Saturday, January 7, 2012

Some Gnostic Secrets of Marriage

Kim Kardashian has her uses.  But she cannot whisper in my ear the mystical secrets to a happy  marriage.  Nor can Mel Gibson, Will Smith or Jada Pinkett.  For that precious advice I must turn to my dearest friends, Florence and Charles Tate, who will this year  celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary.  In a society where the divorce rate among African-Americans has skyrocketed to well over sixty-five percent, I would like to share with you an article, which my husband pasted in our family scrapbook nearly twenty years ago.  The patina of its wisdom deepens with age.

Florence Tate 

A 35th Wedding Anniversary:  
A Happy Point of No Return-Most Likely

by Florence Tate

This is just about as good as it gets, ya’ll.  Today, I feel that all the cliches that have to do with providence, a happy marriage, and positive thinking are true.  You know the ones.  God is great.  Life can be beautiful.  Children are a blessing.  Blessed be the ties that bind.

Catch me another time and I may say just the contrary to all of the above, but hey, as of today, my husband, Charles, and I have weathered many a storm together and still love, appreciate, tolerate, understand, and forgive each other.

Today marks the 35th anniversary of our marriage.

We have three beautiful, talented, and productive children who are pleased with their lives and the paths they have taken.  Ask anybody.

We have been blessed with four fantastic, smart, cute and sweet grandchildren.  Ask us.

We’re alive, 60, well, and still kicking.  Sometimes we kick up; sometimes we kick back; sometimes we kick at; and sometimes we heed the call to kick in. We are reasonably proficient in all of those postures.  In addition to kicking, we occasionally “throw down.”  Ask your children what I mean.

Over the past decade our children, some of their friends, as well as some of our own young friends have occasionally asked me for the “secret” of our successful marriage.  So at the risk of sounding smug about it, (which Lord knows I have experienced enough of the vagaries and vicissitues of life not ever to be) I offer up the following with great seriousness and a modicum of attention to priorities.

As anyone from the USA culture could tell you, that alchemic and unfathomable feeling of attraction, romance, LOVE is a pre-requisite.

Tales of eternal wedded bliss, undying (or unflickering) passion, perfect harmony, “never a cross word or loud disagreement,” are just that—tales.  Before making the commitment to marriage, you should have some “experience” under your belt.  Make sure you’ve been to some places, seen some things, known other attractive people.  These circumstances will give you as good a chance as possible of “choosing the right one.”  A variety of pursuits and experiences will provide good opportunities to get to know yourself as well as become acquainted with a whole universe of different kinds of personalities and characters.  In our particular case: college, jobs, social clubs, travel, church, the U.S. army, a brief “too early marriage” and in-country migration, served that purpose.

Once married don’t turn back on everything else you have found enjoyable over the years.  Make friends with other married couples, but continue to see your single friends, and their friends, as time and circumstances permit.

Allow each other time and space to continue to grow, do and be.  Expose each other to the new information, experiences and people that you find interesting and worthwhile.  Understand and appreciate the need for separate identities, interests, friends and pursuits.

Keep current, stay fresh, and demand the same of your mate.  One enjoyable and constantly fascinating way to do this is to make time to associate with young people.  Stay in good touch with your children as they grow up and go away and embrace their friends, as well as make friends of your own among the young people encountered in the course of your normal pursuits—on the job, in the business or profession, at church, in the movement, at the meeting.  Such contact will keep your head open to new ideas, styles, concepts.  (Keep a delicate balance here, however, lest you find yourself being a nuisance as a Mary Worth or Dr. Kildare).
Reach out to others who can benefit from your attention, guidance, counsel or experience.  (Over the years our home has been a veritable way station for a number of friends and others “in transition.”)  This tends to renew faith in oneself, even as one tries to inspire, support, encourage, or heal others.  Most often my husband and I have benefited from such reaching out, more than those with whom our home has been shared.

When taking your wedding vows, make a commitment to the union itself.  Times, situations, and circumstances may alter your feelings about each other for a time.  Undoubtedly, there will be times when, “Well, who needs this?” will take the upper hand.  Commitment to each other may grow weary, and become very shabby and thin.  That’s when the strength of the commitment to the union can become the saving grace.  Stay.  It will pass.  Believe me.  (This advice is not applicable, of course, to situations of abuse—of any kind.  In my book nothing supersedes self-love and esteem).

When things turn sour, cold, bleak, disappoint, and “not, worth it,” try to remember whatever it was that attracted you to him/her in the first place.  See if that quality or attribute is not still there.  If it seems not to be, see if there may not be other previously unnoticed qualities that actually surpass the old ones that attracted you to your mate in the beginning.

Do things together.  Walk.  Talk.  Visit.  Travel.   Play. Dine  (With strenuous effort I refrain here from citing something which we should be doing together, but don’t pray.  But, hey, we’ve still got mountains to climb.)

Keep an element of unpredictability in your life.  A changing political philosophy or ideology.  Interest in a new culture or language, an unexpected travel plan, interest in a new sport.  Change the furniture, or at least change it around.  Change “your” side of the bed, your perfume, your cologne, after shave lotion.  Change YOUR MIND –about anything.  Do not bore each other to death!

Try to be there for each other when the going gets rough.  Illness, unemployment, physical or mental impairment, deaths of loved ones, painful personal disappointments, losses of any kind—these are times when it means so much to at least have each other.  A touch, a glance, a backrub, a special meal, a new dress (especially a new dress), a smile, a tear—whatever says, “I care about what you’re going through and I’ll do whatever I can to make it better.”

Occasionally let it all hang out.  Speak your sober mind, even if it’s ugly.  Let your mate know exactly how pissed off something has made you.  Do whatever gets your thang off – safely.  Stamp your feet.  Blow your horn.  Point your finger.  Cuss.  Shop.  Meditate.

Don’t sit on each other.  Figuratively, I mean (Otherwise, whatever position makes you happy).

Don’t keep company with people who bring you or your marriage “down.”  Avoid, whenever possible, people who tend to make you feel not good about each other.    They’re poison.  Weed’em out early.

Stay looking as good as you can for your age, height, weight, health, wealth and previous condition of servitude.

Before you marry, try to find out the worst possible thing your intended is capable of so that while there are sure to be many surprises along the way, there can be few shocks.  If you can accept each other’s worst proclivities and still want to spend a lifetime together, you’re already half the way there.

Now having gone on the records, as it were, we’ve got to make 36.  Happy anniversary, Honey!

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