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To Have and To Hold…

On a recent anniversary trip, my husband and I reflected on our 30 years of marriage and why we were still enjoying friendship and love.  Having been only 19 and 20 when we wed, our chances of reaching 50 and still being together and happy, were slim.

At 13 ½ years old, I had looked at the Scottish boy visiting next door as a wonderful easy summer boyfriend.  And,  while I didn’t understand much of what he said through that thick Scottish brogue, I understood cute and different and I enjoyed every minute together, vowing at the end of our month together, to stay in touch and to someday visit him in Scotland.

A year later, having saved all of my babysitting money, I boarded a plane bound for Scotland to spend a month with a young man I hardly knew and a family I had never met.  Looking back, I have only gratitude for the parents who had confidence in me, who believed in friendship and young love and who knew that life experience is the best teacher of all. Three years on, the changing Scottish industrial landscape meant a decision to immigrate to Canada and my long distance romance landed right in front of me on a Boeing 747.

My high school years were a challenging time, and adding in a 16 yr old transplanted homesick Scot, one who had already completed high school and was an apprentice mechanic years ahead of his Canadian peers, made it tougher. But by 19, both of us were in College and still in love, so it seemed an easy decision to marry young. Who could have known that a friendship begun at 13 would form the basis for a longtime love, one we would celebrate 30 years later.

Those years passed quickly with careers underway, two inter- provincial moves, three children, caring and grieving for dying parents, friendships, birthdays, graduations, and family holidays -the stuff of marriage and of life. And while not everyone who had wished us well at our 1980 summer wedding was convinced, we hoped we understood what it might take to keep it long and loving. And at 19 we couldn’t see why it wouldn’t.

So under a glorious blue sky and beside an aqua marine ocean in Fiji, I asked my husband what he thought was holding us together and more importantly what had kept us happy all these years.  For those who are interested, here are a few of those thoughts….

♥    WHEN MAKING IMPORTANT DECISIONS, we listen to each other, really listen and when it’s time to decide, whoever wants it more than the other person doesn’t want it, wins.  It’s never spoken about again and we each support the winning decision fully.

♥    EITHER, SAY IT OUT LOUD or DON’T SAY IT.  Think what you like but only say it if it is said out of love or will benefit the other person. And never share something to unburden yourself; some knowledge you just have to live with. We taught our children “if you can’t say it on a billboard, don’t say it out loud”.  Honesty is not always the best policy and some things really are better left unsaid. The answer to ‘do I look fat in this?” is always NO and the answer to “am I looking more bald?” is always NO.

♥    LOVING SOMEONE IS EASIER THAN LIVING WITH THEM.  Most people are easy to love, not so easy to live with, so we each started out with 5 rules that the other person had to honour.  Since there are only 5, we chose wisely and we chose deal breakers.  My husband’s “you can’t bring up the past”, meant that the argument about too much golf on Sunday, once resolved, was never mentioned again. And we compromised on everything else – there will always be things that annoy you, put them into perspective because small things can eat away at love, little by little if left to grow.

♥    MARRY YOUR FRIEND was the advice my mother gave me at 19.  She said to be sure that we had a strong friendship because once the passion started to fade; the friendship would keep us going.

♥    IT’S NOBODY’S BUSINESS. In our toughest and saddest times, we shared little with our friends or family, at least nothing we considered private and we didn’t ask others for advice.  We shared mostly with each other, and professionals when needed.  And while that famous saying “a trouble aired is a trouble shared” might work for some, we chose each other because friends can end up taking sides and family members can find it too hard to forget and move on long after you already have.

♥    TAKE YOUR TIME – IT’S ABOUT INTENT. Better to sit with things a while and not rush into saying or doing things you will regret later on.  We look at intent – if something is said in the heat of the moment or in anger, know that it can be forgiven.  If you can forgive, you can move on.

♥   CREATE RITUALS, CELEBRATE moments and share experiences; open up your home and your table to friends and to strangers.  There has often been a party in the works – birthdays on the beach, picnics in the park, graduation parties, and bon voyages. It is a short and ordinary life; we try to add some ‘special to it.

♥   IT’S A PARTNERSHIP.  Believe and trust in each other, respect each other and remember how important this person is to you. You are a team, a partnership – spend your time trying to make the other person happy and if they do the same, you can’t help but be happy.

♥    TIME FLIES, so don’t put off anything; you have no way of knowing how much time you will have together- go on vacations, say yes more often than no, accept invitations, share your time together.  You will wake up one day and ask yourself where the 30 years went, so make sure you have made enough memories to be able to answer the question.

♥    KEEP GROWING. Grow alongside each other or grow independently, but keep growing and learning and loving and don’t hold each other back.

♥    RAISE INDEPENDENT CHILDREN, so you can move on when they do.

♥    BE GRATEFUL – Love IS the answer, so when you find it, know its value and hold on tight, it’s one amazing ride!