Yesterday was Long-Suffering Wife’s (LSW’s) and my wedding anniversary. We have been married for 35 years. Now that is long-suffering! Nah, I’m kidding; neither of us would have put up with a marriage of suffering for very long. It has been a very successful union and the fact we are still united is a testament to that.
Of course, there have been some downs as well as ups. Most of the downs related to the stresses of my professional work life or the strains of parenting three young boys. The 1990’s, when those two stress generators came to a peak together, were certainly challenging.
Overlaying all that peak stress with a move of the family from London to Gloucestershire in 1998 wasn’t easy but, with hindsight, was probably a critical success factor for the longevity of our marriage. I continued to work in London and commuted weekly from the new family home. That meant my work stress could be isolated from the family to a degree and maybe it’s true that (my weekly) ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’.
As the boys have grown into adults so there have been times when we have been reminded of another old adage: ‘small children, small problems; big children, big problems’. LSW’s emotional intelligence and parenting training and skills have been to the fore as we negotiated those challenging times together. But as my professional life has wound down and then I retired, so I have been able to contribute to family life a bit more equally and become more relaxed. We are still happy with our lot and each other.
LSW and I dined out at Calcot Hotel restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. A meal out in a restaurant felt like a bigger deal than usual – not only because it was our anniversary – but because it was the first time we had eaten in a restaurant since we went to Bath just before the Coronavirus lockdown, well over four months ago. It was a very pleasant meal and break from routine. The restaurant had made social distancing arrangements and we felt safe. The evening was a welcome change from testing out home cooking recipes from our shelves of recipe books and piles of newspaper cuttings.
Over dinner, as has been the case at such events for over 30 of those married years, we talked about our sons; how alike they are, how different they are, our hopes for them and how they are being realised. We also talked about our respective families; how different our family traits are and how different our respective siblings are. We also talked a bit – as we had on a recent local walk together – about how we have managed 35 years of marriage.
I read recently an article which postulated tolerance as the main driver for a successful marriage. Certainly compromise is required. However, there need to be boundaries to compromise and tolerance. Constantly being tolerant, to the point of always giving in, builds resentment. Poor or unthinking behaviour needs to be challenged even if change is only even likely to be partial and slow. LSW’s thinking is that both participants in the marriage need to be confident in themselves so they know when to be tolerant, when to compromise and when to draw a boundary and stick to it. That all sounds about right to me and is certainly true of LSW.
Onwards to another 35 years of marriage? I’ll be 99! I’m not at all confident I’ll be around to celebrate that but I’m happy enough living in the present in our road-tested marriage. As one of our boys used to say – I forget which – ‘Good choosing Dad!’ But choosing is only the first step. Sticking at it for 35 years requires luck, patience, tolerance, self-confidence, hard work and, no doubt, much more.