We’ve entered the season of weddings, which also happens to be my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary. Can you believe it? Forty-five years and my mom and dad, Joan Ann and Jim Travers, still love each other and are each other’s best friend. They met each other their senior year in high school and they waited to get married till after college graduation. I wondered how they succeed when the divorce rate still hovers around 50%, so I asked them a few questions and this is what I found out. So, if you think a long-term marriage is impossible in this day and age, think again!

How do you stay happily married for 45 years?
From Jim:

There’s no one “secret” to a successful marriage, but if you could put your finger on it, it’s the word commitment.  You need to recognize that when you get married your life is going to change and you need to commit to a totally different life to a certain extent. There’s a lot of divorce these days because people are self-centered and they’re not committed. A lot of folks get married much later, and they don’t commit.
Staying single longer makes for a tough transition to married life, since you’re more locked into your ways and it’s harder to adjust.

The one lesson that I’ve taught my kids is that when you want something you have to decide what you’re going to give up for it. Nowadays, most people want to get things but they’re not prepared to give up anything or they’re not prepared to change. For example, if a guy gets married he may think that he can still go out with the boys, and that kind of thinking won’t work for a successful marriage. My father always said that you’re going to find trouble sooner or later when you go out to bar; it’s always better to stay out of temptation’s way.

What did you want out of marriage?
From Jim:

What I wanted in a marriage was four things. My wife had to be my lover (she has to look good, too!) because I like sex and that’s why I got married. Then she has to be my best friend. If all we have in common is great sex and if I didn’t want to go to movies with her or if I didn’t want to spend a weekend with her, then that marriage isn’t going to last. Then she has to be the mother of my children (and now grandmother) and if she’s not working she has to be a really good homemaker.

What happens is that in some marriages there’s a lot of imbalance. Sometimes the friendship or the sex life burns out and that’s not good. In many marriages the wife becomes a great homemaker and a good mother, but not a good lover or a best friend. You should try to keep all four things in a 25% balance.

What’s the glue keeping it all together?
From Joan Ann:

It’s a sense of mutual respect and listening to each other. When we moved around the country for Jim’s job I always treated it like it was an adventure. We made a game of it. I had to compromise and give up my stability…taking care of the household and the kids when Jim was away. But I did this for the common good.

We also keep a neat house and pick up after each other. We also maintain a sense of humor!

We use the pronoun “we” a lot, vs. “I” or “me”. So it’s not my money, it’s our money.

Final Words

From Jim:
You really have to be best friends and do things together. You also need to be mentally well-balanced and not be oil and water. You need to give up something in order to get something and if you think you can get married and still do the things you used to do, then you’re not ready for marriage.

Well, there you have it! Some great advice for you from my parents who have beaten the odds with lots of love, commitment and laughter.