Today, Friday, Feb. 17 marks the 38th anniversary of my wedding to a woman 13 years my senior. I’ve often said I would be a rich man if I had a dollar for everyone who said it would never last.
For one, there was the age difference. Today, no one thinks a thing about an older woman with a younger man. There was even a TV show about it called Cougar Town, which wrapped up its six-season run in 2015. But in 1979, we were flat-out weird.
In addition, the naysayers had good reason to doubt our ability to make it. We have often said that had we not made the decision to follow Christ three years into our marriage, one of us might have killed the other.
Hot-headed, stubborn, self-centered people are known to do that, as evidenced by the domestic disturbances that represent the #1 danger to police forces nationwide.
Look Before You Leap
The thing that I always caution would-be marital partners who can’t wait to rush to the altar is: Wait!
It’s my gut-level instinct, and informal observation, that one reason for our nation’s catastrophic divorce rate is far too many people walk into this serious situation having no idea what their partner is really like.
Put in simple terms, they marry a romantic image and when they discover it to be an utter fantasy, they get disillusioned and quit.
We know what that feels like. I remember discovering that this woman I thought was the most good-natured person around turned out to be a bit different. Nor was I the wise, brilliant person she mistook me for.
I blame Hollywood for some of this situation. Conflict and marital differences—be they class, economic, or social—may make for good romantic comedies, but in life they are no laughing matter.
That handsome, debonair, romantic guy who swept you off your feet may turn out to be a classic dud in the romance department and not remember special days (as evidenced by one grandson, who got married last summer on a Monday night so he could be sure to always remember the date: the same one they met on.) That laughing, witty, charming woman may not look and act like a movie star sans make-up and date-night perfection.
The Hard Part
One of my favorite remarks about marriage, which usually prompts laughter, is: “The first 20 years are the hardest.”
Despite the chuckles, I’m serious. Once we passed the 20-year mark, I learned there were reasons for all the pain, all the adjustments, and all the irritations that come with marriage.
Namely, you learn to let go of the minutiae that regularly causes conflict. In my case, I got tired of fighting so often. Life’s too short.
I don’t know if it will help any young would-be marital candidates to persevere, but my recommendation is to set a goal when you start. Come hell or high water, vow to make it, to last 20, 30, and then 40 years.
If you will stick it out, there will be rewards. A shared history, memories good and bad, and increasing appreciation for each other can only be achieved with age. It won’t be easy; if it were, fewer couples would be dissolving the knot. But the effort will be worth it.