I married my husband 35 years ago today. It was picture perfect. A bright sun warmed the October air, and orange and red leaves glistened in a light breeze. Our families and friends watched as we travelled up the long Cathedral aisle, hand in hand, as Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Zahner.
A lot has happened since then. We buried our daughter, Jackie, born prematurely. Raised three healthy children. Built a house. Spent time with ailing parents—all four gone now. Met friends. Said goodbye to friends. Ran marathons. Hosted a wedding for our eldest daughter. And shed tears as we watched our three beautiful children move away, one by one, to begin their own stories. When all was done, we faced each other, alone, and wondered what was next.
We were next. We’d weathered several storms, survived some of life’s hardest challenges, and found ourselves back in that same place—walking hand in hand.
How did we get here? A little bit of luck and lot of craft.
I have some words of advice. Take them with a grain of salt. I’m not a professional. I’m an amateur and still learning. Not sure what it takes to get to 50, but here’s what you need to know to make it to 35:
It will be hard—the whole 35 years.
However hard you think it is going to be—it is harder. Yes you will have good times—great times, but you will have to work toward that marriage every day for the rest of your life. If you don’t believe that, postpone the ceremony and wait until you do.
The honeymoon is over when the honeymoon is over.
Your first year living together will be one of the hardest. It’s not all happiness and wrestling under the covers. It’s compromise and realizing the person you married is human.
You can argue and go to bed mad.
I know. Jeff and I have done it many times.
You can even stay mad for the whole day. Maybe two. But not much longer. Time should soften misunderstandings, disappointments, and anger. Too much time can send you in different directions. Remind yourself you are in this for the long run. Never leave. You can ignore each other, but come home every night.
There are going to be times when you feel like running away. When that time comes, stay. Plan a trip together or even separate trips with friends. A weekend away with your best friends will rejuvenate you as long as you pay attention to my next piece of advice.
Never cheat on each other.
People are not going to like this, but cheating on your spouse is like signing the divorce papers and tucking them away for the future. Don’t do it. Yes, people make mistakes and there are couples who weather through this storm, but they are rare.
So if the temptation comes, stop, ask yourself if you are truly ready to call it quits.
Hold hands when life is unfair.
Burying our parents was horrid, but burying a child crushed us. Realize we all grieve and mend differently. Be patient with each other and when you are both ready, talk about what you’ve learned from life’s crosses.
We saw a sibling and his wife face Alzheimer’s and dementia this past year. It put life in perspective for us. We changed. Vacationed. Took weekend trips. Long walks. We made arrangements to spend more time with our kids, and Jeff encouraged me to retire from my full-time job. I did.
Finally, love each other repeatedly.
You can never say “I love you” too much.
Talk to each other. Dream with each other. And never ever stop playing.
Happy anniversary, Jeff. I’m the luckiest girl in the world. Yes, you still make me mad lots of times—really mad. But then, how bad could it be? I’m still in love with you after 35 years.
Cyndie Zahner is a freelance writer. She has been married to the love of her life Jeff Zahner for 35 years.
Follow her on Twitter @Tweetyz or Instagram @ahtletchicz.