Having been married for over 20 years, I am more convinced than ever that commitment, no matter the circumstances, is the key to a lasting marriage. Prior to, and after, the marriage, the couple are madly in love with each other. The man knows all about his wife, likes most everything about her, cannot imagine living without her, and loves her. Likewise, the woman knows all about her husband, likes everything about him, cannot imagine living without him and loves him. They are in love, happily married, and expect (or at least hope) to stay married to each other forever.
But, something unexpected happens over the years – changes. Over the years, the man changes. The woman also changes. It is impossible for the two people to remain the same as the years pass. In my case, I completed law school, got a job, changed jobs, started my own law office working out of my house, and started a partnership with new offices out of the house. As a family, we have given birth to 4 children and have seen them grow to the point where they are 17, 13, 10, and 6. We have gone through the tragedy of losing children before they were born. We have rented apartments, lived with parents, and bought two houses. We have changed churches once. My wife went from being a school teacher, to being a stay-at-home-mom to a home school-mom who still takes her kids for some classes at a Christian school. We have become foster parents to 2 young children. After 20 years of marriage, we are not the same people. We have changed.
If I was only in love with the person that I married 20 years ago, I would have a problem – that person does not exist. Likewise, if my wife was only in love with the person that she married 20 years ago, she would have a problem – I am not that same person. What keeps us together? Simply, it is commitment and a decision to keep loving the other person. It does not matter how either of us has changed, we choose to love each other. Our circumstances do not matter, we choose to love each other. We are committed to each other.
As I said, people change. Our circumstances also change. Through all the changes, a married couple should choose to stay committed, stay in love, and stay married. I found an interesting study conducted by the University of Chicago. The study examined married couples who described themselves as “very unhappy”. After five years of remaining married, 77% of those “very unhappy” couples described themselves as “very happy” or “quite happy.” On the other hand, those “unhappy couples” that chose divorce remained unhappy even 5 years after the divorce.
The message is simple, couples should choose to remain in love and be committed to each other no matter what. We all change, but that is no reason for a divorce. Even bad circumstances are usually temporary and change. Stay committed during the hard times, things will probably change for the better; you just need to outlast the bad circumstances.
NOTE – Do not think that this writing means that I am not happy and am merely staying married because I am committed. I am madly in love with my wife. She is the most wonderful person in the world. While this is true, she is not the same person that I married. I love her anyway. In fact, I love her more today than ever before. Twenty years of marriage has taught me how to love. While I am much better at loving my wife today than I was 20 years ago, I expect to continue to grow and love her more, and better, as the years pass.
FINAL NOTE – I did not write the Note because my wife would read the blog. I wrote it because it is true and because my wife will read the blog.