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The Legacy of a Good Marriage
We've all had those epic meltdowns with our spouse where we lose our cool to the nth degree and wonder what the heck we’re still doing married. And if you, honestly, haven’t had that thought cross your mind yet, then you’re either a liar or very newly married.

I know Tyler Perry created a comedic movie franchise out of the concept and with it brought some laughs to an otherwise not-so-funny situation. Why did I get married? is a serious and albeit not always followed-through state of mind, the question rears its head in many, if not all, marriages I have come to know over the years.

And when I speak of marriages I have come to know, I know that I am still a relative newby at this – only eight years under the belt. Amongst my quiver of exemplars, some friends who have been married more than once, friends who married their first love and have stayed that way for a number of years, friends who have been married a very short while, friends who got married under duress and friends who have got married and then realised they prefer the state of un-wedded bliss and promptly filed for divorce.

The reality is: we live in a world where slowly but surely the concept of marriage is becoming less and less fashionable amongst the masses. Sure, Christians and Muslims still believe in the sanctity of the relationship which their doctrines declare as far more than a change in living arrangements and last names. Yet, it is not uncommon to come across couples happily living together and having children together and buying property together and yet they ‘don’t believe in marriage.’

Ask them why, and they will tell you that marriage is an archaic principle. They will tell you that they are non-conformists. They will tell you that they aren’t sure they have the ability to be with only one person for the rest of their life. They will tell you that they’re not ‘religious’ and therefore don’t need to make it ‘official.’

Or they will tell you that their parents ruined the picture of marriage for them.

Oh, it is always the parent’s fault.

But considering that my parents celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary today, I thought I would flip that argument on its head and ask, by staying together, what have they, (my parents,) taught me about marriage?


1. You don’t always have to get along.

That hypothetical (not so hypothetical) instance I started this post with is one I saw when I was growing up too. Tense conversations. Angry words. Weird silences. My parents didn’t always get along. Like any young drama queen, I always feared the worst and assumed they were about to file for divorce. To my knowledge, they never did. Somehow, they reconciled. I don’t remember them making a big song and dance about either the argument or the reconciliation. It was part of the package. They argued and they made peace. I guess that has taught me that even when I feel like I want to quit and walk away out of anger, that it’s not actually the way things should go. Simply put:


2. You Don’t Always Have to Get Along.  (Yes, I meant to say that twice.)
Marriage is not one person living in two bodies. It is two people almost always sharing a space together and sharing life – with all its challenges. It’s an unrealistic expectation to think that you will never disagree and even that you will never dislike one another. But disagreeing certainly isn’t the death knoll some would fear it to be.

3. There can be spaces in your togetherness.

My dad is a keen fisherman and hunter. He went away a fair amount for these hobbies while I was growing up. I don’t remember this ever being a big deal. There were no cell phones for constant contact. He was often on the banks of the Zambezi or in the wild somewhere. It was seen as a natural part of our lives and sometimes my grandparents would step in, but often it was just ‘business as usual’ in our home, except perhaps a little more TV time and a few more treats. This precedent alone has probably saved my marriage at least once a year. My husband travels for work and pleasure (similar hobbies!) and whilst as a newly wed bride it irked me that he could spend weeks away from me and our new home – often out of comms as well – now I relish the chance to use the time to surprise him with a change around the house, a sneaky little haircut, a love note under his pillow.

4. Respect is vital.

Love is important. Friendship is necessary. Communication is required. But respect is a deal-maker or deal-breaker. I've often seen couples insult one another in front of their friends. No one enjoys it – albeit playful banter. I'm fortunate to be in a group of ladies who don’t run our husbands down as a rule. We simply don’t. And to my mother’s credit, she has never done that to my father either. There is also an annoying reciprocal arrangement that my father does not run my mother down. I say annoying, because I would often try to ‘tattle tale’ to my dad when I was growing up and he would side with my mother. He has done so more and more as they have grown older as well. To me, and I am sure to others as well, they are each a ‘no-go’ zone in the sense that we would not dare run the one down to the other. They love one another, yes. But this is about respect. Its unquestionable that my dad has my mom’s back, and she has his.

5. It’s what’s underneath that really matters. 

I was utterly embarrassed one day, arriving at my folk’s home unannounced, and finding them still in bed. No hanky-panky going on. Simply lying in bed chatting, drinking tea, in their pyjamas. It was close to mid-day. This is unheard of in their home, where my mother has long time risen at five am and served my father tea and later breakfast in bed, before doing all the housework herself and leaving for work before seven am. Later on, my mom told me that they were just in the space of enjoying being with one another. They were picturing retirement and likingthe idea of being together. Considering I was probably close to, if not at least, thirty years old when this happened, it should surprise you that I was shocked to realised that they actually liked being together on their own. But then it brought me the greatest sense of comfort. Of course they liked being together. They had shared decades together. They had raised children and seen grandchildren born together. They had endured tests and celebrated triumphs and fought and made-up. Being together should be their happy place. Especially since they had chosen one another year, after year, after year.

6. Ultimately, staying together is worth it.

I can’t speak for a child from a single parent home. Or for a child from a divorced parent home. These children will look at their parents and have their own summation of what life has thrown their way. And I will concede that there are mitigating circumstances that will always validate the choice for separation between spouses. But I see my parents now and although, like all people, they have their stresses and concerns, they seem to be happier as each year passes. I can list a number of reasons for this: financial security, personal stability, grandchildren, simplifying their lives, gaining wisdom with age. As their daughter, there will always be a certain amount of naiveté that goes with observing my own parents, but they seem genuinely happy to be together. I'm pretty sure that they feel that staying together has been worth it. From my side, it certainly has been.

Because earlier this week, when I asked my dad what he planned to give my mom for their anniversary, citing that a gift might be appropriate, he said, “Forty more years.” That made me smile. Although I did suggest that jewellery may be cheaper.

There is also a definitive truth in my life and that is that the person my mother loves the most in the world is my father. And vice versa.

My brother will testify to that being true.

Admittedly, my four-year-old daughter may have a different view. But then again, she is the centre of the universe right now.

But what their relationship has shown me – more than anything else – is that a marriage that lasts is a rare and precious gift. One you give yourself. One you give your children. It's a choice that sometimes isn't easy. But should you manage to get it right - the legacy is inspirational to all who come across it.

My husband and I have not yet been married for a quarter the amount of time my parents have. My children are yet to understand that Mommy and Daddy want to spend time alone together and enjoy starting and finishing a conversation with one another. (In fact, they have yet to understand that we want our bedroom back!)

But if they can feel, in thirty-odd years’ time, the same security in marriage I feel, simply because I've been there and seen that it can be done and it is worth it, then my prayers have been answered.

If they, my precious daughters, can see in their father, a man who has devoted forty years to one woman and is happy to devote another forty, then surely they will find a spouse who will want to do the same for them? God knows I have aspired to do just that by marrying him.

If my little girls can know that it is safe to love a man and respect him, without sacrificing your own dignity or self-worth; that they can and should be happy at the end of every day when sharing their lives with another human being, then I have done a decent job as a wife. Then I have done a decent job in aspiring to be like my mom.

They may only be toddlers now, but one day my daughters will be married. And they too will look at their spouse on a given day and wonder if sticking together is really worth the trouble, the heartache, the anger and the irritation. On that day I hope they will remember the times when their father and I argued, seemed to hate one another, but then made up and loved each other again.

When my girls are caught up in passion and lust and instant love that is the start of so many whirlwind romances, I pray that they will remember that there needs to be more and to seek it out. To build a foundation with someone who wants to be with them at the start and end of the day, every day. They certainly deserve that.  

The movie Fireproofstarts with a dialogue between a mother and daughter, where the daughter asks her mom “When you’re done [with Daddy], can I have him?” I was that little girl once, and in many ways, I still am. My dad is the ultimate man. And the man I married has many shared qualities with my father, which certain psychoanalysts would say is no coincidence. How could it be? I didn’t go out looking for a fishing, hunting, sport loving man who reads adventure novels and likes singing really loudly. But that’s where I landed. If my parents are anything to go by, it’s a great place to be.

So, not to blow anyone’s horn or anything, but driving to our home last night, I was asked by my little four-year old angel, “Mommy, when I big, do you think I can marry Daddy and then you and me and Daddy can be married?” And of course I said, “I do!”


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