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Moser: Happily Married for 40 Years? Think Again

My husband and I have just celebrated four decades of marriage.

We had a rough start as a couple. Both of us had been married previously, both those relationships were disastrous. I was only sixteen the first time and married a man seven years older than I.

I’m going to spare you most of the sordid details, but let it suffice to say we started our lives together with two children, in debt, on a Buck Sergeant’s pay. (At the time, that was $414.20 a month. We received an additional $128.10 for housing allowance.) We had to be married to get the housing allowance!

We were so broke when we married that we used our wedding bands from the first time around. We didn’t know anyone in Maryland and got married by a Justice of the Peace with witnesses provided by the court.

We don’t have any photographs to commemorate that day, but since there were no friends, family, fancy dress or reception, I don’t think we really miss having photos.

We had another ceremony in church later so we could raise our children Catholic, but still no money, so still none of the things and people that create a memorable event. The only difference between our church wedding and our civilian wedding was we now had two neighbors attend, so we actually knew our witnesses the second time we married!

My husband was stationed at Bolling AFB and we lived in Oxon Hill, Md. I didn’t know much, but I knew I was a long way from Jeffersonville, Ind. I was a long way from the friends I’d known, the family I had, the town I was born and the life I had lived.

I was celebrating my 7th wedding anniversary before IBM shipped the Acorn in 1981. The first computer to be termed a “PC” held a now laughable 16K memory. (Our back up drive holds 2 Terabytes, the equivalent of the memory of 134,217,728 of those first PCs!)

In that time, we’ve been together through a lot of mile-marker events. Some were incredibly sad, like the deaths of our grandparents and our parents.

Now I find younger people are asking, “How have you stayed happily married for forty years?” My answer is, “We haven’t!” There have been years we didn’t even like each other. We’ve had tumultuous, angry, door-slamming arguments. We’ve hurled insults and threats, broken dishes and each other’s hearts.

I am not against divorce. If you made a mistake, admit it, get out and get on with your next life. We, nor our siblings managed to get it right on the first try, so divorce was absolutely the second best thing that ever happened to me.

Use your faith, your family and your friends to guide you, but only you and your spouse can decide whether you want to aim for 40 years or more. (…and don’t expect all those years to be happy!)

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