Not everyone will marry. Not everyone wants to — and not everyone should. But long marriages fascinate us all. “How’d they do that?” we wonder, especially around Valentine’s Day.
“What’s the secret of your long romance?” someone asked a happy pair celebrating their golden anniversary.
“Since we both retired, we take warm and wonderful vacations,” the husband answered. “Two months. Every year.”
His wife nodded. “He goes to Barbados in January and February, and I go to Aruba in March and April.”
Or so goes the story.
Not many Canadian marriages last a half-century anymore. And in future years we’ll have no official national stats to tell us just how few. Statistics Canada stopped tracking marriage and divorce statistics after the 2008 census. The agency claims that the increasingly blurry lines of human relationships are making marriage too difficult to track.
Soon we’ll soon have no numbers to grieve. Nothing to remind us how poorly we Canadians are doing in the marriage department. Nothing, that is, but the undeniable and heartbreaking fallout in our families, streets, and communities, for as marriage goes — so goes the family.
Based on past figures alone, Statistics Canada predicts that 43.1% of Canadian marriages will end in divorce before their fiftieth year. Second marriages are even less likely to last — they have lower than half the success rate of first marriages. And couples marrying for the third time may as well say, “I do-omed,” instead of “I do.” Sadly, the stats for people of faith are equally miserable.
Happily, some couples DO reach that golden milestone. Smiling. And many more determine to do so. But how? I asked that in a column some time ago: “In the factory where souls are partnered, how is it that only a few unions escape built in obsolescence? What makes a marriage into a marathon, and not a hundred yard dash? Is it the road or the runners that guarantee the gold?”
Thirty-seven years ago, my husband and I entered our union on the “marathon” ticket. Like most other couples, naively reaching for gold. Now, with decades of road — smooth and bumpy — behind us, we have a better idea of the answer to that question — and it doesn’t include separate vacations — at least not regular ones.
So far, we’ve learned, among other things, that keeping a successful marriage is a little like keeping a car running. Only regular maintenance saves it from the junk heap. Like a mechanic’s checklist, a healthy marriage has a list of its own:
Today I choose to love in spite of_____. Today I will compromise my personal agenda for my spouse’s. Today I will be faithful. Today I will forgive. Today I will settle for ‘good enough.’ Today, I will remember that I’m no bargain either.
Here’s what else I’ve found: When we’re willing to let him, God keeps pouring love back into a marriage that’s running on empty. And with that, we intend to win gold.
Happy Valentine’s Day.