It hardly seems possible that 35 years have passed since Debra and I said, “I do!”
In just the blink of an eye, years roll by and decades pass like cars going too fast on a crowded freeway. One day you look up and realize you’ve been married more than half of your life. These days that’s quite an accomplishment!
We were married as the statue of Ruth looked over us in the grand ballroom of Macon’s magnificent Hay House. Everything was perfect about our wedding so many years ago.
When I think back on our special day, it plays out like a movie in my head. Our wedding was gorgeously set against silk covered walls, gleaming crystal chandeliers, priceless antiques and a host of family and close friends. April 17, 1982, was truly a magical day filled with happiness and love.
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As life plays out in real time, everything is not always sugar and spice. Some days are wonderful and others require, well, a little more effort. When two people live under one roof, from time to time there will be slight disagreements and some full-blown fights.
Looking back on our 35 years, I don’t see all the small details of each day. Instead, I see two people who were always willing to work hard to keep our marriage strong and lasting.
A marriage that survives the test of time is one in which both people are willing to give and take — like a friendly game of tug-of-war, except for one major difference. Instead of pulling one person across the line, your goal is to maintain equal footing on each side of it. With every year comes a little more wisdom and, somewhere in the process of living, you learn what is really important.
Petty squabbles and misunderstandings are insignificant when looking at the big picture painted by 35 years of marriage. When you look at a painting, you tend to first view it as a whole and then come to rest on the special parts you like the best. That’s how a marriage is. The unimportant parts fade into the distance allowing the brighter parts to shine.
As I look back over the beautiful life Debra and I have painted together in the last 35 years, the good days far out-weigh the bad. I remember the sunrises and sunsets much more than the clouds and the storms. I remember the bright days instead of the dark, dreary nights. I remember the beautiful woman I fell in love with, and who I love more today than the day we wed.
What makes a marriage work for 35 years is learning to choose your battles. Looking back on the early years of our marriage, most of our disagreements were really about nothing more than simply wasting time. Marriage is not a competitive game show. It’s not about egos or who wins. It’s about approaching life as partners with the understanding that two people united are always stronger together than apart.
Marriage is about teamwork — and for 35 years, what a team Debra and I have made!
Our son, Blake, will be saying “I do” in a few months. We are so proud of the man he’s become. It is my hope that our marriage has provided a great example for him.
No two marriages are ever the same, but the same principles are always present in the ones that succeed. A good marriage is built on love and trust. The rest of it is just working as hard as you can to always remember the commitment you made. Some days are easy — some not so much. You have to work to make a marriage great.
I hope Debra and I can continue our life painting for many years to come. I hope we can add many more details to it. I know we had a beautiful start with our wedding at the Hay House.
Here are the vows I wrote 35 years ago and, with the nervous voice of a 21-year-old, said to my bride on our wedding day. “April 17th will always be our day. A day for us to remember. It’s the day I married my best friend. The day I found my treasure!”
More with Mark
Join Mark for tastings, door prizes and lots of fun at the Vidalia Onion Culinary Extravaganza during the 40th annual Vidalia Onion Festival. It’s all happening at 6 p.m. April 25 at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia. Tickets are $10 and are available by calling 912-293-2407.