August 1, 1969. A time of turmoil in the country. Two generations were bitterly divided by an unpopular war and a 'popular' Administration. The Beatles were in the studio recording the album Abbey Road. Hurricane Camille was aborning somewhere in the East Atlantic. Mariner 7 was ready to attempt its closest flyby of Mars. In a week and a day, the first murderous rampage of the family Manson would shock and horrify the nation. In two weeks, an unprepossessing farm in the small community of Bethel, New York would host a historic music festival that would spawn the Woodstock Nation and forever change the lives of millions of young people who would collectively come to be known as the Baby Boomers.
And on that day, a young man and a young woman, barely out of their teens, would take the first and most momentous step of their lives onto that long road stretching into the distant future, the road of matrimony.
We were supposed to be married August 2nd. That date is, in fact, engraved on our wedding rings. But circumstances (for which read parents) beyond the control of the engaged couple intervened, leading me to utter the stunning words "the wedding is off" two weeks before the ceremony was to occur. (Shades of Jennifer Wilbanks, the "Runaway Bride." For a while I could almost understand her presumed dilemma, at least until she decided to turn her 'story' into cash.) I had to hasten to explain to all involved that, for me at least, things had gotten way out of hand, that the guest list was way too long, that our parents, while they may have been the ones paying for the wedding, were not the ones getting married, and that they needed to give us back some control. This daring proclamation was not received well. So we made our own plans, invited our parents to attend our wedding if they wished, and tied the knot a day earlier than planned, because the church was unavailable to us on the originally planned date.
With that rather unorthodox beginning, just this side of elopement, we were on our way, and we never looked back.
Here we are, 36 years later. Three-and-a-half decades. Nowadays, that's a long time to remain married to one person. There were times we weren't absolutely sure we'd make it this far, but perseverance, tolerance and a bit of hard work paid off. We have learned a few 'secrets' along the way (well, they're not exactly secrets - everyone has heard these, they're more like precepts; here are the ones we've found to be most useful.)
One of the most crucial is 'Refrain from lying to each other.' Lies, sooner or later, are bound, by their very nature, to be discovered, and when discovered, they typically lead to anger and lasting resentment. And it takes a long time to restore or regain trust. There are few things more corrosive to marital bliss.
A corollary to this is 'Refrain from attempting to manipulate one another.'
Another is 'Two-way communication and openness are key.' When Bonnie used to ask me what was wrong, I would often say "nothing" in a stupid and misguided attempt to spare her feelings, while continuing to nurse my grudge. This would only exacerbate the situation; it solved nothing, and it made her feel worse, because she knew that I thought she had done something wrong. You must tell your partner when something is bothering you, because your partner cannot read your mind.
'Don't sweat the small stuff.' This axiom is very important. If you can laugh about, say, a parking ticket or a broken plate, you will give your partner peace of mind, and he or she will be more liable to share with you more important matters, knowing that you will not get angry. And you should always face the big stuff as a team.
Make the effort to 'Express your love for each other daily.' It need not be verbal; it can be as simple as a kiss or a small favor done.
'Accept each other for what you are.' Idiosyncracies should, at the least, be tolerated, and may eventually become part of what you love most about your partner.
Lastly, 'Always be there for each other.' There will be times when each partner will have to carry the other through the danger zones of life. Newt Gingrich is an excellent example of how not to behave toward one's partner.
I'm sure there are others, but these are the precepts that have worked for us, and allowed us to attain our 36th year of marriage. We look forward to many more.
Happy Anniversary, Bonnie, my love.