My dear wife and I recently passed our sixtieth wedding anniversary. No newspaper photo, no fancy dinner, no trip to Hawaii, no family gathering, no sea cruise. We did share a pizza, though, and enjoyed each other’s company and many shared memories. A beautiful day for us, a private time to enjoy and reflect on what we each mean to the other.
People tell me that reaching sixty years is a major milestone in marriage and that we should have a large public celebration, but I do not see it that way, nor does my dear wife. There was a time in my life when I believed the phrase, life is a journey, but no more. I agree, there are milestones in a journey, but journeys have destinations, an end to the trip. To me, marriage (and life itself) are life events, not journeys. With a journey, the goal is to reach the end, yet in life and marriage, there is no end. Unlike journeys, events define an experience that exists within the people affected. Consider a birthday party: it is remembered not for its duration, but for the memories of what transpired. So it is with marriage. There are good marriages that end after five years and bad marriages that end after fifty years. Duration is not the judge of the quality and success of an event. So it is with life and marriage. If we must judge, we should consider the shared relationships present, as nothing else is important.
Milestones do have their place; they are important in reaching objectives, but marriage is not an objective, nor is life. Football, for example, has four quarters to mark the movement of the game, but there becomes an end and it is then that one knows whether the game was won or lost. In life and marriage, there is no “win” to be achieved at the end. Life and marriage end at death, whether a good life or marriage, or not. As such, we never have the opportunity to reflect back on the event so it must be enjoyed as it occurs. (This also applies to my view of “bucket lists.”)
Likewise, my view of milestones applies also to my view of celebrations. Do we celebrate when people pay their taxes? Do we celebrate when employees show up to work on time? No, because we expect that of them. Those are obligations and deserve no celebrations. Does not this also apply to marriages? Marriage is a commitment and celebrating that people kept their commitment implies that not keeping the commitment was what was expected. Do we want to send that message to people? I hope not.
Separating life into journeys and events has proved helpful to me. A journey needs (demands) a goal and its milestones, but events are what we experience, the foundations of the memories that enrich our lives. Marriage is such an event.