The ins and outs of a sustained marriage

Puffy clouds by Bruce Stambaugh
The beauty around us helps create a lasting, loving relationship.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Soon my wife and I will have been married for 41 years. How have we made it this far? Well, this may sound funny, but the answer to that question in part is because we manage to avoid each other.

I think I better explain. My wife and I both believe in being community activists. That is a fancy way of saying we get involved in local activities, many of them on a volunteer basis.

Over those 41 years of marriage, Neva and I have recognized a familiar pattern. She goes out the drive just as I am coming in or vice versa. When we first noticed this routine, we laughed about the happenstance. The phenomenon has continued with amazing regularity.

When Neva comes in the drive as I am leaving, we just roll our eyes in common acceptance and acknowledgment of the many paths our busy lives have taken us. We recognize the importance of accepting and encouraging our individual interests and areas of service as important ingredients of any successful marriage.

Our house by Bruce Stambaugh
Where our driveway moments occur.

With us, this is pretty much how it goes. Neva has a 10 a.m. meeting scheduled in Millersburg with the thrift store where she volunteers. I have the morning free to tinker around the house or write. After lunch, Neva arrives home, and I need to leave for a rendezvous with a local resident regarding a township issue. I’m a township trustee.

We haven’t necessarily planned these driveway moments. It’s just the way it has panned out time and again over our 41-year marriage. I come in the drive, Neva goes out. It’s like clockwork.

If anything, it’s more about trusting each other and commitment to community than intentional evasion. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons our marriage has not only grown in years, it’s thrived.

We respect each other and each other’s interests. We also give each other the freedom and space to exercise those interests. The fact that those activities often coincide with a community event is possibly the glue that has helped hold our loving relationship together.

Bruce and Neva by Bruce StambaughNeither of us would begin to pretend to be perfect or that ours is a model marriage. That innate trust, however, allows us to do our own thing while actually reinforcing our husband and wife relationship.

I’m not bragging when I say that we feel blessed to have lasted this long as a couple. Marital bliss for our generation has turned out to be a 50/50 proposition. I feel for those who have tried to hold their marriage together, giving their all to no avail. I am ever so thankful that we have hung in there, even during difficult times.

With the varying schedules and comings and goings, having a supporting community around us has certainly enhanced our chances for success. We fully and humbly recognize that we have not been on this long journey alone. We have many people to thank for being there for us through thick and thin.

Friends, neighbors, church members, and especially family have all played important roles in the success and longevity of our marriage. Our son once asked me what the secret to our longevity of marriage was. I didn’t hesitate in answering, “There are no secrets between us.”

That includes where Neva is going again when I pull into the driveway.