Last week, Sally and I celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary. What was going to be a fancy Italian/French dinner for the two of us at Bella’s in Saratoga ended up with four friends at the Bear Tree Tavern and Café in Centennial. (I can highly recommend both!) As they say in small town newspapers, “A good time was had by all.” Interestingly, the four guests represented three couples, with two of them having lost spouses. So, out of the four couples of us, all have or had marriages of 40 years or more. And, while the national divorce rate is around 50%, most of our friends are in their first marriage. Some of that is generational. When couples got married in the 60s and 70s, the anticipation was that you would stay married. Since most of our friends are of that age group, that anticipation was the norm. Sadly, I don’t think it is that way anymore. (One other interesting factoid, Sally and I were 22 when we got married. As this is our 44th anniversary, it means we have been married for two-thirds of our lives… to each other! Or another way of thinking of it, we’ve been married twice as long as we haven’t! Pretty neat!)
So, why is it that most of our friends have beat the national statistic? Easily, I would say that most of them have a church (or synagogue or mosque or temple) association. But, what is it about that association? I don’t think it is specifically the rejection of divorce that most religions profess, but rather the outlook of ourselves in relationship to God and to the world. It is a sense of something greater than “just me.” When we are “me” oriented, relationship becomes secondary. When we are “we” oriented, that relationship is our definition. Hence, serving others reflects into serving me as well. It is a gift to the other and a gift to ourselves. The belief system also gives a way for forgiving those sins, great and small, that we live with daily. Sally has sometimes intimated that I may be a little difficult to live with on rare occasion. Go figure. But there is also a way forgive those ills that I do. Forgiveness acts as a pressure relief valve to keep the relationship from blowing up!
It reminds me of a saying that I heard long ago and remembered. “Love is not two people together looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, it is two people standing next to each other looking the same direction into the future.” My view has always been to the West, across a wide prairie, to some mountains and a red/golden sunset that we see from our living room. God is good.
Thomas V. Edgar, P.E., Ph.D., F.ASCE, is an emeritus professor in Civil Engineering after teaching at UW for 34 years. He received the Ellbogen Lifetime Teaching award in 2014. He and wife Sally have two adult children, Erik and Elizabeth.