Monday, November 7, 2011

Weekend Conversation

This weekend, I had the privilege of accompanying a group of high school students to a local nursing home to do some volunteer work (and yes, I'm guilty of  complaining about having to work on a Saturday). It turned out to be a great experience, one that initiated an interesting conversation.

I spent most of the day directing the high school students (although, at the beginning of the day the activities coordinator of the facility came up to me and said, "Are you from the school waiting for Mrs. Nelson?" To which I kindly smiled and said, "I am Mrs. Nelson." I know, I know...I'll appreciate that when I'm 50.)

Anyway... toward the end of our time at the facility, an older gentleman came and sat near me. We began to talk and he shared with me that his wife was doing some volunteer work, and he was waiting for her to finish up. He was telling me about how much he loves to read, and that he has read 600+ books in the last 10 years. As we were talking, Brad walked in the door and sat down next to me. The man said to him, "Do you know this girl? Her face lit up when you came in."  To which Brad proudly proclaimed, "She's my wife."

The men got to chatting, and this gentleman informed us that he and his wife have been married for 57 years. Brad told him, "Congratulations, that's amazing." His response is what sparked our conversation, "Thank you. But it shouldn't be." He proceeded to tell us about how his wife is his best friend, and how they've been through a lot together over the past 57 years. He said that they never fight--"well, we disagree about somethings, everybody does" -- and that they truly enjoy each others company. They reminded me of these folks:

My grandma and grandpap have been married for 50+ years.

It must have something to do with the fact that my grandfather is a fabulous dancer! :)

Brad brought up the man's comment yesterday as we grabbed a quick lunch at Yocco's (no, I did NOT eat a hot dog!) and we got to chatting. We came up with some theories about marriage, and why people are so surprised to learn about couples that have been married 50+ years. I'd like to hear your thoughts--what are your tips for a long and happy marriage?

I'm interested to hear what you have to say. Blessings!


  1. Since I'm still technically unmarried, I'll keep my trap shut, but I'd love to hear some of the theories you came up with, Nikki.

  2. I'd love to hear what your theories are! We were just hypothesizing, but some of our theories have to do with changes in values, age of marriage, changes in gender roles, women in the workplace, stigmas, and cohabitation.

  3. So, now that you've named them, what are they? ;-)

  4. You're good--did you see how I was attempting to avoid potential conflict? :)

    When we discussed changes in values, we talked about people not taking marriage seriously, and seeing divorce as an option going into marriage (read: Kim Kardashian). When Brad and I made the commitment to get married, we both agreed that marriage means forever--that means that he is stuck with me until the very end. I understand that for some couples divorce is an option, and I am in no way offering judgement. It is my personal opinion that the younger generations have experienced so much divorce that they going into relationships and marriages with that option in mind.

    In regards to age, I don't think that we came up with a specific theory. We just discussed that those who have been married 50+ years tended to get married young, but statistics today show that couples who marry later (late 20's) tend to have a lower rate of divorce. So what does that mean? I truly don't know.

    One thing that we discussed in depth was the factor of women becoming more career oriented and working outside of the home. We talked about the fact that people who work outside the home tend to spend more time with their co-workers than with their spouse, and how that can negatively affect marriages (read: affairs).

    I also find it very interesting that in one article that I read (and I wish I remember where I read it, but I don't) stated that divorce rates are dropping, and some are contributing that to the fact that people are cohabitating before they get married. If they decide to split up, it's not considered a "divorce" because they weren't married.


  5. I know I'm good -- I've been Nelson-adjacent a little longer than you have ;-)

    My very first thought: this conversation is far more suited to a nice lunch out somewhere.

    I agree with you, divorce is more culturally acceptable than it used to be, and divorces are far easier to get now, thank you 1970's. I don't think that's a bad thing, to tell you the truth. It's easy to see 50-something year long marriages and the happy cute old people, but at the same time I see my grandparents marriage. They were married until my grandmother died, and cared for each other in the manner one would expect they would be obliged to do, but they weren't happy. My grandfather has had a mistress for decades (which says something about the value of commitment, but I'm not sure what), an alcoholic and abused his family, and my grandmother was a manipulative, angry, nasty woman. She considered divorcing him for years, and never did, and I suspect the reasons were mostly financial.

    There is no divorce in my family, save that my mother married a divorced man, and that's a whole other story for another time, but I do see divorce as an option. Not because I don't value commitment in relationships, but because sometimes people make mistakes.

    I think couples who wait to get married have a whole bunch of things going for them: they've probably cohabitated (and I think that's very important), they're probably college graduates, their lives individually and collectively are a little more settled, and they've grown up. I think our culture currently extends childhood into our mid-twenties now, and i think the affluence combined with really making sure they're both adults makes a big difference.

    Lets see... I think that blaming affairs on career-oriented women is a wildly sexist position, and here's why. Unless both the husband and the wife are in a position to work from the same location, or the husband works from home while the wife is a domestic engineer, a couple will always spend more waking hours apart and in the company of other people than with each other. Always have, always will. Besides Dani and I, how many other couples do you know that don't spend business hours in separate locations? Affairs aren't a result of separateness, they're usually the result of needs going unfulfilled (which often comes from a breakdown in communication). I do have more opinions on that matter, but they're definitely for an in-person conversation :-)

    And I'd finally say that the dropping divorce rate is interesting. I think that describes the primary advantage of cohabitation, largely because divorces are so expensive and time-consuming to get. Because people make mistakes. Is is better to have gotten married and then divorced, or to have cohabitated and split up?

    I think long and happy marriages are wonderful, and they take work and commitment, but I don't see them as a virtue. **shrug**

    That's what I think. What do YOU think?

  6. I agree--this is definitely more of a lunch conversation. :)

    You make some very interesting points. First of all, a lot of my opinions have to do with my family and how I was raised. To be completely honest, I don't have a lot of experience with divorce. I can see how witnessing the interactions of our grandparents can leave us with very different ideas. Though I certainly don't know everything about my grandparent's relationship, they are a "cute old couple" and have been happily married for 50+ years. I hope that I am as happy as they are when I am their age.

    And again, valid point: people do make mistakes. My fear is that divorce becomes a quick fix before the problems are worked on. There was obviously some kind of initial attractions if two people choose to enter into a relationship. I understand that people change, but I guess that my hope is that we change in a similar direction, if that makes any sense.

    I just want to point out that I'm not blaming affairs on career-oriented women, but simply pointing out that the changing dynamics of the workforce may have something to do with changes in relationships. I love that women are taking the workplace by storm.

    Whew! Thanks for the interesting discussion!

  7. May we all be as happy as they are!

    And, in my experience, you won't change in the same direction. You'll both change in your own directions, but that's not a bad thing :-)