By Janice Lane Palko
On August 28, I was married 40 years. Looking back on the past four decades, I feel a bit like a late-night comedian. How long ago were you married? I was married so long ago that I had a band and not a deejay. I was married so long ago, that it was before videographers. I was married so long ago, no one rented limos. I was married so long ago, that Banns of Marriage were posted for three weeks in our church bulletin. I was married so long ago, that I didn’t have a wedding registry. I was married so long ago that if someone had suggested having your wedding at a farm the way people like to do now, people would have thought you were crazy. I was married so long ago that when a bride wore a white dress down the aisle, the gossips pondered whether the bride “was worthy” of that white dress.
Yes, things have changed a lot since 1982. Some things changed and are circling back. When we got married, mortgage rates were hovering around 15% and there was a recession. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re heading for a replay of that economy.
But I’ve changed too and so has my husband. I’m a different person from the 22-year-old bride saying my vows. Not just physically, that is obvious. With each passing decade, I’ve experienced life as a different person. My mom and dad have been married for nearly 64 years, and she’s often said that you are married to different people during your marriage.
Yes, there are stages of life. I’ve been a newlywed, a young mom, a college mom, empty nester, middle-aged, grandmother, etc. I’m considerably different from who I was forty years ago. I’d like to think I’ve improved and learned a lot along the way. When I got married, I never dreamed I’d have twins, live in such a lovely home, deal with the accidental death of my young brother-in-law, become a writer, and be able to travel as much as I’ve had. My husband has journeyed through all these phases of life with me and has gone through changes of his own.
So, if we are ever-changing, how do you make a commitment to love and live with someone until death? I’ve been thinking a lot about that, and as an old married lady, I’d like to share some thoughts. When we were getting married, it was required that we go through marriage classes to get married in our church. During one of those classes, the instructor posed this question: What is the goal of marriage? We had to write down our answers in a notebook and I wrote down. “To be happy.”
I was wrong. The instructor informed us that the goal of marriage is unity. There are times in marriage when you will not be happy, sometimes due to circumstances beyond your control like sickness, misfortune, or death, and even then, you must remain united.
How do you remain united when you are both changing? I believe we’ve been able to live and love for so many years together because at my core and my husband’s, we’ve never changed. We’ve been anchored together through our beliefs, goals, convictions and in general outlook on life. We have always believed in God and have adhered to certain morals, and we’ve believed in each other. We’ve been united at the deepest level no matter what has happened. It is because of our being united that we’ve been able to enjoy the happiness that I thought marriage should be when I wrote those words way back when.