For richer, for poorer ...

3 October 2010
It was our wedding anniversary last week. Thirty one years of life committed to one person. We created two new lives, invested our futures in each other, and day by day, built 31years together, or 34 years if you count the years we've been together ... so far. It's been tough at times. Like most married couples, we argued about silly things that seemed important and we grew apart at times, but there was always respect and trust.

And that is the glue.

When I was younger I didn't think there was much to marriage. I saw it as a way of keeping the population ticking over while people were boxed into convenient couple packages. Then I met someone I wanted to marry and although I'd had the thought that "it's only a piece of paper", when I married, I soon realised that wasn't true. I have found that the act of marriage actually increases the devotion and the bond and when the hard times happened and I wanted to walk away, the commitment, the actual marriage itself, made me stay and work things out. I have no doubt Hanno had similar crises and probably stayed for similar reasons. And when I said: "for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part." I really meant it. It wasn't just part of the wedding ceremony that would soon be forgotten.

We had a very simple wedding in Germany. We had a party afterward at our apartment and invited family and friends. There were few gifts, no special outfit and no engagement ring. We didn't see the need to spend a lot and we needed the money for other things, like living. But the promises we made to each on that day were heart-felt and sincere and have kept us together all this time.

Over the years we've grown to be like each other. When we met, I was unconventional and impractical, always with an opinion and full of mad ideas. Hanno was a strong and steady hard worker who seriously took on the responsibilities of the family and guided us all towards a secure future. Now he's more radical and open and I'm more family-oriented and settled. We taught each other the traits we needed to have, and the kids taught us to be good parents.

Now I'm 62, Hanno turned 70 two weeks ago and it seems like we've come the full circle. We started off without children and here we are again, just the two of us, making a life together, and supporting each other through thick and thin. Someone asked me a couple of days ago if I knew the secret to a good marriage. I said that Hanno and I want each other to be happy, and there must be trust. Trust, it's the one thing a marriage thrives on, without it, all is lost.

So in this time of reflection, I want to pass on some encouragement and support to all of you younger than us and who might be wondering about the future of your own union. While there are some marriages that should never have happened in the first place, all marriages go through bad times and if you have the strength to ride it out, each time you do that, you'll make your marriage stronger. You have to factor in human frailty and remember that everyone has moments of weakness. As long as the trust remains, the rest of it will come back, given time and good fortune.

When you get that time with your one person, and look back at life from this end, the view is wonderful and enriching. Sure there were hiccups and strife, but there were also many good times, lots of laughs, love, affection and the satisfaction of working towards common goals. We two together have built a life like no other. We've become the people we should be because of our commitment to each other. A long marriage is one of the many things that money can't buy and if you're in one, you'll know it's the finest of prizes.