Current Marriage Trends: Staying single is chic. Divorce is in vogue. Living together is common. And here YOU are, happily married—Hmmm–Kinky! -Anniversary card message from my sister, Ellen.
As a marriage counselor and in everyday conversation, I have witnessed two very common responses to marriages lasting over 40 years. The most prevalent reaction connotes that being married that long is as rare as snowfalls in Miami. Secondly, folks often imply that anyone married that long is merely “settling”—there’s unlikely any real juice left in the relationship.
My wife Ruth and I celebrated (not just “had”) our 42nd wedding anniversary this past week. We like to deliver the good news that not only are we happily married, but that our love is richer and deeper than ever! We’re pleased to notice that most people seem not only inspired, but encouraged by our marital fulfillment. Frankly, we’re really not that rare of a breed, after all. Similar to asking an elderly person the secret to his/her longevity, people often ask us for the secret of our enduring marriage.
Although, of course, there isn’t a single secret ingredient or magic formula that we’ve implemented, I’d like to point out several key elements that have clearly led to our marital success. Despite a strong foundation of affection and respect for each other, we realized early on that marriage inevitably serves as a caldron to cook the partners’ egos. We knew that it would behoove us to identify and gradually efface our ego mechanisms, rather than maintaining our personal positions and using them as a weapon against the other. Doing so has been hard and very gradual, but glorious work that has paid us great dividends, individually and as a couple. Likewise, over the years we have adopted a constructive approach to conflict resolution, which has helped us to avoid the dramatic encounters that characterized a few early periods in our relationship. We have become increasingly quick to forgive one another when upset and to accept each other’s idiosyncrasies.
Perhaps the quintessential basis for our mutual contentment is sharing the same religious and spiritual paths throughout our marriage, including involvement in intensive, intentional spiritual communities. We have relished and been uplifted by the traditions, rituals, and mystical learnings, which are a central part of our lives.
We take great delight in regularly affirming, with the utmost sincerity, that we cherish each other.
Jim and Ruth Sharon have raised three adult children and have a granddaughter, age seven. They have worked together as psychotherapists, seminar leaders and consultants for 36 years of their marriage. One of their regular offerings is a seminar or retreat, “Secrets of a Soulful Marriage (or Relationship).” Next September, the Sharons will be participating in a panel discussion with two other couples who have also been married over 40 years at Whole Man Expo.