Family Practice: Marriage, Part I: Meet the parentsWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | email@example.com
My mom wanted to go to the University of Hawaii but, for reasons I don’t recall, ended up at Bowling Green State University. She had intended to at least visit our 50th state upon completion of her studies, but, as the story goes, she ended up meeting my dad in college and most of her life’s plans suddenly became null and void. Instead of taking a solo excursion to the paradise of the Pacific, my mom opted to join my dad on one of the wildest, most unpredictable, most difficult, most wondrous journeys known to humankind — marriage.
I have personally had the privilege of witnessing the past 36 years of my parents’ relationship travels, and I have to say that those two crazy lovebirds have managed to make the whole enterprise of marriage look rather, well, hard. You read that correctly. My happily-married-for-45-years parents have made almost every aspect of the matrimonial state look like the most trying and inconvenient venture on the face of the earth. True story.
I do remember hugging and kissing and blissfully dancing the night away making appearances on episodes of “The Tom & Sandy Nichols Show.” Yet, I also recall many “ABC Afterschool Special” type themes like “We Seriously Have No Money,” “One of the Kids Just Broke a Window and Another One Just Broke His Arm,” “I’m Not Sure That I Really Like You All That Much Today (or for the Past Couple of Months, Actually),” “The Car Is So Crappy That It Caught On Fire While I Was Driving,” “Here Comes a Midlife Crisis,” “I Was Laid Off … Again” and “I Think It’s Time to Put the Dog to Sleep.” In fact, the list goes on and on and on and on.
The interesting thing is that, with the exception of a few cliffhangers that will likely never be fully resolved, my parents have always found some way to work it out by the end of the story arc. Instead of allowing times of adversity to forever divide them, they combined and conquered over and over and over again. As far as I can tell, they did it by committing to love each other every single day more than they lamented that they didn’t quite like each other and/or their situation at any given moment. Regardless of the forks, potholes and missing stretches of road, they fulfilled their promise to stay on the same bus and somehow kept on trekking.
Aside from adhering to the most important part of the marriage, which is sticking to the original agreement, my parents supposedly did it all wrong. They married young, settling down together before they were settled down themselves. They rarely did the date night thing, with nights out together instead meaning Little League games, high school choir concerts and school board meetings. They didn’t make a vow to themselves to maintain their separate identities or keep doing their own things. If one took an interest in something new, the other usually followed out of a genuine loyalty to their partner’s interests. Yes, by today’s standards and advice for a healthy, happy marriage, my parents set themselves up for failure with their grow-together, attached-at-the-hip, put-the-kids-first approach.
Yet, somehow they have managed to make it work for 45 years and continue to do so.
One of them could have easily decided at some point that they had given up too much of their autonomy or missed out on a self-serving stop along the path. My parents have never seemed to look at marriage as something that takes away from one’s personal desires in life, however. In fact, according to their example, the only essential element of a life well lived is finding a way to keep living it together.
To the casual observer, my parents’ marriage probably looks like an easy ride, an unlikely case of stars aligning just right across a lifetime. Being an insider, I have had the good fortune to watch them happily fight tooth and nail, year in and year out to make it look like a piece of cake to those less in the know. Because so much of the battle to constantly keep it together happens behind closed doors, good marriages are often mistaken for miracles when in reality they are masterpieces.
My parents are celebrating their 45-year masterpiece with a trip to Hawaii this fall. It is bound to be a spectacular journey but will surely never outshine the one they live hand in hand each and every day.
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.