Chuck Bino: Are marital longevity, happiness elusive?

Apr. 14, 2013 @ 03:59 AM

It isn’t normally an introductory topic of conversation between most couples of any age these days.  “How long have you been married?” is usually avoided until one runs out of other topics.
The question is likely to offend some couples, as marriage isn’t a necessary social requirement to enjoy the marital “bliss” they speak of in novels.  Another strong likelihood is that one doesn’t know whether to include the phrase … “this time around?”  It can be an embarrassing topic for the newly introduced, with or without wedding bands. The more acceptable intro question might be “Have you any family nearby?”
With longer life spans, many senior citizens enjoy replacement spouses, either because they’ve outlived the originals or grew from them emotionally and intellectually.  Perhaps commitment and contractual agreements don’t have the binding power they once had, or governments and lawyers just make it too easy to dissolve the unions.  More than half of marriages end in divorce (http://www.statisticbrain.com/u-s-divorce-rate-statistics/).  It is what it is, and can provide both entertainment and unintended surprises.
So, after playing the memory hopscotch on our early years together, Sue and I agreed on some successful risks, opportunities and behaviors that may have played a positive role in our remaining married.
The first positive was prenuptial classes in which we had the benefit of suggestions from couples married over a range of time spans, even from “old farts” as we are now. Various groups, mostly churches, run these. As most other processes, there is an online version at www.catholicmarriageprepclass.com; Jewish and Muslim couples have similar opportunities. Some states, such as Florida require 4 hours (not a bad investment) http://www.relationshipjourney.com/premaritalpreparationprogram.html.
Without requesting it, we gave each other “space” or time for special interests or hobbies. If there were mutual interests, that was a bonus. We found it true that if two really care for each other, “absence (within reason) makes the heart grow fonder.”
Living near each other’s parents is not necessarily a good thing. If not convinced, see episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond” with Ray Romano.  When I got transferred 1,200 miles west to Chicago, it saved our young marriage. We were away from almost constant appraisal by our parents for all our decisions. The family separation made us depend more on each other, and actually prevented everyone from taking others for granted.
At some point 15 years later, we had an invite to attend a “Worldwide Marriage Encounter” weekend in Raleigh. If one is complacent about how much he allows free communication with his spouse, this is an “eye opening” weekend. Please see www.wwme.org. This isn’t for partners with major problems that need more serious help. For that, one can see sites as http://www.marriagebootcamp.com and others.
There are plenty of other external influences that can affect your relationships. We found one of those to be the friendships we chose to cultivate. Be wary of the charismatic chap or chick who demands too much of your personal time. On the other hand, try to join community, school or church groups as a team. While your jobs and child raising take up your spare times, keep in mind that in short order, the kids will be gone. Make your plans early to either grow closer or further apart.
These sensible suggestions contain no magical factors. We took advice from a the Rev. Patrick Payton, an early TV evangelist:  “The family that prays together, stays together.” It is also good to periodically visit 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
On April 20, Sue and I will celebrate 50 years together. I love you, Dear!

Chuck Bino lives in High Point with his wife, Sue, after technical and management careers in manufacturing and retail. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.