“There is no more lovely, friendly, and charming relationship, communion, or company than a good marriage.” — Martin Luther
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” — Bible
A little research on the internet indicates that Zelmyra and Herbert Fisher have the world’s record for the longest marriage. They were married on May 13, 1924. In 2011, Herbert passed away at 105, and a few years later in 2013, Zelmyra followed at 105 years old as well. When Herbert passed, the couple had been married for 87 years. In an interview a few years before Herbert’s death, the couple was asked “What’s the one thing you have in common that transcends everything else?” Their answer: “We are both Christians and believe in God. Marriage is a commitment to the Lord. We pray with and for each other every day.”
There are many articles on what makes a happy, or more importantly, a healthy marriage. The National Center on African American Marriages and Parenting at Hampton University published an article titled “10 Key Elements of a Healthy Marriage.” Following is my summary with some ideas worth considering:
• Relationship satisfaction. This is the JOY of the relationship. Relationship satisfaction indicates the couples’ belief that their relationship adds to their own joy and satisfaction in life. Problems may occur but they are comfortable working them out together.
• Commitment to marriage. This is the GLUE of the relationship. Spouses recognize that the “two become one.” They have the long-term perspective and are willing to make sacrifices for the good of the relationship, in sickness and in health.
• Friendship and spending time together. This is the FOUNDATION of the relationship. The couples love and respect each other as they are and don’t try to change each other. They have shared interests and goals which are mutually developed. They deliberately focus on time spent together.
• Intimacy. This is the HEART of the relationship. Intimacy is physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual closeness that is mutually satisfying. It’s the place where two souls meet. As noted by the Fishers in the opening of this article, the intimacy begins with a mutual belief in God. The vertical intimacy with God enables and completes their own horizontal intimacy.
• Trust and honesty. These qualities are the CORE of the relationship. The couple has learned how to be open and vulnerable with one another. They believe their spouse is trustworthy and dependable and they each make sure this is clearly demonstrated.
• Fidelity. This is the PROMISE of the relationship. This goes along with trust and honesty and includes the key component of emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy assures a deep and passionate connection with the spouse only.
• Supportiveness. This is the CAREGIVING of the relationship. Supportiveness means encouraging and being there for one another through the good times and the bad. Supportive spouses help each other with tasks and challenges of life.
• Effective communication. This is the CONNECTOR of the relationship. Both husband and wife must be willing to share their joys and concerns and to listen with empathy to their spouse. This is especially challenging to the husband, who is interested in conquering, whereas the wife wants to connect, as we frequently discuss in this column.
• Effective conflict management. This is the PROTECTOR of the relationship. There will be disagreements because marriage consists of two different people. The challenge is to manage the conflicts with love and mutual care so both can grow in appreciation of each other.
• Nonviolent interactions. This is the required minimal level of PEACE in a relationship. There is NO domestic violence in a healthy marriage. Love in marriage is unconditional, but that does not mean that violence toward a spouse is OK. This violence may be physical or verbal. Neither should be tolerated and the suffering spouse should seek necessary and appropriate help.
Here’s another thought from Zelmyra and Herbert Fisher. “Is fighting important? Never physically! Agree that it’s okay to disagree, and fight for what really matters. Learn to bend – not break!”