Recently, I hosted a friendly Dallas couple celebrating their 33rd wedding anniversary for a tasting and lunch. They practiced marriage counseling together. I was intrigued.
Both late 50’s/early 60’s. She was petite with shoulder length, straight hair, dirty blonde. He was pleasantly plump, balding, clean shaven. Both passionate about music and their three daughters.
Since it was just the two of them, after I poured each round of wines, I pulled up a chair and sat at their table to make the experience less formal and encourage more casual conversation.
Of course we talked about the wine. He was more knowledgable voicing smells and flavors he was getting as well as swirling the wine on its side to observe the color.
It’s often the case that after a taste or two, people loosen up and the conversation moves to topics other than the wines. I congratulated them on 33 years of marriage, and remarked that I didn’t believe many people my age and younger would ever reach these milestone anniversaries.
He said when they married they committed to never, ever divorcing. That truly through thick and thin they would stay together. They shared that there had been some very thick times, but they worked through those together. I was in admiration. You just don’t see many examples of that level of commitment to a marriage these days.
They talked proudly about their daughters. Two were married and the last was to be next February. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe women, likely all in the mid- to late-twenties, maybe 30 max, would have already gotten married these days.
Then they told me they were both marriage counselors helping couples both engaged and married. They worked with them together.
“You wouldn’t hand a 16 year old the keys to a car and say, ‘Good luck!’ so why do we do that with marriage and expect it to magically work?”
Such a simple idea, but it really stopped me in my tracks.
I enthusiastically agreed with them, and shared that I had been in a 17 year relationship, but never got married. I saw my parents be unhappily married and stick it out for 23 years because of the kids. And since I didn’t want to have kids, I didn’t see the point in marriage.
I also shared that I didn’t want to be married because people didn’t treat the commitment with any respect. I just didn’t want to be a part of a group of people who said ’til death do us part and then got divorced at the drop of a hat. What’s the point of marriage then?
He said he observed his mother marry three times and was determined never to divorce. Outside of his work as a real estate developer of golf courses, clubs and housing, he studied marriage at theological school. Now that’s commitment!
I just can’t wrap my brain around where the disconnect is these days with the high rate of failed marriages. I’m sure I could look up the stats, but it seems to me that the reasons all boil down to sex, money or kids. Why aren’t we willing to work through these types of problems together?
I suppose that, even though I didn’t marry, I could ask myself the same question. I did throw in the towel after he cheated, but not because I was unwilling to try and make it work. And as much as I walk around sharing with friends and family my pride in leaving someone who treated me poorly, somewhere deep inside I still haven’t given up on our relationship. I just can’t find a starting place, a path, to get started, and I’m not sure he can either.