A many mysteries of a 50-year marriage

Elise T. Chisolm

September 21, 1993|By Elise T. Chisolm

Our 50th wedding anniversary was a beautiful day. All the children and the grandchildren were present, and they gave us a splendid party. Just the family so we could laugh raucously, talk freely of our 50 years and reminisce about the raising of four children. All the intricate inner family secrets were recapped and exaggerated with gusto. A special time.

That was back in April. Since then I've been trying to figure out what makes being married 50 years such a phenomenon to some people. From best friends to strangers, they are still asking me what it's like: "How on earth did you manage to stay together?" "You must have some secret."

A baby boomer remarked, "And you are still holding hands. You were never bored, it seems." "You must have had enough money and food on the table."

Then a college student suggested that perhaps we didn't date many others before we were married.

Well, none of the above hypotheses are true.

Actually, we dated a lot of insignificant others before we married. We often did not have enough money or food. We were often bored.

I have not answered the questions because I do not know the answers. I do know that marriage is the hardest job I ever had, and I've had lots of jobs. So the answer is still blowing in the wind. The bad times sometimes seemed insurmountable, sometimes awful, but looking back, the joys have outweighed the sorrows.

We argued mostly about money. He believed in spending it, and I believed in saving it. We disagreed on the precepts of child rearing. I was much too lenient -- so what if she came in an hour late. He believed that was too late.

We disagreed about Christmas. I believed it should be full of gifts and food. He believed it should not be prolonged, that it was a religious holiday. He was glad when it was over. I wasn't.

When a child was very ill, I prayed and wanted to talk about it. He withdrew to a book but teared up behind the pages. Our emotional makeup was different.

When we went broke in a business, I sulked for two months and concluded that he was not savvy enough. I blamed him, and he blamed the economy. Once he bought a car without consulting me. I was mad as heck until I realized I hated picking out cars and knew nothing about them anyway. When he got an ulcer, I blamed it on his job, he blamed it on his diet.

But somehow our synergy held us together.

And yes, we still hold hands.

We never had time to analyze our relationship the way younger people seem to do today. We just kept on keeping on.

Maybe a long-term marriage is a combo of love, respect, humor, luck -- and stamina.

So I am still trying to find the right answer for someone who is contemplating marriage, or 50 years together.

I can say that if I had it to do over, I would marry the same guy.

I equate staying married 50 years with a boxing match: Sometimes someone is up, sometimes someone is down. But, hey, most important, when you take off the gloves make sure you can still hold hands.

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