Well, right off the bat I have to admit I fibbed. I have been married 38 years – just not all to the same guy. But I thought the tale of two marriages might be helpful.
I’ve been married to Shelby for 28 years and we are still going strong. Sure, there have been rough spots. I mean, it can’t be easy for any man to raise someone else’s kids. Nor be the homemaker supporting a career woman. But he has been heroic.
We’ve certainly made some big mistakes, but the kids are grown now and they still love us. And grandkids are worth the effort letting those exasperating teenagers live from puberty and adulthood!
I was married to my first husband for 10 years. We married when I was 19 years old. It was a terrible marriage. So I’ve seen both sides, and here’s the Top Ten things (the good and the bad) that I would tell my 19-year-old self, if I had the chance:
1. Verbal abuse and the threat of physical violence (kicking walls, throwing things) both are bona-fide abuse. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Immediately seek help. Counseling can be great and it can be useless depending on the counselor, but at least give it a chance. If you cannot convince the abusive spouse to go, then go on your own. If the threat of violence seems to be escalating, leave and go to a shelter for help.
2. Trying to build a successful marriage with someone who has substance abuse problems is pretty much a waste of time unless the substance abuse issue is being actively addressed. Be compassionate. Do everything you can. Get all the help that you can, but in the end, don’t waste your life.
3. Don’t let well-meaning parents and religious types make you believe you will go to hell if you get a divorce. That is simply B.S. If you are struggling with this and want more of what I’ve learned in the school of hard knocks, go to EversBibleClass.com and message me. I’ll be glad to share.
4. Even in a great marriage, you still have to have personal boundaries. You still have the right to decide how to spend your time, who to socialize with, how to follow God, what education to get and how to spend or save your money. Granted, you have an obligation to take your spouse’s preferences and needs into serious consideration. But in the end, this is the only life you get. Live it well.
5. As a highly successful Wall Street executive, I can tell you that having a great marriage, being a good mom, being a good homemaker and being a smashing career success all at the same time is a lie that I bought hook, line and sinker. I am one talented gal, but when I chose the career I did not realize I was throwing away the precious hours I could have spent helping my children grow up. I would make a different choice in hindsight. The choice I made created hardship for my spouse and for my children. It was not worth the money nor the prestige nor the strokes to my ego.
6. Retirement is never what you expected. Although I enjoyed Plan A (traveling around in our RV), I discovered I couldn’t do it exclusively. I needed to be giving back to the community, to people. Having to shift to Plan B (working virtually full time as a volunteer and having a ton of hobbies and social interests that keep me tied to my local community) has been really tough on Shelby. My choices directly impacted his options, and vice versa. Good thing we love each other with all our hearts!
7. Come to think of it, that’s another thing I’d tell my younger self. Marriage isn’t based on love; it’s based on respect. If you do not respect yourself or if you lose respect for the other person, you are in big trouble.
8. Deal with each other and with yourself with humor. Shelby is a master at this. I am wound tight. When I start to get upset, he makes light of the situation, pulls a comical face, does something to lighten the moment. If he can get a laugh out of me, the moment passes easily.
9. On the flip side, negative things said in jest to or about the other person are destructive. It puts the other person in a position of knowing you really meant it, even though it was said in jest. And worse yet, they cannot respond to the barb, because you’ll just say you were joking. Not good. Shelby and I agreed before we married that we would not take potshots at each other in jest, either in public or in private. That has proven to be one of the best decisions we ever made.
10. Sometimes you feel like being alone. Sometimes you feel like making love. Sometimes you feel like picking a fight. Work out signals with each other so you can communicate your needs silently and easily. That way no one steps on a land mine.
The first ten years of marriage gave me a real appreciation for the struggles folks go through. These last 28 years have restored my faith in the purpose and value of marriage. Yes, you will still love each other after 30 years. And yes, as long as he can walk, Grandpa will still find his way to Grandma’s room for a little fun.