I still have a ways to go, but I am teachable.
Two become one. We took this biblical injunction of marriage seriously. It not only manifested itself in the children our marriage produced, but in embracing an identity as a couple, as a unit so, to speak. That’s not to say we don’t have individuality, that we don’t have our own friends and interests. We do. But ‘us’ supercedes ‘me.’
Choice. Is love a feeling or is love a choice? It is both, of course. Mature love grows beyond eros and blossoms into agape’, a sacrificial love. We’ve had a pretty easy journey, but every stumbling block has presented us with a choice, and the choice in love is ‘yes.’ I watched my Dad make that choice as my Mom was dying. He lived to make her final journey as wonderful as life would permit.
Fun. We have fun together. We like each other. We laugh together. We are each other’s best friend. God may have simply graced us with exceptional compatibility. Or maybe we have fun because of everything above. Maybe both. All I can tell you, it works.
Perhaps my marriage works so well simply because God led me to an extraordinary woman who brings out the best in me. Let’s face it, I married way over my head.
If God were to turn back the clock 35 years and give me a chance to rethink my decision, I’d say it again: “I do, let the celebration begin!”