February 16th marked my parents', Harriet and Joe Knight, 60th wedding anniversary. My siblings and I surprised them with a dinner celebration including thirty-five of their closest local friends and family. Given the commonly known statistics that more than half of all marriages end in divorce and only 5% of marriages make it to the diamond anniversary, how did Joe and Harriet beat the odds?
The romantic side of me dreamily answers that they are a match made in heaven and their marriage is the epitome of a fairytale. But, that is not an accurate portrait. In reality they fought, endured, managed, and navigated the intricacies of a complicated relationship. They raised four children while my father worked long hours for the first twenty-five years of their marriage and my mother stayed at home to tend to our needs and the home. Theirs was a typical domestic arrangement of the 1950's.
Reflecting deeper on what I know about their relationship, there are two areas that point to sustainability: a thread of indestructible love, and clear money agreements. The first consideration, indestructible love, compels me. No wonder the diamond, known for its indestructible qualities, was chosen as the 60th anniversary symbol. Indestructible love holds mystery to this outsider. Amidst the confusion, doubt, anger and fear of their marriage, there has also been love that endured even the worst of moments. I witness it. I feel it. I experience myriad flavors of love myself. But their love is only truly understood by them. I imagine that their indestructible love includes an element of commitment and recommitment. Masters of lasting love Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks say choosing each day to be with the other is an essential ingredient to a lasting relationship.
Relevant to our discussions here, coupling their indestructible love with clear money agreements has been key for Joe and Harriet. From the beginning of their marriage, they decided to keep separate accounts for their banking, investments and financial affairs. While they share in household expenses, filing tax returns and estate planning matters, they keep their financial affairs completely separate.
Every couple creates, consciously or unconsciously, money agreements. When money agreements work, they add to the longevity of a relationship. When they don't work, they add a toxic chasm to every other area of a couple-ship. For example, if there are scarcity concerns about spending or debt, it is likely there are scarcity issues regarding intimacy, time, self-esteem and so on. Money issues frequently parallel other relationship issues.
How do we make money agreements? First, we recognize that they are present and that they call for our attention. Second, we commit (and recommit) to consciously create agreements that work for each unique relationship. Third, we follow proven processes for making agreements (I have included an offering under Be Inspired). Finally, when tensions arise, the only place to go is inside. Tension is the ultimate invitation for us to explore our internal landscapes, to grow and to make agreements that we intend to keep.
Congratulations Mamma and Daddy, and all of you who model lasting relationships with indestructible love and conscious attention to money matters. Your efforts are as precious and priceless as diamonds.
Reflecting on the dinner celebration, the evening was a beautiful display of the mandala of their life, complete with laughter, friendship, love, anger (a guest miffed with the driving of another guest carelessly flipped off their evening dinner companion!) Yes, their unique love was all there for us to witness!
Applauding with a deep bow,