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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Three Simple Steps and a Lot of Hard Work: Our 35th Anniversary

35 years! My Heavens, who could have imagined it way back when. My darling Beth and I started dating roughly 3 weeks into my first year of med school. Her toothbrush showed up in January when I got an apartment with a classmate, and pretty much everything else arrived a month or so later. Though the wonder of Facebook, where pictures of our pictures now live, I could look back at us when we were barely our of our teens.

There’s not a single wrinkle between us!

We are winding down from 10 or so days of celebrating our marriage. How does one do it? Stay together for 38 years, 35 of them married? I’ve certainly shed many electrons into the internet talking about this over the years but the simple things we’ve done bear repeating for their very simplicity and what is likely near universal application. There are just three, though of course those three branch out into about 3 million versions if you are the super analytical type. But for me, for us and for the family that came from that first date so long ago, it’s really just three.

Put your marriage, your relationship with your spouse, first. Center your life going forward there. Run every significant decision over which you have some control through the filter of how it will affect this one central facet of your life going forward. Will something enhance the marriage? Pretty much a no-brainer in most cases. Gonna hit the marriage hard? Man, the consequences of not making that choice have to be awfully dire to even need to have a conversation. Neutral, neither good nor bad? These are by far the most common forks in your roads traveled. There’s nothing better in these cases than sitting down together and hashing through what each or you desire. Our strategy was an unspoken agreement to take turns putting our “wants” first.

How do you make sure that things are turning out fairly equally in all of those “toss-up” decisions? That’s where the second of our three essentials kicks in: marriage is not a 50/50 proposition, it’s 100/100! Each person needs to commit 100% to the marriage. You can’t really keep score if you are both committed to the relationship and committed to each other. You’re not meeting halfway in or toward some goal, you are both moving together, 100% in each other’s corner. Believing and living like this makes it pretty hard to be too very selfish on a consistent basis.

And there are some pretty big decisions to make over time, some that will necessitate one or the other of you taking a bit of a back seat for awhile. Where to live? Kids, yay or nay? If yay, does someone stay home? Who will that be? Running and gunning for the big house/fancy car or laying back and chilling with only what you need? Some things will feel way bigger than they really are: Country club or horse stall? Still others will be comic relief: red wine or white? Or beer?! Over time if you are 100/100 you simply can’t help but be happier when you are 100% about being happier together.

Which leads me to the last of our three gems, one that we’ve been teaching since we stumbled upon it as comically broke new parents: never stop courting each other. Never stop falling in love. Tactically this is actually pretty simple: never stop dating. We’re a tiny bit famous in our little universe for our rabid devotion to “Date Night”. It started out so small. We were so short of money that we couldn’t really afford a babysitter AND dinner or a movie. Or really anything. Our first post kids date was a single cup of coffee we shared while we held hands in a booth at Burger King. $1.10 for the coffee, priceless for our marriage.

All through our years of raising our kids, building businesses and all the rest, Date Night has stood firm. Makes sense, right? No matter what, we have essentially told the world, and reaffirmed to one another, that our marriage sits at the center of our lives. Committing 100% to Date Night was a proxy for our 100/100 to the marriage. Date Night was often when we banged around our decisions, big and small. When we talked about what we might want, big and small. Whose turn it was going to be. Where we celebrated our successes and, yes, licked our wounds when things didn’t turn out quite the way we’d hoped.

I fall a little bit more in love with Beth every day; it just seems like it’s always been a little bit more on Date Night.

That’s it? Just three things and here we are, 35 years? It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Things that are worth it, things that are important rarely are. Put the two of you at the center of all you do and then commit 100% to you together. Court each other like you’re just starting out; keep on falling in love with each other. Just three simple things you promise to do better than anything else you do in your lives.

That’s it.

Happy Anniversary, Dollie.

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