Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 16, 1978 when the first Mass was held at St. Monica Church, Northford.
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Later this summer, if the planets are in perfect alignment and I don’t make the mistake of arguing about the presidential election and I do enough yard work to satisfy my wife, I might just celebrate my 30th anniversary.

She, however, has cautioned me that nothing is certain, and so, like people in 12-step programs, I’m taking it a day at a time.

I suppose that’s really the only way to handle married life because it can be full of surprises, some of them joyful, many of them painful.

A lot has changed in the world since Sandy and I said, "I do," in 1978 at St. Jude’s Church in Derby. Today, the marriage that lasts sadly seems to be the exception.

Fidelity, too, has become as passé as the cream-colored, wide-lapel tuxedos we wore and my wife’s imitation Farrah Fawcett hairdo, not to mention my best man’s mutton-chop sideburns.

Our wedding album looks like a tourist brochure for an Amish county fair in the Pennsylvania Dutch country. Needless to say, I keep it securely hidden from my kids, who gasp and groan whenever they spy pictures of me with a full head of black hair. But after 30 years of marriage, one wife and four daughters, who could have any hair left?

When I survey the past 30 years, it amazes me that we made it this far. You see, back in the beginning, a few friends and family members were known to whisper, "They won’t last. They argue too much."

OK, so we argue. Who doesn’t? Raise your hands, please. Maybe If I had more foresight, I might have married someone who wasn’t as strong-willed as my wife – and certainly someone who didn’t care so much about yard work.

We’re not as lovey-dovey as, say, Mark and Sally and we’re not as even-tempered as Stan and Mary and we’re not as self-analytical as Bernadette and John. I figure after 30 years, what’s left to analyze?

Despite the inherent personality differences, you have to reach the point where you want your marriage to last and hope your spouse feels the same way. You have to keep remembering you love each other by Christ’s standards, not by the guidelines they give you on "Sex and the City," which means to say you strive for a love that’s willing to sacrifice, and I confess I never find sacrifice easy.

Marriage is really a day-at-a-time proposition, even at 30 years – especially at 30 years – in a culture where commitment and sacrifice are outdated concepts and the occasions for infidelity are as close as your home computer.

Anyone who has been married for any length of time knows it’s not good to judge. I’ve seen what I thought were perfect relationships go up in smoke overnight because of an indiscretion or an infidelity, which is probably the most difficult obstacle to overcome.

A priest I know always tells engaged couples that if they couldn’t forgive an infidelity, they have no business getting married. I confess, my ability to forgive isn’t that strong, and I’m sure my wife’s isn’t. Nevertheless, forgiveness is essential if a relationship is going to last.

When someone asks me the secret to a successful marriage, I shrug and get this confused expression on my face because I know how fragile this whole thing can be.

My friend Joy once told me about her grandparents, who spent much of their married life in the chronic state of bickering; and so one day, she playfully asked them, "What’s the secret to a long marriage?" Her grandfather promptly grumbled, "Giving in."

I suspect he was on the trail of some eternal truth. Giving in, much like forgiveness and sacrifice, are alien concepts in our self-centered society because we consider them signs of weakness; however, they’re essential components in a strong marriage.

In the end, I always try to remember that marriage is a sacred affair; and I keep in mind the advice a man married 60 years gave me.

"Do you want your marriage to last?" he asked. "Then, pray for it to last."

What a radical idea. I followed his advice, but I have to say it doesn’t make the yard work any easier.

Sometimes, even after an argument, I’ll look at Sandy stewing or pouting – I can’t stand pouting – and I realize that even though she can drive me insane, I love her more than anything. I hope she’d say the same thing.

Happy anniversary, Darling.

J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.