Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Oh, what a gem she is !

Most of us are familiar with a few of the more common wedding anniversary symbols, principally the ones for the 25th (silver), the 50th (gold) and the 75th (diamond), but would be hard pressed to come up with the symbols for most of the other anniversaries.

A few of the “modern” symbols may cause you to wonder a bit, since the symbols for the 4th (electrical appliances) and the 7th (desk set) don’t seem particularly romantic. Most of the women that I know wouldn’t be very excited about getting a new toaster for their 4th wedding anniversary, or a new pen set for their 7th.

Once you get beyond the 25th anniversary, wedding symbols (on both modern and traditional lists) are all some type of gem, and the symbol for the 40th anniversary (on both lists) is the ruby, which is pictured below:

For thousands of years, ruby has been considered one of the most valuable gemstones on earth, and even diamond was considered common in comparison to the supreme beauty and value of the glowing red gem. To the ancients, the ruby was a representation of the sun, and represented integrity, devotion, happiness, healing, courage, romance, generosity, inspiration, and prosperity.

Not by coincidence, those qualities also apply to a lady that I first met in the basement of a church Quonset hut in St. Paul, Minnesota roughly 45 years ago. We both had joined a church group called A.C.C., and we showed up to take square dance lessons in a small (and hot) location with a handful of other young Catholics.

We apparently made some type of connection, since we got married 5 years later, on October 6, 1972, a date that is now 40 years in the past. Ever since that time, our lives together have been an adventure, and things started out with a bang a week after our wedding, when we got hit by a deer on our honeymoon.

On Friday the 13th.

If I had to sum up, in one short sentence, how I would describe my wife, I’d have to say that she definitely is a gem. We’ve cried together, we’ve laughed together, we’ve fought, we’ve made up, we’ve enjoyed some good times, and we’ve endured some tough times, but we’re still married 40 years later.

Both of us were fortunate to come from very good families, which likely had a lot to due with our marital longevity, but there’s also another element that most of us don’t think about too often.

The nuns.

Apparently those nuns in grade school taught us well, since the majority of the people in our “peer group” are still married to their first spouse.

Depending on which source that you use, the general consensus is that the divorce rate in America is right around 50%. Given those dismal odds, what are the chances that a marriage would last 40 years?

Since Sharon and I will be celebrating our 40th anniversary on October 6, I became curious about what percentage of American marriages last for 40 years, and the link below provides some interesting information.

you may now kiss the bride

If you take marriages of all age groups in America, 83% make it to five years. 55% make it to 15 years, 35% make it to 25 years, and 6% make it to the 50th anniversary.

For the baby boomer generation, though, there’s an interesting twist. 60% of the baby boomer men, and just around 50% of the baby boomer women, have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary, or will do so in the very near future. Given that the baby boomers came of age at the peak of the sexual revolution, why does my “peer group” seem to have better success at marital longevity than other age groups?

One of the best lines in the recent movie, “Hope Springs”, was one that was quoted by Dr. Bernie Feld (played by Steve Carrell) - “even good marriages have bad years”. That’s been true of our marriage, and it’s certainly been true of the marriages of many of the other people that we know.

I’ve read (a couple of times) “Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps”, and there’s a similar book on the market titled “Men Are Like Waffles, and Women Are Like Spaghetti”. After reading either book, you’ll marvel at the fact that people of the opposite gender can live together at all.

Sharon and I have learned to be more tolerant of each other’s quirks, and to be more forgiving of each other’s faults. In our case, one of the most important elements in our longevity has been the fact that we try as hard as we can to laugh as often as possible. Since those attitudes probably apply to many other “boomer” marriages as well, there must be more to the story.

I grew up during the “Ozzie and Harriet” years, when role models were stricter, and society as a whole was less tolerant of views that were different than the norm. As a group, we’re more open minded than our parents were, even though they provided us with a pretty good moral compass as a starting point.

As a group, we’re also more optimistic than the generation that struggled through the Great Depression and WWII, and we seem to be more willing to discuss our differences than our parents did, who believed in staying together, through “thick and thin”.

Since relationships are complicated (to say the least), there are probably OTHER reasons why our marriages have been successful. If we had to be honest, though, all those nuns with pointers in their hands deserve a little credit as well.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations! I like to think that I had something to do with the two of you meeting since I'm the one that first brought Sharon to our "Group". But you two are the ones who turned that early connection into 40 years together. An inspiration to us all!