What's Love Got To Do With It?
What’s Love Got To Do With It?

19 Lessons From 19 Years Of Marriage 


Nearly two decades ago I made one of the, if not THE, most important decision of my adult life. I married Buff Parham.

Back then, when we stood on that beach in the Bahamas, we swore we’d love and cherish each other forever. That still stands..  and so do we, no minor feat when you look back on some of the trials we’ve had to endure.

The reason I wanted to write this is two-fold; it’s my yearly happy anniversary post (you can read the others here and here); the other is because, like those previous posts, I want people to see what goes into a lasting relationship, well ours anyway.

So here they are, the 19 things I learned in 19 years of marriage.



1. LOVE: Well, DUH! This is one of the most important aspects of a lasting relationship but it needs to be thought of as a verb, not a noun. FALLING in love is not as critical as GROWING in love and that, my friends, takes work.

2. COMMITMENT: What’s the longest thing you have committed to in your life? A five-year car loan? Perhaps a 30-year mortgage? Commitment means knowing it won’t always be wine and roses and that you’ll stick it out, not cut and run at the first sign of trouble.

3. TRUST:  I trusted this man ’til death do we part and he will be there in sickness, health, for richer, and for poorer, when things are good and bad. He’s never let me down in those things. Ever.

4. RESPECT: It would be impossible to describe how much respect I have for this man. He’s smart, funny, an incredibly savvy businessman, a great father and a loving mate.

5. AGREEMENT ON THE “PILLARS”: Buff and I have different opinions on a lot of things but on the big points, pillars, if you will, we are in lockstep. We grew up with similar religious beliefs, work ethic and views on personal responsibility, which we pass on to our kids.

Read more:  Forced Family Fun: The Apple-Picking Edition


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6. THE IMPORTANCE OF SPACE: Buff and I both need room to cultivate our own interests and sometimes, just because we annoy the hell out of one another. Yes, I went there. Being apart so we can grow makes coming back together infinitely more interesting.

7. HOW TO FIGHT FAIR: My husband knows my strengths and weaknesses and when we argue, it’s never in a disrespectful way; we don’t call names and NEVER physical violence. He would never exploit those insecurities that I’ve shared with him and knowing that makes me lean on him even more.

8. HOW TO COMPROMISE: Compromise does not mean being unrelenting in your argument until the other party cedes. It means you give a little, your partner gives a little and hopefully everyone is (mostly) satisfied, if not happy. At times you or your mate will give more but it all comes out in the wash, so don’t worry about keeping score.

Read more:  Where In The World Is Good Enough Mother? Florida, Baby!



9. AT TIMES, WE ARE VERY CLOSE:  Have you ever had one of those moments when you are miles apart watching TV and you laugh at something you see, not because you think it is funny, but because the one you love would? Yeah. That.

10. AT TIMES, WE ARE VERY FAR APART:  This is where the mettle of relationships is tested. The last two years of our marriage were not a whole lot of fun and the highlights were few and far between. We gave each other space (see above) and got help from a professional to work through some things.

11. I KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO HURT FOR SOMEONE ELSE: I love my husband so much that I want the absolute best for him. My heart yearns for his success more than for my own. The crazy part? He wants that for me too.

Read more: All By Myself: Why My Husband Doesn’t Read Good Enough Mother


Casey and Cole then and now

12. FINANCES ARE SOMETIMES THE GLUE: Here’s the dirty little secret. There are times that heady romance gives way to pragmatism. Buff and I have built a financial future together and the times I wanted to leave, I thought about what that would do to our financial life. We have worked very hard to get to this place. We have kids to put through college. We own property. We have 401Ks. I can’t think of a single problem in our relationship that would be better solved by giving all of that to a lawyer.

13. CHILDREN CAN BRING YOU TOGETHER: Some of the happiest times of my life were giving birth to and raising Casey and Cole.

14. CHILDREN CAN RIP YOU APART: But we have to do a better job of carving out time alone so we tend to the primary relationship.

15.  SOMETIMES YOU ARE JUST BARELY HANGING ON: Seriously. Then something happens, you get news, good or bad, that you want to share and realize no one would appreciate it more than your partner. And you keep going.

Read more:  My Solution To Father-Son Conflict? Work It Out… ALONE!



16. I KNOW THE JOY OF SHARED VICTORY: We’ve built a home, created, cultivated, and nurtured two lives, and made it 19-years, all with a modicum of our sanity intact. We share that victory and so many others.

17. I KNOW THE COMFORT OF HAVING SOMEONE WHO SAVES ME FROM MYSELF: Talk me off a ledge much, Buff. Yes. All.the.time.

18. I’M HAPPY WHEN HE’S HAPPY: That’s typically on the golf course. I’m also happy because he’ll be gone at least four hours. Kidding. Sort of. Not really.

19. WE KEEP THE END GOAL IN MIND: An interesting thing happened to Buff and me this year. When life got tough, we got tougher and we did it together. The only think I can equate it to is like a football team; when there is a common opponent, everyone grabs the playbook and moves in the same direction. The last couple of years, that was not the case with us; we were in the same boat, but both rowing at different paces. Not this year. The shared experience of  our various ventures has brought us closer. We have common goals and are moving toward them together. It feels good.



The other night, someone on the crew asked me about next year, what will we do to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and I jokingly said, “I hope we’re still together.” I’m sure we will be but the point of that response is that it takes work. The “I-do’s”? That’s the easy part; it’s the digging in for the long haul where you learn, grow and love.


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(Editor’s note: This piece originally ran on January 27, 2013)

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