When I was in New York in December of 1982, I decided to see the new Dustin Hoffman movie “Tootsie” at a local theatre in Manhattan. Christmas was just a few days away and the movie poster — showing Dustin Hoffman in a sparkling red beaded evening gown, perfectly coiffed with gold pumps on his feet standing next to a more casual male-attired Dustin Hoffman — had a sort of Christmas feel to it with all those sequins on the evening gown … even though it wasn’t a Christmas themed movie.
The one thing that stood out for me where this movie is concerned is the theme song that was performed by Stephen Bishop. It was the kind of song that, at 21, I wished I could write not realizing that I already had.
The song had a reflective longing without being overly sentimental and it was the sort of song that appealed to a broad spectrum of people, not just the under 18 group or the 18 to 25 demographic or the over 40 crowd or what was eventually renamed the zoomer generation.
Looking back as lovers go walking past
All of my life
wondering how they met and what makes it last.
That sentiment — wondering how people stay with each other for decades — is something that has echoed long and loud across the past three generations. Recently, there’s been a spat of news articles about married couples celebrating 70 years , 80 years … even 85 years of marital bliss. What I find most intriguing is the fact that all of them have a similar recipe for success: the ability to argue constructively with each other.
Not one of them has ever been quoting as saying that their marriage has enjoyed longevity because one of them is always right and the other of them has learned to accept that as a fact. Not one of them has ever been quoting as saying that their marriage has lasted because they didn’t say a word to their partner about how wrong they always are on any given subject.
What they do say is that they’ve learned to listen to what the other has to say on any number of subjects.
Some of the questions reporters asked were easy to answer. Was it always bliss? Of course not. Did they still argue from time to time? Of course they did. Were they birds of a feather or where they opposites that attracted? Yes they were. Which one? Both.
Each couple shared that over the years they’d had more than a few humdinger doozies of a fight over the years but at the end of the day, they ironed everything out and apologized where warranted with the knowledge that neither of them would hold anything against the other.
So many quiet walks to take
So many dreams to wake
And with so much love to make.
I think we’re gonna need some time;
Maybe all we need is time.
For most of these couples, they were barely out of their teens when they married but they understood the seriousness of making commitments. They knew they didn’t know everything and they were willing to learn … from each other, from their friends and families, from the community. They were open to working hard at making a home, having a family, building a future, enjoying the good times and riding out the bad times.
This meant they had to invest in each other and themselves …. their hearts, their souls, their thoughts, and their time. And like any good investment, it takes time before an investor can start collecting dividends. This is what all of these couples knew then and to which they held tight over the years.
This is how they found themselves still together after all these years and celebrating 70 years and 80 years and 85 years of marriage between them.
Does this mean that those who find themselves divorced are failures? Not at all. But here’s the nugget of truth to be found in reading about these couples: There’s something to learn about personal and professional relationships from couples who have learned to navigate the relationship pitfalls and chasms that are part every person-to-person interaction.