This may be old news since it happened two weeks ago, but I don’t think celebrating our former president’s 75th anniversary will ever get stale. In an era when broken homes are as common as broken dishes, it is worth cheering Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter’s enduring match—especially after the recent spate of headlines over Bill and Melinda Gates calling it quits.
As this story related, the Carters started dating in 1945 when the former president needed a date while home from the U.S. Naval Academy. His younger sister set him up with a family friend; it turns out he already had a crush on her.
The following year they married. Three decades later they were on their way to the White House.
Since departing after one term, they have remained in the public eye thanks to their charitable works, most notably Habitat for Humanity.
How you feel about Carter’s politics is irrelevant here. Thanks to their record of lifelong faithfulness, many younger couples today could give up thoughts of splitting up when the inevitable disputes and disagreements of marriage arise.
That’s why the Carters’ long marriage is worthy of praise. It says that de
spite long-standing marriages like the Gateses dissolving after 27 years, or Al and Tipper Gore giving up after 40 years, or others after decades together, things can work out. Things can get better.
One of my favorite sayings about marriage is, “The first 20 years are the hardest.”
That usually prompts chuckles, but I follow up, “I’m serious. If you get through all the pain, adjustments, and spats during the first 20 years, it will get better.”
Rewards of Longevity
There are so many rewards that come with a record of longevity. For starters, there is nothing better than having a history. The numerous memories (good or bad), shared experiences, favorite songs or movies, favorite vacation spot, and the children and grandchildren who are coming behind you are what enrich life.
While several years have passed, I especially remember the family reunion at Old Man’s Cave, a popular tourist spot in the Hocking Hills area an hour south of Columbus, Ohio.
There was a big college football game that Saturday, but no one tuned in or checked their phones for the score. We were too busy chatting, laughing, playing card games, or just relaxing. Everyone there had known everyone else for a long time, and familiarity bred contentment.
When I told my men’s small group about it the following week, I said I considered those kind of events as one of the benefits of a long-lasting marriage.
Marrying an Image
While one hates to generalize about any situation, it’s my informal observation that far too many people marry an image, influenced mightily as our culture is by romantic comedies and other on-screen myths.
Then, when reality can’t match that fiction, folks sour on the relationship. That’s a shame, because as I have discovered, it is worth working out the kinks. Worth forging an understanding and appreciation for differences, understandings, and approaches to life.
Every so often I hear an elderly person talk about how they never have had a cross word with their spouse. Having had many cross words with mine, I always find that a bit hard to believe. After all, we are all human.
I think it is far better to admit reality and teach younger people that marital bliss is a figment of screenwriters’ imagination. Life on this earth, including marriage, is not a bed of roses. But as the Carter’s show, when marriage lasts, it is a rewarding experience.