Last month, my grandparents celebrated 65 years of marriage. As my family drove up for the celebration, I thought about their marriage and what was behind its success. I had my own theories, but what would they say the secret ingredient to a happy relationship are?
So after the potluck lunch, armed with my voice recorder, I asked them. My grandfather has always struck me as a man of few words, so it didn’t surprise me that his response to my first few questions was just a shrug of his shoulders.
It turns out his proposal began with my grandma saying, “I really enjoy spending time with you.” To which he replied, “Want to make it permanent?” It was also fitting that when I asked my grandmother what made her fall in love with my grandfather, she said, “It was so silent, it just began without even knowing.”
As they recalled memories from their wedding day, including the weather and wedding gifts, they also remembered the teamwork needed in their marriage as they raised children on my grandpa’s family farm. It wasn’t an easy life, but it was a full life, one that relied on hard work and commitment.
As I ended my little impromptu interview, I asked them what advice they’d give to other couples just beginning their marriages. My grandmother had a handful of ideas: Be faithful, talk things out, don’t keep secrets and support one another, to name a few.
My grandfather had much simpler advice: “Keep your mouth shut.”
What can I say? He’s a man of very few words.
As we drove back to Iowa that afternoon I thought about what their marriage meant to me. My mind went back to the last time I interviewed my grandmother, when I was 11 years old for a school project. I remember my surprise to learn that although she married in 1952 at the age of 23, at that point in history she already considered herself an “old maid.” I thought about how different marriage seems now compared to the day my grandparents tied the knot—age being only one of the many differences.
Yet, it’s still the same as ever. What made my grandparents’ marriage work for all those years are the same aspects that make marriage work today: hard work, honesty, communication, faithfulness, love, and commitment. The qualities of real marriage are enduring and timeless.
I hope that Adam and I live long enough to see 65 years—maybe more! Thanks to the example of my grandparents, we know it is possible.
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