Our Secret To 20 Years of Marriage

Today is my 20th wedding anniversary. It’s my husband’s 20th wedding anniversary, too (funny how that works :wink:).

Our Secret To 20 Years of Marriage

I don’t necessarily share much about my husband here (he’s much more private than I am), but I have written a few posts about marriage over the years, including How To Date Your Wife and The Dynamics of Having a Husband Who Travels. {note to fellow wives who come to my blog via searches like “husband travels to much for work:” I feel you! Today is our anniversary, and yet my husband is in San Antonio while I am in Portland, all because a national work conference was scheduled for this week. Hang in there, fellow travel widows!}

I wrote a particularly popular post a few years ago called 10 Secrets To My 17 Years of Marriage. While I stand by those 10 secrets, I’ve learned one more that now – two decades into a life with my husband – I remind myself of frequently: mutual toleration.

Does that sound a bit harsh to you? So very un-romantic? {please note: those other secrets I stand by? they include lots of GREAT things, not the least of which is love!}

To “tolerate” isn’t just to “put up with.” In fact, it also means

to allow to be or to be done without prohibition, hindrance, or contradiction.”

Which, in a marriage, means letting your husband load the dishwasher however he’s going to load it. And shopping by yourself on a Saturday because your wife can’t stand the grocery store. Or listening to your husband’s Johnny Cash for an entire road trip or not making fun of Mumford & Sons because it’s what your wife wants to listen to.

In marriage, mutual toleration means a {perhaps slightly edged, but affectionate all the same} acceptance of one another.

I’m not saying that after 20 years, the love is gone. I’m not saying it’s a total drag and only workworkwork. But I am saying that if you’re in your 5th, 10th, 15th year of marriage, and you think it will all be sweeter when the kids are a little older and you’re a little wiser and there’s a little more money in the bank, and then you get to that point and you realize it’s not as “easy” as you thought it might be, it’s ok. You’re doing it right.

Marriage is tough, it’s a frequent re-negotiation of the most important contract you’ll ever seal with a kiss. It will probably never be just what you thought it would, and sometimes it’ll be ten times better.

The idea of “mutual toleration” in marriage is not my idea, but I’m glad I stumbled upon it. Gordon B. Hinckley, a beloved Prophet and President of my church, gave a moving speech to BYU college students in 1973 in which he quoted newspaper columnist Jenkin Lloyd Jones. It is Jones’ wisdom that has helped me to realize that the reality of marriage can be alarming at first, but sweet at second blush, and a blessing in the end.

From Jones:

There seems to be a superstition among many thousands of our young who hold hands and smooch in the drive-ins that marriage is a cottage surrounded by perpetual hollyhocks, to which a perpetually young and handsome husband comes home to a perpetually young and ravishing wife. When the hollyhocks wither and boredom and bills appear, the divorce courts are jammed.

Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. . . .

Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.

I do thank the Lord. And my husband, too. Happy 20th, sweetheart!