Warmest regards: Is there such a thing as a ‘forever marriage?’
By Pattie Mihalik
If you look around at all the marriages that fail as well as those that live in misery, you might get a bit cynical about marriage.
Perhaps you may even wonder if there is such a thing as a forever marriage.
What keeps a marriage whole and healthy?
I started thinking about these questions when I was asked to interview a couple celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary.
Usually, I try not to do those stories because if I focus on one marriage, others who have been married a long time want me to do their story, too.
I said yes to writing about the 70 years marriage because I’ve watched their closeness through the years. It’s obvious they have something special.
OK, I’ll be honest. Sometimes when I do a story like that it’s what I call “sap” — too much bland saccharine and not enough substance.
So my challenge to myself was to write the story but make it real. Gini is a private person and Tom is a man of few words. I had my work cut out for me.
But they fooled me in that they were fairly open in reliving their 70 years together.
I learned that if the marriage of Gini and Tom didn’t last, she could have blamed her mother.
Or her brother. Or her aunt.
They were part of a whole cast of characters who did everything in their power to make the marriage of Gini and Tom come about.
They thought Tom was a rare man, one who was perfect for Gini.
The problem was, Gini was dating another guy who was serious about her.
“No one in my family liked my boyfriend. Instead, they kept pushing me to dump him and go out with Tom.”
At first, Gini admits she didn’t pay much attention to shy Tom. And if Tom had his eye on Gini it would be hard to tell because his shyness kept him from asking her for a date.
But her brother didn’t give up in his matchmaking efforts. He kept making sure Gini and Tom ended up in the same place.
It worked. Tom began to notice the attractive, vivacious Gini, and she began to notice his courtly manners as well as his beautiful brown eyes and curly brown hair.
But Gini’s old beau was still in the picture.
“He told me I had to pick. It was either him or Tom.”
She picked Tom.
When Tom asked her to get married, she said yes right away.
“I knew he was the kind of guy who would be a good husband,” she recalls. “He was just so incredibly kind and nice to everyone.”
See, Gini is a smart lady. She knew enough to closely observe how Tom treated everyone, not just her.
“I always said I wanted to marry a guy who was a keeper — someone who knows marriage is forever,” she proclaims.
She had strong feelings about wanting a “forever marriage,” she says, because her mother was married four times, her brother married three times and there were so many divorces in the family.
“Everywhere I looked there were people who were divorced multiple times,” she said. “I didn’t want that to happen to me, so I was especially diligent about the kind of man I married.”
Yes, Tom was a good-looking young man and is still good-looking decades later. But looks had nothing to do with the reason why she picked him.
“It was because of his kind, easygoing disposition,” Gini says.
She admits she’s the one with a temper. He, on the other hand, refused to fight.
“He’s always been the glue in this marriage,” Gini proclaims.
To keep their marriage on solid grounds, Tom and Gini never went to bed angry and always made each other their priority. They kept an active social life and always did things together.
Yet none of that was enough to guarantee a forever marriage. They learned that the hard way.
When their daughter, Sally, died in an automobile accident during her junior year of college, grief shattered Gini and Tom.
It also shattered their marriage in ways they didn’t think would be possible.
Both admit neither knew how to handle their intense grief.
Good, kind Tom became distant and wouldn’t talk.
“If I asked him what I should make for dinner, he would answer with one word: Food,” Gini recalls.
Unable to deal with all that pent-up grief, Tom told Gini he wanted a divorce.
She refused. “We got married for better or worse … not to leave when life got tough,” she says.
It wasn’t easy rebuilding their strong marriage, and it didn’t happen overnight. But Gini kept holding on and kept reminding Tom that they vowed to be married forever.
Tom might have been “the nice one” as Gini claims. But she was the determined one.
Her secret to a long marriage: “Make a commitment to a forever marriage and live that commitment.”
Gini says determination is what it takes to have a forever marriage.
Determination that no matter what, they will always be there for each other.
At 90 and 94, they are still holding onto that commitment.
And they’re still teaching us there can be such a thing as a forever marriage.
Contact Pattie Mihalik at firstname.lastname@example.org.