June has long been the most popular wedding month.
On June 8, my niece Jessica married Sam Guirand in a beautiful ceremony on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Although we couldn’t attend the wedding, our hearts were full for this sweet couple and we sent our best wishes that they share a long and happy life together.
I find such new beginnings filled with excitement and promise.
And because my marriage is blessed with happiness, I’m always thrilled when others head toward that happily-ever-after experience.
Then yesterday (June 26), I was reminded of the unique joy that comes from decades together, when we attended the 50th anniversary celebration of Joan and George Loomis of Angels Camp, California.
These two have been married since 1960, have raised three children of their own, adopted four, and been emergency foster parents to nearly 2,000 other children.
Yet after all those years, yesterday’s celebration found them still smiling, talking to each other, glancing at each other with that loving and amused look that only comes when you know someone very well and still enjoy their company.
And then to top-off the June-is-love-&-marriage month theme, today’s CBS Sunday Morning TV show featured couples married half a century or more. And they were all happy together, telling funny stories and tenderly holding each other’s hands. It was amazing. All those years together and they still found their mates charming and delightful.
What can explain the couples who thrive in marriage (when there are so many miserable unions and so much divorce and domestic violence in our culture)?
Alan and Marilyn Bergman, one of the couples featured, seemed to be able to articulate it well. The two of them have been writing beautiful song lyrics together since before their wedding, 52 years ago.
"We practiced pre-marital rhyming," one of them said during the spot. (Among the Bergman’s famous songs: The Way We Were, What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life, Nice ‘N’ Easy, Yellow Bird, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, The Windmills of Your Mind, as well as TV theme songs for Maude and In the Heat of the Night.)
Asked what’s required to stay happily married (and happily working together), they named three qualities: trust, respect "and you really have to like each other."
Later in the program, the three most important qualities in a happy, long-lasting marriage were listed, in order, as: respect, trust and humor.
I’ll second those qualities, and add another: kindness. When you practice kindness toward the one you love, it’s very hard to get and stay angry. And I have learned that kindness begets kindness.
Sweetheart Al said the most interesting fact revealed in the happy marriage show was this: Happy marriages have a five-to-one-ratio of positive to negative remarks. In other words, at least five positive remarks (compliments, loving observations, expressions of care) are made for every negative remark (criticism, complaint, unkind observation).
Isn’t that interesting?
If you’re looking for the secret to a happy marriage, maybe that’s it.
Five-to-one equals happily ever after.