I’ve been pondering lately what makes marriages tick. Why do certain marriages fail where others succeed? Mostly, I’ve been wondering what I can do to arrive at 50+ years of being happily married.
We recently hit our fifth anniversary with all the bumps and bruises of any marriage, and we’re better for it. I can honestly say I’m happily married, but I know I could be even more happily married. As Courtney and I talked about the subject last night, we came up with a couple things that truly happily married people tend to have. To that list, I add a few that I came up with outside of that discussion.
Faith in God
I’d hesitate to say that not having faith in God is a guarantee of failure, but for me, having faith and believing as I do makes marriage simpler, easier. Knowing that the committment I made is not only with Courtney but with God also adds an extra measure of devotion and desire to seeing our marriage succeed. Faith also provides a united framework upon which we can build.
I have a good friend who claims, and I believe her, that her marriage was largely saved by her faith and committment to a God-centered marriage. When times got rough for her and her husband, that faith forced action to preserve what she had. Times are still occasionally rough for them, but they are more deeply in love now than then.
I’ve long heard that happily married couples keep dating. For us, dating has gotten lost in the mundane routine of raising kids, but we’ve recommitted to dating every week even if it is just staying home and watching a movie together. If you and your spouse are avid daters, please share!
One of the best 20 minutes of my day is my lunch walk. It’s healthy for me (except when the inversion holds all the pollution on the ground like right now), and it clears my mind at work. But mostly, I enjoy it because I call Courtney and we talk. Anymore, it’s one of the rare times we get to talk and even then it is constantly interrupted by at least one screaming child. We typically talk about the “state of affairs” with our home with subjects ranging from finances to home improvement projects to raising the kids to “what’s bothering you” things. In some ways, it has become our status report meeting for the business that is home.
A coworker said this to me today, and I think it stands on its own: Don’t tolerate the differences; savor them!
The thing that has been weighing on my mind most, however, was conhecimento. Conhecimento is a Portuguese term, and it describes exactly what I mean. It comes from the verb conhecer which, translated literally, means to know. But it has such a richer meaning than that. Conhecer means to know personally, intimately, in detail, and I’m coming to believe that it is one of the keys to an eternal marriage.
Conhecimento goes beyond simply knowing what someone’s favorite color is or their favorite author. Conhecimento is an understanding of what that person is, what their dreams are. I personally believe that it comes through years of talking and dating. Years of exploring your spouse’s life, psyche, and soul. It creates the kind of love that looks at the 80-year-old bag of skin sitting next to you and loves based on memory, appreciation, gratitude, knowledge, trust, confidence, and faith. That’s the kind of love that shares volumes with a wink. Conhecimento-based love sees beyond the external beauty that fades and the blemishes that grow. It loves the person, not the body, not their status, and not the external contributions they bring.
That’s what we are shooting for.