Today is my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. 50 YEARS! Yesterday my sister and I snuck into the lake-view hotel room where they are staying for the weekend and decorated it. We had so much fun dreaming up a few small touches to make it special for them. Look at them in this picture… in their early 20’s, the world ahead of them.
Now, my mom describes what it is like to move into a different season – some call this the autumn of life. She says her joy is expanding, not diminishing. I guess that’s what happens when friends die of illness, parents pass away, and the body slows down. Each day becomes a gift to be opened and savored in a way that youth can’t comprehend. Gratitude for the small grows and as a result, life deepens.
I’ve seen this very deepening affect my parent’s marriage. There is an acceptance and grace toward one another that comes from years spent practicing.
A few weeks ago when the entire family was together, all of the grandkids went around the table and told their grandparents what they see in their relationship that they appreciate. They also asked them questions about their life together. We knew it would be fun, but had no idea how meaningful it would be.
At the end, my Dad got up and shared about my mom. It was one of those moments that I will forever snapshot in my mind – my strong, steadfast father, toasting the woman he made a vow to 50 years ago, and loving her more than ever before.
There are three areas in my parent’s relationship that have contributed to making their love last. While there are many others present, these are three characteristics that stand out. They’ve become better at these through the years, and their relationship reveals choices made time after time that have led to where they are today.
1. They grow together – Whether it is in their faith in God, a new skill, or their exploration of new lands, they adventure and grow together. They’ve church planted, traveled to dig wells in El Salvador, sailed the Greek Isles, walked the streets of Israel, and moved into an urban condo. where they walk to dinner, Gonzaga basketball games, and the symphony.
2. They are intentional & love big – At over 70 years old, my parents still date each other. They truly enjoy being together and have fun. My parents make each other their priority. It’s not uncommon for one of them to show the other an extravagant demonstration of their affection.
Spending time with their family is also important to them. They create “moments,” repeatedly, and these create legacy. It’s the ripple effect of their strong marriage.
3. They accept one another – Many of us spend the first 7 years of marriage realizing we can’t change our spouse. At some point, my parents embraced their differences and started using them to sharpen and better each other. I see a deep appreciation between the two of them. And they are very different people. But over the years they’ve broken into a beautiful harmony, very different instruments, but complimenting the other and making better music than either one of them could alone.
Let us learn from those who’ve gone before us. The marriage trail blazers who have done it well, and who have stood the test of time. It’s a precious gift. Their wisdom is vast, and their example provides great hope.
Today I toast my parents, and to all of those who have been faithful companions in marriage over a long period of time. It is a git to the world, to our communities, and specifically, to my family.
What do you see as a key component to making love last?