35 years ago in a little town in North Central Kansas, the PE teacher married the carpenter. She spent her career in education and he had his own construction business before becoming everyone's favorite mailman. Together they have touched many lives, raised a family, created a home, and shared many experiences that filled a lot of photo albums. Together they have built a very successful life with the hope and faith that there will be many more years to share.
As you may have guessed, I am talking about my own marriage and approaching anniversary. I look around and am amazed that it has been 35 years. As they say, time flies when you're having fun - or maybe just when you're really busy. Since our son will be getting married around this time next year, I am not only reflecting on our life together, but on the life he will have when he gets married. So I guess today’s blog is not just a look back, but a way to share some lessons learned.
Some people are probably surprised that we have lasted so long because on the surface we appear to be quite opposite. I talk quite a bit (no snickering) and he does too - but only if he doesn't know you. (He says we already know what he knows.) I am a problem solver - a fixer of sorts in the thinking realm - and he is a fixer of things. I create by talking and writing; he works wonders with his hands. I am decisive; he is reflective. I like to think our differences are really our strengths and we complement each other. We could probably be the poster children for how opposites attract!
We do share a lot of common interests particularly as it relates to the teams we cheer for and the projects we undertake. It is our differences, as well as our common interests, that have made our partnership work for us. It goes without saying - but I will say it anyway - that you rarely spend 35 years with anyone without a deep, abiding love and appreciation for the other person. Along with that foundation of love, the most important things we share are common values, respect for one another, and the desire to make a difference.
If I could share some advice with my son and his fiancé, it would be that these aforementioned beliefs, traits, and behaviors are a part of us every. single. day. They shape the way we talk to and treat each other, show support, and generally live our lives.
I believe one of the keys to our success has been rooted in finding ways to enjoy the interests of the other person. For example, I love sports and he appreciates them too, and as a result, has become an avid baseball collector. That interest has led us to antique stores and vacation destinations. At first I didn't really know what to do at antique stores since searching for newer items usually dominates my shopping experience, but I found things I love to collect too, and now I often come out with more treasures than he does! But just to clarify, he has two entire rooms to support his collection and I have a display case. We are supportive of each other's interests and aspirations and are not threatened by those things that not our "cup of tea." The lesson here is that we can learn from others when we are respectful of our differences, which in turn often enriches our own experiences.
Another strong point within our marriage is the ability to work together to make projects happen around the house or to plan events. Projects are engaging and require the strengths each person brings to the project. Admittedly I am typically more of an idea person than one who can make it happen when it comes to home improvement projects, but fortunately he can make things come to life with his carpentry and landscaping skills. Our home is a testament to his ability and our teamwork. When an event is the focus of our efforts, I take the lead and he is in the supporting role. These things keep us looking forward in ways that refresh our home or allow us to celebrate with others. Basically, I think we just like to do things together! Vacations are fun whether we are in the mountains or trolling antique stores. Trips to Walmart or Home Depot can become a date night if we throw in dinner out. In school, project based learning is often a favorite activity of students because it is active, engaging, and breathes life into mundane, everyday learning; just as in our case, projects and “doing” enrich our living.
Finally, and probably most importantly, we have a common foundation of faith and values which guide most everything we do. We are respectful of each other - always. I am continually amazed at the hurtful things people say to those they supposedly love. Expressing your own thoughts is definitely important but does not require that you spew venom at the other. Respect is a two way street and one that should be intentional and automatic. As a result, it impacts so many other parts of the relationship. Along that line we also try to act in ways that are helpful to others. Schools are finally starting to understand the value of relationships as it relates to a positive learning experience. The quality of our relationships, no matter what kind, is something all of us should be working to strengthen whether it’s at home, work, school or church. (And I might add, politicians take note!)
Today I celebrate our upcoming anniversary and the choices we made that got us this far. Every day we have the opportunity to choose what to think and how to act. I would advocate choosing respect and kindness and seeing what you get in return. So far, I have 35 great years and counting….