They are still keeping the vows they made four years ago. They are still committed to each other. They still love each other. In addition, over the last four years, I’ve watched these things not just stay in place, but grow!
Anniversaries are special. They are dates to mark on the calendar, remember, and observe. We mark many anniversaries besides weddings. Some are happier events than others. Earlier this week we marked a somber ten year anniversary.
I think we are drawn, as people, to mark things, like anniversaries, whether joyful or somber or anything in-between. One day on the calendar isn’t all that different than the day before or after. But, if the date is an anniversary, it IS different because of what we associate with that date. It becomes endowed with meaning. Celebrating anniversaries helps us remember what’s important. It helps us reserve time to honor and celebrate. It helps us go forward into the future.
For couples, celebrating anniversaries is an opportunity to be reminded not just of the wedding day, but of marriage. Weddings, no matter how long you plan in advance, take place in one day. Marriage involves months, years, and, for some, decades. Staying married these days is an accomplishment. It takes commitment as well as love. Many couples tell me it is that commitment, in fact, not love, that keeps them going through the rough patches.
And, yes, most marriages have rough patches. Sometimes they are small, easily fixed rough patches, but sometimes they are major potholes, like an affair, or other breach of trust. These patches need extensive and time consuming repair. We don’t always know how to do such repair. Sometimes a couple needs professional help to get through such a rough patch. Each anniversary is an accomplishment to be celebrated.
I’ve noticed that traditional wedding planning seems to be granted to the bride to manage, yet anniversary planning is handed over to the groom. Have you noticed the commercials on television and the ads in the paper? They often seem to be about a man making the event special for a woman, usually by purchasing something quite expensive.
Here’s an anniversary idea a couple shared recently that contrasts sharply with such marketing practices. It balances the gender equation. This happily married couple takes turns year by year. One year he does it. The next year she does it. Each year one spouse uses what he/she knows best about the other to craft a unique surprise, or series of surprises. Unlike a birthday, the celebration is about both of them. But, like a birthday, the celebration is geared especially to delight one of them, according to tastes, preferences, and wishes. It’s been as simple as a picnic by candlelight. It’s been as involved as a trip to an exotic location. The amount of money spent is deliberately not the point for this couple. A stranger could buy you something you like. But, only someone who knows you deeply can craft a celebration like they do. Their focus is to honor and treasure the partner in simple and profound gestures. With that focus, the marriage bond is celebrated and strengthened. This couple’s idea seems, to me, a way of saying “I Do” all over again.
The second idea I heard was from a couple together for over 20 years. Each year around their anniversary they take a trip. While away from everyday routines, structure, and concerns, they take significant time to evaluate their marriage over the last year. They do this evaluation first on their own, and then together in a long loving conversation. It becomes a dialogue of reflection, encouragement, and critique. They spend a lot of the time listening. They are careful to keep the critique part from turning into a litany of complaints. Instead, they look together at what they wish had been different and then talk about specific ways to make it better in the coming year of marriage. With backgrounds in education, they even go so far as to offer each other a marriage letter grade for the year. Not every couple wants the reflection style or grading of this couple. Personally, I like the reflection part, but am not likely to ask my spouse for a grade on our next anniversary! But, for this couple, it clearly works to keep their marriage vibrant. Remember, we are all different.
Are you married? Look forward to your anniversary and celebrate well! Celebrate in a style that fits for the two of you. It will strengthen and enrich your marriage.