Earlier this year I wrote a blog post explaining why I don’t want to get married. In that post, I discuss the large divorce rate growing across the Western population and that I, too, come from a family of divorced parents. You might think my outlook on marriage is influenced by the fact my parents divorced when I was young, and that I don’t have positive role models when it comes to long and happy marriages—and you’d be right… sort of. My parents, and many other divorced and unhappy couples I know have influenced my opinion on the practice. That is not to say, however, that I don’t have people in my life who have shown me what it truly means to be in a long, and happy marriage. I do. Those people are, in fact, my grandparents.
My grandparents just recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. August is actually a huge month for them because not only is it their anniversary, but it’s also both of their birthdays. My grandpa turned 91 and my grandma, the big 90. (They pride themselves in both being Leos.) Along with their marriage longevity, what is also amazing about this couple is that they are both still living in their massive house my mum and her brothers grew up in. The house has hosted many holidays over the years, including their milestone anniversaries—at least, the ones I’ve been alive for. This year was no different. Well yes, it was. I take after my grandma in a lot of ways. We’re both stubborn and we both love to sing. I’ve also inherited her love of being a social butterfly. If she had had it her way, there would have been a massive party in their backyard full of family and friends. (That’s how they usually celebrate these things.) Thanks to COVID, though, that wasn’t an option. We had to settle for having a small family gathering with people in our ‘bubble.’
It was a beautiful sunny day and we were sitting having beers in their backyard before dinner. I interrupted the lighthearted conversation when I asked my grandparents, “so, what is the secret to 65 years?” My grandma sighed and said something along the lines of ‘I was sort of expecting to give this speech today.’ She then continued on speaking, as if having said those words multiple times at different anniversaries. (Now that I’m thinking about it, I vaguely remember her saying this at their 60th… Anyways, I filmed it this time and took notes to share with whoever is reading this, in case you—or someone you know—could use this advice, too.)
My grandmother said it wasn’t about finding the perfect person. It was about finding the perfect person for you. She added that growing up she had this idea about who her ‘perfect’ husband would be and that he would check off all these boxes. What she found in my grandfather, however, was not a perfect man, but someone who could completely attend to her needs. (He does bring her coffee and chocolate in bed every morning which is pretty perfect if you ask me.)
My grandfather then contributed by saying that marriage is a corporation, with both parties giving 50% of the shares. “You have to realize that your partner has certain specific strengths, you let [them roll with theirs, and they need to do the same for you.]” Essentially, you’re both investing in a business; the business of marriage. In order to make it successful, you need to let your partner hone their skills, and you need to do the same. The best partnerships are those who’s skills and weaknesses complement one another. I later thought about how true this was for them. My grandma, the extraverted excitable woman that she is, compliments my grandfather who’s temperament has always been more subdued and patient.
I also wish to emphasize that after 65 years, they are still very much in love and are completely happy. At the end of the day, however, 65 years is just time passing. It’s completely possible to be married that long and not be happy. There’s no secret to that. There’s just regret.
During this conversation, my grandfather also mentioned the importance of being a “good person with good character.” That’s some damn good advice, in my opinion.