Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Insight from a fifty-year marriage

“Moving in day” brings me in contact with family units – prospective students, their brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles; sometimes grandparents. And I get to thinking about long-lasting committed relationships, especially marriages.

(Truth in advertising: I have been married for eighteen years, my second. Before that I was married for twenty-five years. My first marriage ended in divorce. Since I live in Anderson Hall during the week and my wife lives in the country home she has created for herself, it is a relationship that, while it could be truthfully described as ‘committed’ functions mostly in parallel.)

Anyhow… I am reflecting this morning on very long marriages. My parents were married 57 years before my mother died. But I want to write about another couple whose marriage lasted over 60 years. They were Quakers and members of the oversight committee when my wife and I were married. Quaker maririages have oversight committees rather than Ministers and the couple say vows to each other. I will call our friends, both dead now, Bill and Sarah.

Bill and Sarah met when Bill, a conscientious objector, was participating in the University of Minnesota project, conducted during World War II, that tested the psychological effects of starvation. Sarah was a caregiver for the volunteers. Over the years they were active in many Quaker causes, the American Friends Service Committee, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Fellowship of Reconciliation and many more. In their later years, they lived in a tiny house on Capital Hill, where they could be close to the political causes they fought for. They were “lobbyists” – the mirror image of the despicable Jack Abramov and his ilk – but that is off the subject. They were one of those couples that, literally, seemed to have become ‘one flesh.”

When my wife and I invited them to join us for our first wedding anniversary, they had recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary It was an evening of good conversation on the deck of our small home in Arlington. As it drew to a close, I asked Sarah to reflect on her fifty year marriage and share an insight that would be useful as we began our own marriage journey. She paused for a very long time and then said.

“It ain’t easy.”


Anonymous Jessica said...

Thanks, John.

Valuable words of wisdom after my recent wedding. Neil and I had a beautiful and fun wedding on Whidbey Island in WA state on Aug 5. We are really blessed to have loving families and to be a part of a great community.

8:04 AM  

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