Reflection on Marriage after Four Decades

June 1, 2018  |  Craig St. John

By Andy Carrillo

Forty years ago, my wife Cindy and I committed matrimony. That morning we promised before God and several other people who showed up that day that we would stay married to each other no matter what came our way, until at least one of us was dead. So far, she has kept up her end of the deal.

When you have been married for 40 years, people will ask, “so what’s the secret?”—like there exists some secret formula to be understood that would enable people to stay married, too. Well, to celebrate our 40 years of marriage, I have decided to share that secret with you all.

That day, we made several promises (vows) to God and to each other. Even though the act of making those promises was probably the most important thing we did that day, it is probably the part we paid the least attention to. In fact, neither of us could tell you what we promised that day, with the exception of one. And that is the “till death do you part” vow. I don’t even remember exactly how it was worded—all I really remember is that we said we would do it.

Since I really don’t remember what other vows we made that day, I really can’t say how well we are doing in keeping them. I suppose we made all the traditional ones, but since we were married before the word “videographer” was something associated with weddings, we will never know.

It occurs to me, however, that most of the traditional vows actually become redundant, or perhaps even irrelevant, if we actually do commit to the “till death” part. I really don’t have to say “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health” because if we are both still alive, then according to that one promise we do remember, we must be married. The “till death” promise covers so many unspoken and unforeseen circumstances that come up in a marriage. I know, for example, that Cindy didn’t vow to stay married to me…“when he is a good guy and when he is an idiot,” or “when I am proud of him and when he humiliates me,” or even “when I enjoy being with him and when the very sight of him annoys the HELL out of me!” The “till death” part pretty much covers it all.

Ultimately, the strength of your marriage is only as strong as the strength of your commitment. I have seen so many people “commit” to being married until they are parted by death, and yet a couple of years later, they are both still alive and divorced. Although they made that “commitment,” there was no real strength to their commitment. It was actually just a romantic notion that felt good to say at that time.

The secret to being happily married is also locked up in the “till death” part of the vows. If both members are truly committed to that promise, then they will find a way to work things out. If I understand that “till death” means that if need be, I will be miserable with my wife for the rest of my life, then I will begin to find new and creative ways to eventually make things happy again. This process may actually take years, but the couple will prevail if they stick to it because they don’t like being miserable.

Am I happily married? Yes, very, but anyone who can honestly say they have been happily married for 40 years has actually been married closer to 48 years. That’s just the way it is. That’s why we do make vows that say “for better or worse, in good times and bad,” because those things will happen. To expect something else is to have unrealistic expectations.

Would I do it again? In a second. It has been a wild ride with an amazing partner. People have told me that I was lucky, that I married an “amazing partner.” Well, I have also learned that amazing partners are made, not born. I have made it my mission to try to dispel the romantic myth that God has this perfect person picked out for us and that when we find him/her, all will be blissful. Perfect partners are made by blood, sweat, and tears. Quite a bit of fighting goes into the process, but it is all worth it in the end.

We are both still alive as of this writing, and as promised, we are still married to each other. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worth the effort.

Happy anniversary, O bride of mine.