I knew that I would be expected to say a few words at the anniversary party. I spent some time thinking about what to say; should I be funny? Pithy? Should I look for quotes from famous people like Bacall and Bogart? Read a poem? Present a Powerpoint slide show?
While I was thinking about it, I happened to be talking to a young man who did some landscaping and handyman work around their house. We were chatting and out of the blue he mentioned “Your mom and dad must really be in love… I hope that I’m that lucky when I’m their age.” He went on to describe how one day he was working in the yard and my mother drove in from shopping. She carried a few items from the local flea market, remarking that she knew my father would appreciate them. Anyone who know my father knows that he practically lives at the flea market in Woodbury; and in fact, has been known to do his Christmas and birthday shopping from there.
I thought about this for a while and it occurred to me that perhaps the secret to a long marriage is not big houses, vacations, cars, or New York shopping sprees; rather, it’s about those little things that we do every day to show our partners how much we appreciate them. Sprinkling a little cinnamon in their coffee, picking up dinner on the way home, tossing in a load of laundry or doing the dishes, or doing any other of those dozens of little things that help to lubricate a relationship.
Anyone can buy a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day or take you out to a fancy restaurant for a birthday dinner. But once a year expressions aren’t enough to sustain; it takes a more serious commitment to get up twenty minutes before your partner six or seven days a week to make coffee or turn up the thermostat so the bathroom is warm when they head for the shower, or pick up a package of their favorite items (be it food, tools, or underwear) when you notice that something needs replacing.
Maybe the secret to any good relationship isn’t about the big things at all, but about the little, everyday things, because that’s where most of us live – not in the dozen or so holidays, but in the other 350-odd days, year in and year out.