My parents recently celebrated their 60th anniversary. We had a huge family celebration filled with cherry blossoms to symbolize a marriage still in bloom. As we spent 6 months planning and making the decorations to present them with a night to remember, I often pondered why do some couples survive the test of time while others don’t? I reflected upon my parents’ anniversary (the only couple I know to have made it to the diamond years) as anecdotal evidence.
I also began taking a closer look observing family and friends, and even distance acquaintances that have made it to 10, 20, 30 years, etc. of marriage. What I found seemed consistent with several sources I have read stating that although years of marriages have gone up, only about 6-7% of married couples have collectively made it past 50 years of marriage. This percentage is not surprising, and yet it is surprising just the same!
Why would I feel this way? Well, this notion that “we are so in love” seems to be at the fore front for making such a commitment in the first place. Followed by the frequented exchange of “I love you’s” before and after the wedding vows, promising to always love one another, through good and bad, and through sickness and health. Wouldn’t it appear then that love can conquer all? I suppose not with those low numbers…?
So I came up with a set of my own conclusions. For starters, rarely do I find that couples see eye-to-eye on many things. People are just so different. They are complicated. They are rigid. They are soft. They want to be right. They want to be loved. They want to take and not give. They give and not take. They speak too much. They don’t speak at all.
Ultimately, what this demonstrates is that people are predisposed to the same habits and exhibit the same instinctual knee jerks, making love a distant memory once the reality of being human and all our flaws take their toll. As a result, it seems relying on love alone is just not sufficient. It seems that with unresolved conflicts, love can lose its spark.
How then do we make love last, with poor communication at the helm, conflicting personalities, and rising challenges over time, over the years, over the decades?
At last, the answer became self-evident. It is never that problems and conflicts go away, or even subside. That absolutely wasn’t the case with my parents. It isn’t some grand gesture or magical moment or huge gift that can assuage the tension. Rather, it is a choice both individuals have to make over and over and over again to choose love— their love for one another. Only then can success be had in working things through. And that was, and still is, what my parents are choosing.
Thus, the night ended with my parents having their first dance after 60 years of marriage. It was the most heartfelt gesture that love is, and has always been, a choice—a choice to keep the magic alive despite the emotional setbacks to choose otherwise.