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Saturday Bike Rides with Bob: Wedding Anniversaries

Posted by Joe Antle on August 29, 2021 12:30 PM EDT
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Yesterday, Bob turned the tables on me again, with him being the person asking the important, but not always easy to...

...answer question.

Our bike ride began with me asking Bob how his week had gone, and he mentioned there were some health-related issues amongst some folks that are close to him and his wife.  However, he said they were things that would be upcoming in the next few weeks, so they might be something we would want to talk about on a future bike ride.  Taking the hint, I backed away from probing the issues further.

Then, I happened to mention to Bob that my wife and I had celebrated a very important milestone in our lives together.  The milestone was the celebration of our wedding anniversary and that it meant we had been together as a couple, including our two years of dating, more than 75% of our lives.  Looking at one's most important relationship with another person in that perspective seemed significant to me...and to Bob too.

For upon hearing that, and sharing his heartfelt congratulations for such a milestone he smoothly transitioned to the most obvious of questions.  Before asking that question, however, Bob made the point that marriage relationships are among the most important of social wellbeing as one nears retirement and beyond.  And for this reason, it is an achievement worth understanding and learning from.  Bob shared a statistic that a tremendous percentage of baby boomers never make it to their retirement years with the person that they first married.  So, building a life together that can be sustained for the long-term and become a source of great happiness as people near retirement and beyond is worth celebrating and learning from.

So, the obvious question Bob asked was this one:  "What are the four or five things that are fundamental to my wife's and my experience that are things that can help others along life's path?"

So, after considering Bob's question, and acknowledging that I am neither a marriage counselor, family matters lawyer, or researcher on the keys to marital success, I told Bob that my answer would be one that is spoken from the heart.  He chuckled at that remark, saying what better way to share an insight about important relationship matters than speaking about matters of the heart than from speaking from the heart.  (Pun clearly intended...).

After giving some context to my remarks, and with the appropriate list of disclaimers, I began my answer.  I told Bob that I had thought about this off and on for most of my married life and the years of courtship that preceded it.  So, while never having been asked to share these thoughts before, I'd had the advantage of contemplating them over a long period of time.

While my personal list of key elements for a long-term marriage is mine alone, it is not in any certain order of priority.  And it's not in any sequence either.  Here it is:

1. Understand that being happily married for a long time is a lot of work and it begins and ends with an earnest commitment...often symbolized by words spoken at most weddings...."to have and to hold in good times, and bad, sickness and good health, until...."  Commitment is the foundation upon which all long-term marriages must be built.

2.  Great marriages are based on true love.  Not infatuation or physical attraction, but a depth of emotion that says everything in one's life will be dependent on this person's wellbeing, and putting that person first above all else that will come along the way of one's life is "Job 1".  Caring and concern for a spouse's perspective and needs is the fuel that propels marriage sustainability.

3.  A long-term marriage will take couples through many phases and will have many dimensions and pressures that for most people is not even imaginable in the early years.  And having much in common, or at least much that can be shared to keep things interesting throughout the many things that will come along life's path-having a spouse who is one's best friend and someone you want to spend time with-during good times and bad-and unfaltering trust is the essence of life-sharing "at scale".

4. Finally, setting goals and sharing dreams together.  Working towards something better in the future that would not be possible alone.  And celebrating the important milestones, and learning from and overcoming together the hurdles that get in the way...never blaming, but always being willing to count one's blessings and recognize the many steps together that are required to make life's journey together one that will stand the test of time....and together facing and taking on the challenges, without blame but with the unwavering confidence in one another.  Accept the acronym that "TEAM= Together Each Achieves More".

At this point, we had arrived at our destination.  Bob, in his always complimentary tone, said that he thought the four pillars of a strong long-term marriage could apply to any sort of relationship and that such strong long-term relationships are perhaps the most important element of wellbeing.  He then lifted his bottle of water and offered a hearty toast, saying (and I paraphrase)..." may the richness of this committed marriage relationship continue onward until it becomes at least 80% of the lives of the two celebrants"!  And to that, I too raised my bottle of water.

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