Both my husband and I have parents who are still in their first marriages after more than 30 years. Statistically, I come to realize that is rare. The privilege that this grants our marriage is something I am constantly reflecting on; having positive role models in relationships is incredibly important, and I know how lucky we are to have them as our own flesh and blood. So over the years, I’ve been sure to take note of the strengths in both my parents and in-laws’ marriages that seem to keep their relationships afloat and thriving after so many years. Here’s what I’ve found.
- Long-Lasting Marriages Assume They’ll Be Permanent
Having parents in a happy, lifelong marriage makes it more likely (though never a guarantee) that you will too—this, of course, doesn’t mean that someone from a divorced family will not themselves have a successful marriage. There’s no magic formula for any of it, but what my husband and I have learned from observing our own parents and other older couples we admire is that they entered into marriage expecting it to last forever. Either they had parents with lifelong marriages (like our parents did), or maybe the lack-there-of spurred them towards a resolve that divorce would not be their story. They said their vows with no question in the back of their minds.
- Long-Lasting Marriages Share a Faith or Life Mission
Both my parents and in-laws now share a deep faith, and I can see why it is an extremely unifying factor in their relationships. It gives them something outside themselves to focus on; a bigger picture, something more meaningful than just the mundane of daily life. It also gives them an area to constantly be learning and growing in together. My father-in-law was not a person of faith when he met my mother-in-law, and I wonder if their marriage would be as happy now had they not eventually shared a common moral bond.
The loving, vibrant, lifelong marriages that I’ve seen that don’t have shared faith, do share some passion or mission that gives them a meaningful journey together. It might be a particular justice issue, a passionate hobby, or intentionally shared work that spurs them on to live for something bigger than themselves.
- Long-Lasting Marriages Have a Foundation of Mutual Respect
One of the most important things these couples model for us is mutual respect. One spouse never talks negatively about the other in their absence, and they work hard to speak to each other calmly and carefully even when they argue. I have seen too many marriages where the husband thinks less of his wife or the wife complains about her husband. Thankfully, our fathers both respect and honor our mothers in a sincere way. Conversely, neither of our mothers belittle or nag our fathers. They do a great job of modeling appropriate, respectful communication.
I want my marriage to be the “til death do us part” kind and so does my husband. Nine years into it, we’ve already found that marriage takes a lot more work and a lot more commitment than we could have imagined, but having healthy role models in our family has been a huge help, and I am thankful for all that I continue to learn through watching them.