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The Mystery of Marriage

Published in the “Nashville Eye” column of The Tennessean, Sunday, January 30, 1994.

Mystery of Marriage – The dreaded ‘seven year itch’ is only one of the obstacles that beset the road to a successful union.

I approached it with caution.  I had heard the warnings.  I knew what I was up against, and wanted to be ready for it.  I was determined not to be the latest victim.

I sought information from those who had survived it before.  They lived to tell about it, so I hoped they could give me the secret.  I heard some good advice, but no one would gie me the foolproof way to beat it.  I was on my own.

The time had come: the plans were made; there was no turning back.  I took the kids to the babysitter, and silently drove home.  He came out the door and got in the car.  I had to ask him the burning question: 

“Are you itching yet?”  He didn’t answer.

It was our seventh anniversary.  I had heard the horror stories about the dreaded “seven year itch,” and I was prepared to scratch.

The previous morning, I browsed through the section of the newspaper that announces upcoming weddings.  There were pictures of happy couples and a small write-up beside each, saying what their plans were for the future.  They seemed to have love and a determination to stick together.  But, sadly I wondered what would be said if the newspaper were to publish an update on each of them in five or 10 years.  How many woul dstill be together?  Would they keep that gleam in their eyes?  With all the changes they would face, could they survive as a couple?

So, we had reason to celebrate, I tell my husband and myself. Many couples don’t make it this far.  Looking back, I’m not sure how we managed.  So I wanted to find that one common denominator that holds couples together and keeps them happy for 50 years. 

The night my husband and I were married, a very wise man who had been married forever told us that the key to it all is never to mention divorce.  It’s not an option, so don’t discuss it. He knew what kind of loyalty and commitment it would take to endure whatever struggles we might encounter.

We would go on to test that loyalty many times. 

I think it takes the same type of devotion that you show to your children:  If they make a mistake, you don’t give up; you don’t leave them; you love them; you hang in there with them and hope they become stronger for what they have been through.  Sometimes I wonder if marriages would last longer if people would support their spouse the same way they do their children. 

The advice about divorce was probably the best I have ever heard.  But I’ve known people who have kept their commitment and have made themselves and their children miserable because of it.  I don’t just want my marriage to last — I want it to be great.

I have never found anyone who has the answer.  I’ve talked to couples who have beaten unbelieavele odds, and even theycan’t tell me how they did it.  Then I questioned people who have been through a divorce, and they shared what they would have done differently.  The only thing I have learned is that there are no guarantees.

Maybe the secret will only work for me if I discover it for myself.  Maybe the answer comes from deep inside.  I have to find what makes my marriage good and do more of that.

One man told me that he and his wife had torn down their marriage and put it back together many times, but that it now was better than ever.

So perhaps that is it the key to a long and happy marriage is to  have a complete set of keys.  I mean, the things I did in the beginning to make my marriage work aren’t necessarily the same things that will work for us today.  My husband and I have changed; our surroundings have changed.  So, I must also change.

Back to the night of our anniversary.  Tommy never did answer my question, probably becasue he hs his own understanding of how this works.  Even though he knows exactly how long we have been married, he will be the first to tell you that we have been happily married now for four years.

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