Vanessa Vick/The Carter Center
I can’t tell you why I decided to watch Jimmy Carter’s press conference about his cancer diagnosis last week — I guess the marketing presentation I was working on somehow wasn’t enough to make me cry on its own.
I could go on for days (and several friends and family members will insist that I already have) about former President Carter’s awesome attitude, his straightforward, just-the-facts speaking style, his willingness to accept his condition and its possible (some would say likely) outcome.
In short, the man has had 90 great years, he’s done some exceptional things, and his love for his family, friends, neighbors and the world is without boundary.
What struck me most, however, was Carter’s absolute adoration of his wife, Rosalynn.
He noted that marrying her was the best decision he ever made, and whenever he mentioned her, he did it with a spark of joy in his eyes and in his voice.
They’ve been married for 69 years.
69 years. And he’s still so very much in love.
We hear a lot of spousal rhetoric from politicians (not that Carter is a politician anymore — he’s well into his elder statesman/superhero stage), but a lot of it rings hollow.
I’m reminded of an extensive conversation I had with a couple of Huntsville bloggers a few years ago during which we discussed the overwhelming tendency of married folks to complain non-stop about their spouses at work and when out and about sans spouse.
Our conclusion? If you’re married to someone about whom you have nothing nice to say, why are you married to that person? And if you do have something nice to say about them, why aren’t you saying it?
A lot of us grew up thinking that spouses sniping at and about each other was the norm. Many of the more popular TV shows in the ’70s and ’80s depicted footloose singles (Three’s Company), single moms (One Day at a Time), or functional (at the end of the day) married couples who spent their non-functional moments engaging in ugly banter (All in the Family).
Now that I think of it, there were an awful lot of single folks and divorced/widowed parents on TV during the ’70s and ’80s. Marriage is THAT hard, guys.
I’m not saying you have to be Jimmy Carter, head-over-heels-in-love every second of every day. But if you can’t brag on something about your spouse at least every once in a while, you’ve got problems.
Try saying something nice about your spouse. Now try saying it again, to someone else. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself believing it. Because it’s true. And it’s more important than anything you’re tempted to complain about.
One of my favorite quotes is credited to Robert Anderson: “In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.”
President Carter has been finding grounds for 69 years. I would say that the rest of us should be so lucky, but instead I’m going to say that the rest of us should try harder. It costs us nothing to be nice, and we might just find ourselves falling in love — yet again — every last day.