For a sizzling second-half marriage, you need… Grace, Grit, and Giggles
Every year when we go out for dinner to celebrate our wedding anniversary, my husband asks our server the same question, “Do you know what happened on June 17, 1972?” Then with a wink and a smile, he quickly adds, “Besides our wedding, of course.” If the waiter is under the age of 30, the response is usually a disinterested, blank stare, followed by a shrug. Ask Boomers that question—they’ll lean back, and with closed eyes, rack their brains to recall what significant event may have made history that night.
I have listened to Richard repeat this line of questioning for 48+ anniversaries. I brace myself for it, and can’t help but laugh out loud when he has to supply the answer to this seldom pursued trivia. We had nothing to do with the Watergate break-in, but our wedding night is unintentionally tied to the event.
Our country has been through a lot since the political escapades of the ’70s; so have we. When we celebrate our wedding anniversary, Richard and I review the challenges and the blessings of the year. We also consider what can assure our marriage will survive, thrive, and sizzle—for a long time. I think there are at least three things that contribute to marital success: grace, grit, and giggles.
Joe and Karla were both widowed several years before they met. Now in their 70’s, they have been married for just over a decade. Daily they dispense grace into their relationship by encouraging each other to talk about their first spouse without feeling compared or inferior. “We’ve cried over each other’s losses,” they told me. “We understand each other’s pain.” For them, grace means allowing each other to honor their first marriages and families while at the same time celebrating a new life together. “We know God is not done with us, and He has given us to each other to serve him in new ways.” Without grace, they would become judgmental and resentful—limiting their happiness and suffocating their joy.
Christians typically define grace as God’s favor toward despicable us. We don’t deserve it, but we gratefully receive His lavish love and pardon. In marriage, grace means giving space, cutting some slack, allowing the other person to grow, and dispensing unlimited portions of forgiveness. Grace gives the other person a chance.
Without grace, marriage in the second half of life can become rigid, unyielding, frightfully cold, and stifling.
Grace gives life.
Allan and Mary, have been married for just over 50 years and understand the ebbs and flows of life. “You can’t quit. You have to stick together,” they said with certainty. Then they added, “You must continually reconcile with each other and with God.” They describe themselves as “strong-willed”—two people with very different personalities, interests, and considerable potential for conflict. After retiring, they began seeking ways to serve God together. They want to be intentional in planning their lives and also desire to leave a legacy of lifelong love and commitment.
Unexpectedly, their pastor invited them to become discussion leaders for a marriage class called Re-Engage. As they prepared for the class, deep conversations opened between them. They learned more about each other’s dreams, hopes, fears, and idiosyncrasies. They began confronting differences and celebrating agreements. They experienced a new level of intimacy. They chose to take risks, be vulnerable, and grow beyond their comfortable routine. In praying together, they sensed God calling them to help and encourage others in their relationships. During the past few years, they have taught marriage classes in their church and in conferences in Central America and the Philippines.
For a marriage to flourish, it takes grit—pure and simple perseverance and stick-to-itiveness. Couples in the second half of life may encounter ill health, caregiving, financial disaster, temptation, loss—any number of things that can erode relationship and stability. A thriving marriage in the second half of life takes resolve, determination, and risk-taking.
In other words, it requires considerable grit.
Gary and Marcy are getting married in a few weeks. They both have experienced much sadness, including the long nights of loneliness that accompanies the illness and death of a spouse. Now, in the second half of their lives, they’ve found someone to laugh with again. They look at life with joy. They laugh and giggle a lot.
While grace and grit help a marriage survive; laughter and lots of giggles keep it alive.
Joe and Karla agree that nurturing humor and laughter is important. Karla promised her husband she would do something to make him giggle every day.
Allan and Mary admittedly aren’t sure they giggle enough. “Honestly, we just aren’t funny people,” they bemoan. “But we surround ourselves with people who make us laugh. That works.”
Every anniversary Richard and I both giggle at his inside joke about what happened at the Watergate Hotel. In fact, we laugh a great deal about many things in life. Looking on the lighter and brighter side makes our marriage stronger. It certainly makes it more fun!
Add seasoned and enduring love—and marriage in the second half of life literally sizzles!
written by Leona Bergstrom, Director, Re-Ignite
©Re-Ignite 2019, 2021
First published in Mature Living, 2016
The stories are real; the names have been changed to protect identities.
Images ©CanStock and the Bergstrom Archives