By Dorothy Copus Brush
It was comedian Henny Youngman who made this profound statement, “The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret.” I thought of those words today because it was on this date 70 years ago my husband and I took a solemn oath before God to be one till death do us part. We said it then and still enjoy a good marriage. Is there a secret?
Attitudes about marriage have changed over the years. Once, weddings were hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime event. Now, for many, marriage means a fairy tale wedding with little or no thought to what comes next.
Today the average American wedding costs a staggering $27,000! Consider that about 60% of the couples’ planned wedding budget is exceeded and they are already in debt before they promise, “I do.”
If the marriage fails in spite of the well-planned and executed one-day wedding, attitudes about divorce also changed and it became a viable option. The average divorce can cost around $25,000. One study found divorce costs the country as much as $112 billion a year. As so often over the years we find money is the root of all evil.
Our marriage in 1942 was anything but the showy productions they have become. He was a college student knowing he would enter service soon. We had been a faithful couple for two years and as the military drew closer we decided to marry.
There was no time for invitations but on the evening we took our vows in the little church of my youth the pews were filled with friends and neighbors. A school friend played the piano. An aunt sang and a retired minister known as Uncle D.G. performed the service. Yes, I did wear a traditional wedding gown which hangs in my closet today.
My ideas about marriage were formed very early when as a child I listened to my mother and her two sisters talk about it. At sometime during those discussions they would tell me marriage was forever and there had never been a divorce in our family. The message emphasized it was important to be sure before you married because it was “till death do us part.” My parents were married 57 years before the death of my father and both aunts had only one husband.
Those conversations made clear there was no perfect marriage but it needed constant work by the partners to keep the relationship fresh. Understanding and compromise were necessary ingredients.
After 70 years I credit several things that helped me through tense times. The night before our wedding I wrote myself a letter pouring out all the good things I loved about the man I was marrying. I tucked that letter into my Bible and read it each time I had doubts. It became marked with tear stains but it always worked.
My mother played an important role too. The few times I telephoned her sobbing she gave no sympathy. Instead she told me to work it out and ended the conversation. Thank you, mother.
A wise columnist Sydney Harris, now deceased, wrote often about marriage. He believed that unless both parties were willing to change habits, attitudes, reactions and responses after marriage it could not last. As for happiness he wrote, “Our parents or grandparents never expected that marriage would bring them 'happiness' and so were not disappointed when it failed to meet that promise.” That is one answer to the secret of a good, rather than a happy marriage.