Thoughts about Valentine’s Day and a happy marriage

George Brown
I have a confession to make. Yvonne and I did not celebrate Valentine’s Day. Actually, I did receive a truly wonderful card from her. I think it was her way of saying she was really sorry about the three weeks I recently spent living in the travel trailer.

I hope the ladies in the audience won’t be too hard on me for admitting that I didn’t buy Yvonne roses or chocolates for Valentine’s Day. To my defense, a week earlier I bought her a bottle of White Shoulders perfume for her birthday, remembering that it was her favorite when we were dating 50 years ago. She was very impressed that I remembered. I scored a few points on that one.

You know, for us guys trying to buy just the right card or gift is always about trying to score points. And ladies you have to admit you expect this of us, and that your expectations don’t diminish just because you’ve been married to your sweetie pie for 40 or 50 years.

One of my most satisfying moments in life is when the card or gift I’ve presented to Yvonne makes her cry. Sometimes I have a good hunch that I’ll succeed, and I watch expectantly as she reads the card, waiting for her eyes to well-up with tears as she exclaims how thoughtful and wonderful I am. And as she does, I well-up inside with satisfaction, knowing I’ve just hit a home run on the “I love you meter”.

Yvonne and I started dating when we were 16 and dated on and off for the next couple of years. The off part was several times when we (she) needed to see other people. But I persisted, and when I finally won her heart it was forever.

We married in August of 1966, both just barely 20 years old and about as unprepared for matrimony as two kids could be. Yvonne’s parents didn’t have two nickels to rub together, and I didn’t even know where my Mom and Stepdad lived (that’s another story), so we put our wedding together ourselves. Yvonne bought a beautiful wedding dress for $100 from a girlfriend who had just married, and we scraped together enough money for a cake, some flowers, tuxedos, and a few dollars for the preacher. Our wedding memories couldn’t be any more precious than if we’d spent $20,000 to unite our hearts in love, and we still have the polaroid pictures to prove it.

We didn’t own a car (I told you we weren’t prepared), so after the reception my best man took us for a “just married” ride and then dropped us off at the local Holiday Inn in Silver Spring, Maryland. The next day we took the metro bus to our honeymoon destination, our little basement apartment located just off campus. The highlight of our week was a bus ride to the National Zoo for the day, and then having friends who owned a car pick us up to go out to eat at McDonald’s. The sign said that millions had been sold, and our honeymoon supper cost about $2.

I wish I could say we have never had an argument, or gone to bed angry, and I wish I could say that we have always been considerate of each other’s feelings. There are a lot of things I wish I could say, but wishing never changes anything.

What I can say is this. Forgiveness is one of the most important qualities of a happy marriage. Yes, communication, mutual respect, small acts of kindness, patience, and honesty are all important, but when a hurt has been done those qualities all seem to be on hold until forgiveness occurs.

Forgiveness is a healing salve in every lasting relationship. Yvonne and I have learned, at least for us, that spending time silently fretting about “who started it” is of less importance than one of us being willing to apply that healing salve with a soft “I’m sorry.” We have learned to do so without worrying about which of us should be saying those words. Interestingly, the more we have practiced this attitude the less frequently we have a need to do so.

In the early days of our marriage, not unlike many young couples, we seemed to think and behave as though we were responsible for each other’s happiness. Ironically, the effect was a lot of unhappiness as we each, not surprisingly, fell short of being able to do so. Fortunately, along the way we learned that, as individuals, we are each responsible for our own happiness, and that real joy in marriage is discovering personal happiness and then sharing that happiness with each other.

George Brown is a freelance writer, and lives in Jackson Township.