Can a Marriage Last These Days?

by Belinda Munoz on June 25, 2010

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I promise not to talk about the Gores.

Tomorrow is a big day for my clan. We will be celebrating my parents-in-law’s fiftieth wedding anniversary.

And because I married into a family of fun people who are genuine lovers of life, there will be a party hosted by their children and their partners. A banquet will be shared. Wine will be flowing. Toasts will be given. Music will be playing. And naturally, there will be plenty of reason to put on those dancing shoes.

DISCUSSING MARRIAGE

I’ve shied away from discussing marriage in this home of mine in cyberspace. I have attended and cried at many weddings and have seen a few fall apart. The former, always beautiful and marked with hope and promise. The latter, punctuated with a heavy heart and a question mark about the future.

Knots are tied. Ties are severed. Both occasions are filled with raw emotions and for each, I seem to find myself saying the same thing: I wish you the best. What happens in between? Like parenting or living, there is no scientifically proven foolproof way to do it right. It can feel like the flow of a rhythmic dance on sometimes slippery and uneven floors with starts and stops and cycles back again. For others, it’s something else entirely that leads them off the floor and out the door.

MARRIAGE EQUALITY

Can an institution constitutionally discriminate based on sexuality? By no means is marriage for everybody. Many actively reject it and don’t pretend to want to subscribe to something that doesn’t support their lifestyles. Many choose something else. But who’s to stay who can participate and who can’t?

Many years ago, I read a book called Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. It’s a scholarly book that I can’t do justice describing but its basic premise is that same-sex unions were common, accepted and even not at all a big deal in premodern Europe.

So, what happened? Did we take a few steps back here in the U.S.? If all people are equal and equal rights are for all and marriage is a right, I can’t help but wonder what the real reasons are for the lack of marriage equality. Apparently Laura Bush agrees with people like me. And so do the states of Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, DC. (New York, Rhode Island and Maryland half-agree by recognizing it but not performing it.) This is all very encouraging considering how long social change takes. (Speaking of encouraging things, how about that $600 Billion Challenge instigated by Bill & Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet?)

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

Love, I think, has everything to do with marriage in the western world. Oh, I know. We bungle love, too, just like other things. But we try. And my parents-in-law are living proof that love and marriage combined can go very, very right. Fifty years, four kids, a fortune on diapers and birthday cakes, a billion times of kisses, hugs and hand-holding and truckloads of love, patience, commitment, loyalty, respect, forgiveness, understanding, acceptance, compassion, tears and laughter.

While we mere mortals on earth may never know what permanence truly is, matrimony for these two people sure bears a strong resemblance.

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  1. Do you know any couples who have been married for a very long time?
  2. Do you have any recommendations for the opening song and for the closing song to dance to?
  3. Have you ever danced drunk at a wedding party?

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Giulietta June 25, 2010 at 5:56 am

Hi Belinda,

We seem to spend most of our lives looking for love, finding love, getting out of love, going in and out of love, destroying love, wanting love back. It does seem to make the world go ’round. If you do find someone you love, does it really matter who it is?

I know that swans mate for life. Wonder if that’s natural for most humans. I’ve known folks who got got married after three weeks of dating who have had enduring marriages. I’ve known folks who dated for four years and didn’t make it.

Marriage is complex because you’re really marrying two sets of expectations. Can those expectations find common ground?

Enjoyed the post! Giulietta

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2 Kate June 25, 2010 at 6:03 am

Hello,
Both all my grandparents have been married over 60 years and my parents for 25. I see them all as a real inspiration, even though I am not married and have no desire to get married.
I feel things have changed a lot in the last couple of generations – I know few people of my generation (I’m 30) who have got married and stayed married, it seems much easier to give up. My parents have been through some really tough patches and at times would have been easy for them to separate, but they didn’t and are unbelieveably happy. Even though they still have arguments, that is all part of it!!
I think the throw away society we live in applies to relationships and marriage as much as anything else.
It is only relatively recently that same sex marriage has become recognised here in the UK – long overdue. Love is love and some of the happiest couples I know are same sex – why shouldn’t they be allowed to make the same commitment as straight couples?

And yes, I have danced drunk and teary eyed at many a wedding!

Thanks for this post, something a little different and interesting,
Kate.

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3 Jenny June 25, 2010 at 7:22 am

Hi Belinda,
I have had the privilege of knowing many people of my parents generation who are or were happily married including my parents, and witnessing many who were not and stayed together anyway. They’ve made themselves, each other and often their children miserable.
I truly believe that we are all here to grow and in growing, to love better, so sometimes it might be best to move on once we know that we have given it our best shot, so that we can learn from our mistakes and become healthier individuals for the next person that comes into our lives.
Divorce rates being what they are and have been for a long time, I wonder if there is any wisdom in holding on to the romantic notion of marriage being for life? What if instead, we committed to loving each other the best way that we can, and promise that if it is best that we part we will work as hard to find forgivness and peace as we do at the beginning when we believe everything is roses.
Maybe we’ve reached the day and age where we have to re-define our concept of marriage all together. This of course would include making it available to everyone who wants to participate.

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4 Aging Mommy June 25, 2010 at 7:23 am

Oh yes, I have danced drunk at a wedding party, including an Irish Country Wedding where a lock-in was instituted to keep the party going until the following morning.

I think same sex marriage should be a given – people are born the way they are, they cannot help that fact and for society to effectively shun them and say that their sexual orientation is wrong, not natural, is cruel and unjust.

I think the couple who stay together for 50 years and remain truly happy together is a rarity. Marriage takes a lot of hard work, especially when children come into the picture and communication, so key, becomes so much harder.

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5 Gini Martinez June 25, 2010 at 10:58 am

Hi Belinda,
I think marriage is much simpler than we make it. I had what would be termed a “starter marriage” that lasted just one year when I was just 21 & I realized in the wake of my separation, that marriage isn’t difficult, it’s the managing of ourselves that takes work. We all have flaws & challenges that plague us & it is easy to take our frustrations out on those who are so intimately dear & vulnerable to us day in and day out. I was fortunate to find someone who inspires me to be my personal best so we can be our best together. We’ll be celebrating our Lucky 13 anniversary this August with our 3 children. Thirteen seems like a long time, but I know we have another 40-50 years ahead of us. No doubt.

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6 Kristen @ Motherese June 25, 2010 at 11:26 am

50 years!? Well, good for them. I hope you all enjoy the celebration.

To me, marriage felt like the natural extension of my relationship with my now husband, but I never stopped to ask why that was. I suppose most of it had to do with societal expectations and my Catholic upbringing. For us, our marriage roles work and I strongly believe that any loving, committed couple should have the right to marry if that’s what they want. But I’m also fine with couples who choose to be together without getting that piece of paper. And I’m also interested in how our society can provide security to those couples. Really, I’m fine with however people express their commitment.

And yes, I have danced drunkenly at a wedding. My own. Very out of character and much to my mother’s dismay! 🙂

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7 Corinne June 25, 2010 at 12:34 pm

50 years is incredible 🙂
My parents are still together, as are my inlaws. We’re blessed to have those examples around us, and I think marriage can go very right. But I also have no preconceptions that it won’t go very wrong at some point (does that sound terribly cynical?) I’ll do everything in my power to nurture my marriage, as will my husband, but I’d be lying if I don’t have doubts every now and then. I think that’s natural. But what I see happening is getting out of marriages just because we can, if something goes wrong – ok, I’m gone! It takes time, work, effort. And by all means, anyone should be able to marry – regardless of sexual orientation. If you want to celebrate your love by extending it legally, and if not, that’s fine too 🙂 It’s such a personal thing.

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8 Eva @ EvaEvolving June 25, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Belinda, I agree with you about marriage equality. The progress of recent years is somewhat encouraging, but we have a long way to go before we reach a tipping point.

My grandparents were married 65 years. And in the months since my grandpa died, it’s been heartbreaking to watch my grandma change. After that many years and memories together, it’s impossible to feel as if you haven’t lost a part of yourself.

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9 BigLittleWolf June 25, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Bravo to your in-laws! And to those who recognize that marriage may be best situated between love and contract – a sort of ongoing construction of family unit, something to be honored. We don’t always do so perfectly (who’s perfect??), and some of us try our hardest and it just isn’t the right combination, or the right combination for the long term, but we’ve come far afield of arranged marriages and also see the failure of pure love-based marriages (in my opinion).

My grandparents had long-lived marriages – 50+ years in one instance and 60+ in the other. Devotion, respect, fun, family, along with drama, issues, and tumultuous times. But family, above all else.

And I don’t see why we can’t honor family in whatever gender combination works. Good relationships are difficult enough to come by – why would we deny that to anyone, or its recognition if the couple chooses?

(Never danced drunk at a wedding. Not even my own!)

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10 Amber June 25, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Marriage. I studied and wrote many papers about marriage. It isn’t that marriages can’t last, it’s that our own perceptions of marriage–before even tying the knot–are skewed. So many of us see those divorce statistics and think, “Well, that’s just normal, nothing can last forever.” I strongly disagree with that. How many people enter marriage with the mindset that if they did make a mistake, they can correct it quickly and painlessly?

In many of the studies I have read regarding marriage (in journals like Marriage and Family; Family Life; and a few others), they suggest it isn’t marriage that struggles, but the way we date, er, the way we don’t date. If you look at the past, it was tradition for potential beaus to court their love interest, and their families. If the parents approved, it was much easier for the match to progress into marriage, if they didn’t, well the marriage may or may not have reached that point. Past traditions aren’t perfect, but they can teach us something. How much do we really know the person we are dating? I do not think that cohabitation answers this question (and the research backs my opinion) because even it does not reach the core of the problem. When we are find someone who we might want to share our lives with, how often do we actively seek to see if we are compatible? Do we ask questions like “how many children do you want?” or “how do you solve problems?” Or, if we don’t ask these questions, do we carefully observe the person in different situations? Or, do we notice how they treat their parents? Our parents? Their siblings? Or their coworkers?

This may seem intensive, but why should we not intensively study our potential mates?

As you can see I have many thoughts regarding this, but probably will not write a post about it in the near future.

I don’t drink so, no, I have never danced drunk at a wedding party. : )

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11 Zengirl @ Heart and Mind June 25, 2010 at 11:37 pm

I sure do believe in marriage and so do many people in our family and friends we know. My parents and parents-in-laws have been married for long time. There is a uncle who got divorced but it is very rare among Indians and Asian family although it does happen.

While I want everyone to be married forever, in case of abuse or problems in may think separation is a better choice.

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12 Colleen June 26, 2010 at 12:35 am

I never could understand the argument against gay marriage except maybe on religious grounds and that should be left up to the church involved. The law allows hetrosexual couples to marry outside of the church so what is stopping them from allowing gay couples to do the same thing.
Gay people were born that way which has given them enough challenge in society why punish them more by not allowing them to live happily ever after with the person of their choice like everyone else with all the legal rights any other couple are entitled to.

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13 Roman Soluk June 26, 2010 at 2:54 am

In my opinion, everything depends on the attitude of both husband and wife to their family, marriage. Besides – their relationship. Yes, I believe that nowadays marriage can still last despite all social problems.

And I know such people who are married for a long time.

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14 Tony Single June 26, 2010 at 5:49 am

Belinda, there’s no way that me and Cass have the perfect marriage (not even close) but here’s the thing… it works for us. There’s nothing I can point out to explain why, except perhaps for the phrase “for better or for worse”.

Over the years, Cassy has seen me at my absolute worse, and I have seen her at hers; those times have never been pleasant for either of us. But perhaps because we love each other to bits that neither of us has been willing to walk away from this special bond that we’ve entered into.

Lest that sound like grandstanding, it’s not. Our marriage has sometimes been an incredibly brutal testing ground over the years (and usually because of the depression I go through), but I honestly can’t imagine being with anyone else. Those tough times aside, I do feel a sense of belonging and even joy whenever she’s around, and I can be confident that she feels the same way about me.

I would be a crazy man to ever be ungrateful for the love that she has given me, so I can fully understand same sex couples wanting to have marriage equality in the US and even here in Australia.

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15 Jana @ Attitude Adjustment June 27, 2010 at 5:44 am

I read this post and quickly added you to my Google Reader. What a smart blog you have!

I am often more shocked by the divorces that happen in the first couple of years than the ones that are longer. Isn’t that strange? (Though I am surprised about the Gores.) I have known a couple of people who got divorced within a short time of getting married. It seems to get harder, maybe even more boring, as it goes along, and then I assume there are moments of utter calm, peace, and comfort.

My husband and I have committed to each other for life, and that’s how it will be. I don’t just say it or believe it, I feel it deep in my gut.

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16 Tess The Bold Life June 27, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Belinda,
Got married 17 and pregnant, 4 kids by 22 yrs old, 3rd pregnancy twins one without most of her right hand. It should have been a disaster. We are closing in on 39 years. What made it work. Not giving up, a ton of forgiveness and compromise. Therapy. Support groups. Parenting classes. Friends who helped. My m0m who really helped when they were young. Commitment.

I’m not against divorce or same sex marriages. I am against affairs. I’m not so sure I could forgive that. When we were very young we promised each other if we wanted out we’d tell each other before sleeping with someone else. We felt we owed each other that. I think people succeed and get into power and forget what’s important. I don’t understand why some want a lover and a spouse on the side. Don’t get it. Never will. Oh and I forgot we talk about the difficult stuff the ugle stuff and the stuff we want to throw under the rug. It all shrinks just bringing it to the light. There is no perfect relationship. Never. Nunca. None. There are just flawed humans that want their needs met. But when we meet the other’s needs first it all works out in the end. Congratulations to your parents.

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17 Justin Dupre June 27, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Nice post! Divorce rate is sure a big issue. I do know a few people who been married for over 50 years. They still hold hands and go out on dates… I think married can still last these days with a strong understanding, trust and communication. I hope this problem will get better in the next few years. Thanks for sharing Belinda.

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18 Justine June 28, 2010 at 10:00 am

I want to believe, Belinda, that marriages can last, even if my own didn’t. And that was why I left it – because I went looking for one I wanted to stay in for the rest of my life. Although I’ve found this with My Guy, I am not married to him and we’re perfectly content that way. That piece of paper isn’t going to buy us everlasting happiness. Hard work and love will, and so I will focus my energy on that rather than fretting the details on the “special day” and that piece of paper. I’m not against it by any means – it has just fallen off my life’s priority list. It’s funny but I still have family back home who are going through arranged marriages and seem perfectly fine with that. They’re my age. While I balk at that, it’s something they’re comfortable with since my culture values loyalty in marriages above love. And divorces are taboo. And that may be why I’m happier here. Sure, the divorce rates are higher, but we are also more in control of our own destiny and less concerned with making decisions based on what society thinks about us here. It’s bad in that it means people may choose divorce at the drop of a hat, but it’s good for those in terrible relationships that they can get out of it with relative ease. As with everything – two sides to every coin.

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19 Aileen June 29, 2010 at 11:55 am

Other than my parents I don’t know couples who have had a long marriage. Sadly many around me make it from 1 to 9 years before divorce. I do believe they can last and we beautiful. I’m only 7 months into marriage and I hope to see it be 50 years one day (If he & I live that long).
I would love for same sex marriages to be legal everywhere
& I’ve happily danced drunk at weddings
🙂
I enjoyed this thought provoking post of yours.

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20 Therese Miu July 1, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Hi Belinda,
I found you through http://mindadventure.com/blog/ I was browsing through your post and saw this. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have been with my partner for almost 10 years. Here are just little things we do to to spark and ignite our passion:
1.) We tell each other how much we appreciate each other (Thank you for taking out the trash to the big things thank you for taking care of our son) this is everyday.
2.) We write love letters (cheesy I know but we’ve been doing it for so long)
3.) We are gentle with ourselves (not that much fight but when we do we talk about uit right away)
4.) We surprise each other all the time. I have told him “get ready, I’m taking you out hiking Let’s go!”
Not sure where our path may lead us and it has by no far has been perfect. I think the important key thing is to keep learning & growing. I had few patches I had to take care of, few pains I had to uncover (my last relationship before my husband he took off to Korea with his ex). There’s always going to be bumps on the road. But it is great to know you can always clothe it with love, approach it with patience, and cultivate creativity to make your own relationship work and achieve homeostasis.

Thanks for this lovely and thoughtful post. I have questioned about this for so long and as soon as I see my own parents and grandparents happily married any hints of doubts disappears and I just trust in faith to move forward, onward, and upward.
Thanks Belinda.

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21 Belinda Munoz July 1, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Hi Therese, welcome to The Halfway Point via Rob! I loved reading about what you and your husband do to stay connected and engaged in your relationship. I’m particularly inspired by #4. I can’t say that we’re in the habit of surprising each other (i have difficulty pulling that off because I have trouble keeping things from him) but what we do is we leave plenty of room for spontaneity.

Glad you stopped by and hope to see you again soon.

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