Sharing a Half Century+ of Good Fortune & Lessons Learned
A Moment to Pause, Reflect, Celebrate
Life tends to run along with a steady hum, the everyday sometimes drowning out the special with background noise. Anniversaries, like birthdays, provide a good prompt to stop for a moment, step back, reflect on what is/was/will be, and, hopefully, celebrate.
So it was recently in our household. My bride and I celebrated 55 years as a couple just a few days ago. After dealing with the shock of that number (“55?! How is that high a number possible?”), we thought a bit about what it all means.
What Might Have Been
We recognize how very fortunate we have been. We were both 19 when we got married, and I was off to war a few weeks after the ceremony. We had no inheritances. Lots of opportunities in those three facts for very different histories than the one we so fortunately share. Yes, we think we made some good decisions and made some of our own “luck,” but at this point we have to think luck was indeed on our side.
I bet many of you have similar reflections. I note that in the community in which we live 55 years as a couple is about average. A lot more people than one might expect seem to have figured out this marriage thing.
What Are The Secrets?
Everyone, and every couple, is different, of course. But we think a few things stood out for us that likely are true for others as well. They are not really secrets. These should ring a bell for most people.
- Be friends first and foremost. We have always really liked each other, enjoyed each other’s company, and respected what each brings to the relationship. Don’t get me wrong – a healthy dose of love and lust is fine – essential – but as a foundation, we need to be friends, too.
- Follow the Rule of 1 to 5: We actually heard this term only a couple of decades ago but find it has always been in effect for us, even before we heard the term. The concept is that when you disagree on something, ask yourself where this sits on a scale of importance for each of you. Is it a 1 (not a big deal), a 5 (really important), or somewhere in between. If it is a 1-2 for you and a 4-5 for your partner, consider giving ground as a gesture of good will and recognition of what is important to your partner. You may be right, but that is not always the most important criteria.
- Use the MasterCard Model: Remember the Mastercard symbol? Two equal circles that substantially but not completely overlap. We live our life together like that. For many things, we have a shared interest and do things therein together. That is true for most things for us. We also have things that are really interesting to one of us and do not in any way ring a bell for the other. Not a problem.
Each partner should have some time and energy to do their own thing, including having a bit of quite time alone every once in a while. No need to resent such time or to be jealous of how and where such time is spent. “I love how much you enjoy X. I love even more that you don’t feel compelled to drag me to X.”
And These Two Important Guidelines
- Recognize Each Other’s Strong Suits – and Weak Spots: There are certain things in life – some significant, others trivial – that you will be great at and your partner terrible at, and vice versa. My wife, for example, has impeccable taste, seeing elements that I never do. She has almost supernatural ability to read people and to know when something is wrong for them. I follow her lead in such things.
I would now provide you a list of things where I have major blind spots, but we really try to keep these posts under 2,000 words, so just take my word for it, it’s a long list. So just recognize what each of you excels at or stumbles at and work it from there.
- Don’t Take Anything for Granted: We often reflect on how fortunate we have been. Look around the world and see suffering and loss everywhere. We all know people who were happy couples one day and suddenly, one of them dies or has a major, life altering illness. No one knows how many cards we are dealt or the quality of the hand we are dealt today. Be conscious of your good fortune, including your partnership, and celebrate it all – often and with gusto.
A Toast to the Future
When people ask how our relationship is going, we often joke “So Far, So Good. But it’s only the first 50 years. We will see how the long term goes; it seems promising.” I hope you are as happy and as fortunate as we have been. If you have a partner whose company you enjoy, if you both feel you both contribute to the relationship, and you think you are a better person because of that partner, congratulations. You have won the lottery that counts.
I personally think that if there is reincarnation, this round will be a tough one to beat.
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