In 1923, my grandmother, Mary, was asked to be the maid-of-honor for her best friend’s wedding. As the wedding approached in her hometown near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Mary wondered what the best man might be like.
She had heard that Lou was also a recent immigrant from Czechoslovakia and also an available bachelor, but he wouldn’t be arriving until just before the wedding began.
During the wedding, Lou, the best man, took a liking for Mary the maid-of-honor. The day after the wedding, when Lou arrived back home in Ohio, he wrote a letter to Mary in Pennsylvania, asking for her hand in marriage.
Mary replied by mail, saying “Yes, but don’t you think we should meet to plan a wedding?” They met a second time to plan a wedding. They met a third time to have a wedding.
64 years later, I sat in my grandparent’s living room and I asked them what they believed to be the secret of their loving and lasting marriage?
They quickly told me two things:
First, they said they learned to live by the old adage that said, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”
My grandmother explained “Most couples think the secret to a lasting marriage is in learning to love. We all learn to love. Learning to love is what brings us together, but learning to fight, and learning to fight fair, is what keeps us together. The real secret to a loving marriage is in learning how to fight together. After 64 years, we’ve discovered that it was through our disagreements, when we stuck it out and worked through it, those times made us closer and stronger together.”
The second thing they told me was “We learned to become each other’s best friends by doing everything we could together. When we stood at the altar and said ‘I do,’ we made a commitment for forever, but we lived that each day as best friends, and by the grace of God it has become 64 years of one-day at a time.”
Confirmed by Research…
At the University of Denver, studies found that the major predictor of divorce and marital unhappiness was not disappointments over finances, lack of sexual attraction or lack of love. It was the way couples handle their disagreements and anger, and the way they communicate and fight about their disappointments. According to University of Denver psychologists Howard J. Markman, Scott M. Stanley, and Susan L. Blumberg, couples with the best chance for a successful marriage are those who learn to successfully resolve problems when they develop.
My grandmother actually added another reason in that conversation I had, and although it was mentioned as kind of addendum to her point about being best friends and doing everything they could together, it is worth recognizing.
She added, “We stayed best friends in marriage by taking time to laugh.” She shared a story about my father, when he was a young child, and how they saved and scrimped to afford to buy him a good pair of boots for walking to school and getting through the winter. My dad, as a child found a hot steam pipe laid just above the surface of the ground that he decided to challenge with a game of how long can I stand on it before the heat gets too unbearable. My grandfather was more than upset by son’s ruined boots. Then after they all cooled down and were at least thankful he only burned through his new boots and not his feet, they found themselves laughing about what he did. “From that moment on in our marriage,” said my grandma, “we learned that if we don’t take time to laugh, we’d never last.”
The Grandma Story to me, is a story of understanding what love is, a commitment to doing life together, and having a faith that allows laughing ever after!