My marriage is more important to me now than it was in the beginning. I think that’s because of the collected weight of so many shared memories. We did some remembering together during our anniversary dinner. Do you remember staying in the hotel La Perouse in Nice? The walk we took up the hill where your blood sugar dropped so low that you didn’t recognize the donkey I pointed out to you — and I had to get a soft drink for you even though you’re the one who speaks French? The hike in the Cascades where you fell through the ice crust and were hanging by your armpits over the stream running under the snow? The bed-and-breakfast in Idaho with no curtains where you finished every night sleeping in the closet to get some darkness? The ice storm where we lost power for a week and had to camp out in our basement? Thank goodness for gas hot water heaters. The time our 2-year-old came to the table saying “I’ve got an eye up my nose” (it turned out to be a detachable eye from a toy). Trips to the emergency room?
I remember back during one of the MAPP onsite meetings when we were collecting a scrapbook for a classmate who had just gotten engaged. I wrote about the importance of finding the most positive interpretations possible of even the most annoying aspects of our partners. Doing so means you don’t leave out any part of them when you love them. I think that was an application of what we later read about realistic optimism (Schneider, 2001) — differentiating between fuzzy knowledge, where ignoring the unknown facts is foolhardiness and fuzzy meaning, where no interpretation is any more factual than any other, so it makes sense to choose the most positive one possible. The recipient of the scrapbook found it very good advice — it hope it is turning out well for her in practice.
Our marriage is a close friendship. We’ve each helped the other out of tight spots and long downers — all of which go in the memory bank. We learned that we can’t fight each other’s battles at work — a lesson that is reusable with children. We learned the usefulness of ‘tag-team wrestling’ as a way of raising children. When one is just about to lose it, the other takes over. We share the character strengths of curiosity and love of learning. We’ve taken classes together — from Japanese art appreciation at the Frick Gallery to ballroom dancing. We also fill in each other’s gaps. When I was overwhelmed by taking the MAPP program and working full-time at the same time, he became my project manager, kept me focused, and kept me from going past good enough when time wouldn’t allow it.
One set of my grandparents had their golden wedding anniversary (50 years), and the other reached their diamond anniversary (60 years). Both pairs got married younger than we did, but maybe we’ll get within reach.
Schneider, S. (2001). In search of realistic optimism: Meaning, knowledge, and warm fuzziness. American Psychologist, 56(3), 250-263.