Essays

A successful marriage

As of today, my parents have been married for 47 years.

That is a long, long time.

Almost half a century. 47 years ago, in 1970:

  • A US Postage Stamp cost 6 cents
  • The Beatles disbanded
  • The Vietnam War was still happening
  • You could buy a house for less than $10,000
  • The first commercial jumbo jet made a flight from NYC to London

To contrast, what’s happening in 2017:

  • A US Postage stamp cost is 49 cents
  • Paul McCartney is 75 and Ringo Starr is 77 – the rest of the Beatles are dead
  • The US is still at war with/in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and ISIL
  • The average cost of a house in the US is around $190,000
  • There are over 30 direct flights a day from NYC to London

Oh, how the world has changed. And, on this day, I wonder, has the definition of a successful marriage changed? What does that even mean? Is that even a real thing?

Questions that I have:

  1. Is it because you’ve stayed married?
  2. How does happiness change over time?
  3. How do you know if it’s been successful?
  4. Is it because you have children?
  5. Have you fulfilled your goals, individually and together?
  6. Does it matter what anyone else thinks? Does it even matter at all?

There is so much noise today. I told my friend last week that I had finally gotten “bored with the Internet” and I was sort of pleased about it. The noise had gone from irritating to cacophonous: so much advice about how to be [fill in the blank] and these are the [#] steps / habits / etc. you must do to “succeed at [fill in the blank].”

So much noise and so little knowledge.

Questions I have never asked my parents and never will
Because 1970 isn’t like 2017 and the things they want(ed), for so many reasons, don’t feel like the things I could want, even though for many years I had convinced myself I did.

  1. Why did you get married? What made you say: “this person” and not “that person”?
  2. What is your definition of love?
  3. Does love matter? Love over compatibility?
  4. Why did you stay married?
  5. Are you happy?

I guess I don’t want to ask because I have already spent most of my life finally sorting these things out for myself that it would feel like a backward step to once again inject chaos into what has finally settled into order for me.

I love my parents and I’m so glad that they made 47 years, but 47 years from now plus one day, I’ll be 81, and if I’m lucky, I can only hope that my life, whatever that life will look like, if I’m even still alive, will have spoken for itself.

I have ideas on what a successful marriage looks like; it is something that I very much want for myself… with someone else, obviously. But, the last thing I want to do to that future, to my future, is to place limits and brackets and expectations on it that are grounded in someone else’s idea of success and happiness.

I want those things to come from the person that I end up with. I want them to come from us, together, figuring out where we want to go in life: to live, how to do so, how to have children and how to raise them, how we embrace risk and remain open and engaged with the world– all of it, all of it, I want us to figure out together.

If we can do that, if we can start with that foundation, then I think success will just be a breath away.

(I hope)

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