I know the secret to a happy marriage because I am the product of one. It’s as simple as being the best of friends. This weekend, I will join my friends and family as we celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my parents, the two people I admire most who have built a family, independent careers and a life all their own because no matter what life threw at them, they’ve remained best friends.
I grew up in a household where I knew above all else, my parents were very much in love. It was subtle, but it was obvious. I knew they were crazy about each other, but not in a way that made me want to throw up; it was in the way they took care of each other. Little things like how they made concessions for one another in major decisions, or how they gave one another advice or listened to each other. Small gestures, like holding hands when we went for walks, the way they moved around the kitchen, and even more so, the way they moved around a dance floor. It was kind and gentle, but always affectionate; it still is.
I never doubted that my parents had something special together that went far beyond even what they felt for my brother and I. Oh sure, they loved their children, we knew that (even when we were teenagers and insisted they didn’t like us and were ruining our lives), but there was always a sense that my parents had a life before us and they would continue to have that relationship long after we were gone. And so they have.
It wasn’t always easy and the odds were not always in their favour. When two people get married, it’s a merger of people who likely wouldn’t be friends otherwise, being forced into Christmas dinners every year. Watching my parents navigate the tricky waters of in-laws, outlaws and the drama of every major holiday, plus deal with the challenges of aging parents and subsequent losses, taught me a lot about kindness, respect and ultimately, making hard choices.
My parents have always put their commitment to each other and to the family that they created ahead of the demands and family issues that ensued, proving that when you have a strong foundation, nothing knocks you down.
One of the fundamental facts I know about my parents is that they never tried to change the other. Respect has always been vital to their relationship. Even in carefree times, they didn’t disrespect one another. Married young, they grew up together and, instead of trying to change one another, they morphed into this couple that rounded out each other’s edges without losing their identities.
Marriage is a balancing act. Careers, major life decisions, children, bills, needs versus wants; all of it requires a sense of teamwork. My parents taught me in marriage, as in life, you work for what you want and you earn what you get. Make time for each other and live a little. Invest in what you have at heart. That’s everything.
When the Carpenter and I celebrate our milestone anniversary, I suspect he will be completely able to ignore the sound of my voice and I will still be right about everything. My parents taught me that too. And we will still hold hands. Best friends.