49 Years and Counting: Anniversary Wisdom


My parents on their wedding day

My parents Garry and Margaret met around 50 years ago when my dad was teaching high school in Texas and my mom was a flight attendant for Continental Airlines based in Dallas. In their early twenties when they married, they moved to Georgia within a few years so my father could teach and pursue a graduate degree. My mom worked hard at caring for my older brother and me at home and later returned to school to become a teacher herself.

Now both retired and enjoying grand-parenthood, their church, and the arts of quilting (mom) and beekeeping (dad), they just celebrated their 49th anniversary.  I asked them what their secret was to keeping it together. My dad deferred to my mom (hmm…), who, with his input, shared the following remarks and insights. -FsFTB

A few words from Margaret

Yesterday Garry and I celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary. Sandee asked to what we owed our long marriage. I asked Garry what he thought, and we both agreed we have no idea. But Sandee has asked me to share our long-marriage survival skills…so here goes.

Disclaimer: I cannot say if the things on this list are the exact elements that contributed to our long marriage, or guarantee they’ll work for others. But they are things I try to practice, and I feel like they strengthen the marriage relationship.

1. Acceptance of each other, “as is.” It’s not a good idea to enter the marriage with the idea you will change your spouse. Better to remember all the wonderful things that made you fall in love to start with and focus on and strengthen those elements. If your spouse’s one bad habit annoys you, remember that you likely have two bad habits that annoy your spouse.



2. Show each other respect.

3. Compromise is not a four letter word. You can’t always have things the way you want them. Work together to find a solution both can live with. Sometimes this takes a bit of time.

4. Communicate. Tell your spouse what you are feeling and what you need; your spouse cannot read your mind. Be a good listener. Not all problems require a solution; sometimes people just need to be listened to. Be a supporter.

5. Disagreements & arguments happen. Try to understand your spouse’s point of view. NEVER name call or curse at your spouse (see #2). Remember, sometimes you lose. It’s okay — after you’ve been married 49 years, you’ll no longer remember the losses anyway.

6. Don’t go to bed angry. You won’t sleep well if you do, so say “I love you” and kiss and make-up. That may mean you’ll have to say “I’m sorry.” That’s a good thing – never hesitate to admit when you have been wrong. Flowers or a favorite home-cooked meal helps here. Be quick to forgive, forget and move on. There is nothing to be gained by beating a dead horse.

7. Dream together. In one of Sandee’s previous posts she quoted the following: “True love is beyond the physical and romantic. True love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, and will not be. Life isn’t about learning how to weather the storm, but learning how to dance in the rain.” I like that and agree, but I was struck by the second sentence. My thought was that something was missing, and that something was “all that WILL be” — the good, the bad, the joy, the sorrow, etc. (Ed. note: My mom is smart–not that I didn’t already know that. I inadvertently misquoted: the original did contain the “will be” piece!) Marriages need dreams and hopes that couples can build on together so that they can move forward through what is and will be. In doing so then they can perhaps more readily accept the things that will not be. And a lot of things will not be – that is life, that is love. But don’t give up the dreams. They are what help you weather the storm and dance in the rain.


Sharing a sense of humor!

8. Play together. Get away together on occasion just to enjoy each other’s company. No kids, family or friends – just the two of you. Focus on each other, get reacquainted.

9. Have a sense of humor. Lots of funny things happen in a marriage…look for the humor in any situation. Laugh often and heartily. But don’t make your spouse the butt of the joke (see #2).

10. What happens in the bedroom, stays in the bedroom. Unless you are talking to a sex therapist, keep your sex-life between the two of you.

11. The old adage “don’t air your dirty laundry in public” is a good one to follow. Public arguments only make those around you uncomfortable and don’t make you look so good.

12. Practice your faith together and regularly.

Oh, and lastly, NEVER, NEVER roll your eyes — unless your back is turned. 😉


My beautiful folks–happy anniversary!

Like Father, Like…Fiancé?

A month or two after Steve and I got engaged, I had lunch with a friend and former colleague, Thomas. Thomas and I go back almost fifteen years, having met the day I started my first full-time faculty position. He and I had both joined the Language and Literature department of a small state university in Georgia in the fall of 2000, I as an assistant professor fresh out of grad school, he as the new department head established in his academic career. He became a valued mentor as we bonded over our shared status as newbies to the college. We’d left Georgia at the same time, as well, when he and his wife Anne Marie moved to Switzerland, where he’d accepted a professorship, the year I moved to Virginia.

We’ve stayed in touch and have found opportunities for the occasional reunion, the last a family holiday gathering in 2011. When Thomas emailed he would be stateside and passing through my stomping grounds in June, I made plans to meet him. Over sandwiches at Panera, he caught me up on his new book and Anne Marie’s library and translation work, and I filled him in on my memoir-in-progress and my engagement to Steve.

Then, Thomas asked me a really interesting question.

“So,” he said, setting his cup on the table and peering at me through wire-rimmed glasses. “I have to ask. After all these years, how did you know?”

“That’s Steve’s the one?” I said. Thomas nodded.

The cynic in me was tempted to reply, because he asked, and no one else ever did. But that wasn’t entirely true, and it wasn’t the real answer to the question, anyway. “Well,” I said. “I guess the first thing that comes to mind is—because of how he treats me. He’s a genuinely good man, and he’s good to me, and it’s…well, it’s easy.”

Thomas gave a nod of recognition and smiled.

“It’s funny,” I continued, “because all these years, people have been telling me things like, when it’s the right one, you’ll know. It will be easy. And I would sort of nod along, yeah, sure.” I sipped my tea. “But I think that’s true. It is easy. Not in the sense that there aren’t complexities. But there is a sense of ease, of rightness. There’s an effortlessness to being together.”

2012 July 112

My dad Garry, professor turned beekeeper

Thomas nodded more vigorously and said, “Yes. Yes, that’s good.”

“And then there’s this other piece that’s going to sound kind of weird,” I said. “Sometimes it seems a little weird to me, anyway.”

Thomas raised his eyebrows.

“Well,” I said, “Steve is the man most like my father of any man I’ve ever dated.”

At that, Thomas burst out laughing. But he kept nodding.

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