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One Woman's Opinion

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How to stay married for 49 years

by Mary Wakefield Buxton

Urbanna, Va.— A milestone looms on the horizon. My husband and I have been married 49 years. The big 50 is next August . . . if we can hold on one more year.

It’s just luck if you happen to wed someone who will stick with you through the good and bad, especially in today’s society where couples divorce at the first hiccup.

My marriage came about when I listened to Mother, not something I did very much when I was young, but this one time I did. Mother said that Chip Buxton from Newport News would make “a good husband.”

I listened. After all, Mother had chosen Father, her husband of 64 years, so she must have known what qualities to look for in a man. At age 22 I had absolutely no idea about such things. My advice to the young—listen to your mother.

Besides good luck and listening to your mother there are other factors that help pull a couple through the long and blissful years. Here are some helpful hints:

Learn to compromise. It seems incredible now but for some reason we never discussed politics or religion before we married. Then, on our honeymoon drive across country to San Diego where his new ship was stationed, he mentioned he was a Democrat. What? What? I was a Republican. We stared at each other in horror. Big trouble. Then he brought up religion. He said he was Episcopalian and that, furthermore, he would never leave his church. More big trouble. By the time we reached St. Louis, he had joined my party and I had joined his church. Compromise can save a marriage.

Laugh a lot. We started laughing after we survived our honeymoon. Learning to laugh is not easy for some people. This is hard to do especially if you happen to come from a serious family. His family was a medical family and never known for their hilarity. I came from a family of laughers and laughers usually prevail. My rule regarding comedy is “if it moves, it’s funny.” This is an easy rule to follow. For example, one does not laugh at a stone. Until it moves. 

Always remember that under all circumstances, even if you happened to marry a werewolf, you can’t afford a divorce. No one can afford a divorce. This advice is free and the truest advice you will ever hear. Patch up your differences and stay far away from lawyers. They will skin you alive.

Divide the household chores. The secret to my long-term marriage boils down to one thing—he does the dishes on the weekends. There is nothing more saintly in the field of human behavior than a man who helps in the kitchen. Dishes piling up in a dirty sink have sunk more marriages than sex or money. Heaven loves a man who puts his hands in a sink full of suds.

Only argue about one subject 10 times and then put that subject out to pasture forever. (If you try hard enough, you can always find another topic to argue about.) The sparks generated over “you threw away my Aunt Elizabeth’s childhood photo album . . .” and the ensuing hot denial, “I never did!” are only good for so many years.So, let it go.

Don’t worry about money. Worry is a waste of time. Just work hard throughout your life and save for “your retirement” like I did. Unfortunately, old age arrives faster than you think and you will discover, like most people, after you retire there’s not enough money. So why worry about it your whole life long?

Consider the possibility you might be wrong. Yes, a husband just might be right. It has been known to have happened before, and a wife who considers this has a better chance to survive her 50th anniversary than one who is always right. When you think about it, who really wants to be right and . . . alone?

Discourage all talk of retirement. Marriage was only meant to be an after-hours institution. Come 8 a.m. one would hope he gets up and goes to the office. It’s nice to see him for lunch, however, and home on time for dinner in the evening.

I once called a psychologist (you can’t afford a psychologist either) and told him I couldn’t withstand even one more day of marriage. He gave some helpful advice over the phone: “Pack your bags right now and leave him forever, or make up your mind to love him forever, no matter what.”

I chose to love him forever, no matter what. I figure if he can live with me for 49 years, I can return the favor. And that’s the best advice of all. 


posted 10.17.2012

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