BAG OF TRICKS

What I Learned From My Parents’ 41 Years of Marriage

BASILIO-VALLE NUPTIALS shot on location at IGLESIA NI CRISTO, LOCALE OF MORIONES, TONDO MANILA in 1978

“Abbie, please edit my Facebook caption of my wedding anniversary greeting for papa,” my mother, Annie, sent me via chat really early yesterday.

Sumakit yun ulo. Kain muna ko ah. (I think I’m having a headache just reading your run-on sentences. Hahahaha! I’ll eat breakfast first.)” I told her her message was not wrong, but her flow of words could be improved.

Apart from social media and tech-savviness (😂), that simple exchange displayed my mama’s humility and her trust in me. How apt! Those are two of the many things needed in ensuring a happy marriage—things I’ve clearly learned from my parents’ 41 years of being Mr. and Mrs.

Their journey was never boring, that I can attest to, so I’m sharing here some of the things it taught me about marriage—both what it is and what it is not. 

  1. Marriage is a choice. No matter what happens, no matter how things end up, you have no one else to thank (or blame, depends on your circumstances 😂) but yourselves for choosing to get married. That is what makes choosing the person you will spend the rest of your life with one of the most important decisions you will ever make. And how decisive my parents were! Mama was only 18 and papa 21 when they got married. Wow! When I was 18, I couldn’t even decide if I should have a boyfriend already (I didn’t have one until I was 24. Haha!).
  2. Marriage is not leaving things to chance. It isn’t news anymore that my mother is beautiful and young-looking, you could just imagine how much more beautiful she was before she had four children (and grandchildren!) who were her source of stress. Haha! Recently, I found out that back when my father wasn’t courting mama yet, one of his friends expressed that he had a crush on her. From then on, papa made it his mission to win mama over (and here’s my own version. Haha!). It sounds shallow when you first think about it, but you if you dig deeper, my parents wouldn’t have raised a family together had papa been shy about his feelings.
  3. Marriage is hard work. It’s about putting in the effort to make things work. Because my parents married young, they had to live at mama’s parents’ house at first. While they worked in the morning, they cleaned the house at night and on weekends, bought groceries, washed and ironed clothes, etc (it wasn’t easy as it was a three-storey house where mama’s seven siblings lived as well). Once they’ve saved enough to live on their own, they settled for a bedroom. Not a one-bedroom apartment. A bedroom. Living in one by yourself is difficult enough, what more if you had two kids in tow?
  4. Marriage is not about who works harder or who earns more. Mama had to drop out of college but was still able to get a corporate job at Pilipinas Shell Petroleum in Makati City where she retired more than 20 years later. Papa worked as an engineer at Nestle Philippines in Alabang and retired at around the same time mama did. It was only when I was working already did I realize it was mama who brought in bigger earnings when we were younger. We didn’t understand those things then and we didn’t really mind—but now I know why it was papa who was mostly present at school activities, while mama would always arrive late. I don’t remember them arguing about it—it was part of their dynamics!
  5. Marriage is admiring each other, warts and all—literally and figuratively speaking—in front of other people or otherwise. Papa has always been vocal about how beautiful and sexy he finds mama even after four decades. He would also tell us, their children, how much he admires the way mama runs the house—from grocery shopping to cooking meals, from getting up early to sweep the yard to doing the laundry even at night. Mama, on the other hand, would openly express how handsome she still thinks papa is and that she takes pride in his work ethic and his dedication to his church duties. She would tell us stories about how papa wows his clients or how he helps our brethren in need.
  6. Marriage is not about being in love all the time. That would be tiring. From what I gleaned from my parents’ more than four decades of marriage (though I only bore witness to around three 😂), there will be quiet moments and you must be comfortable with that. Then, there will also be crazy difficult ones and you must be strong enough to withstand them. “Magkaaway sila mama and papa (They’re fighting),” my siblings and I used to say whenever our parents would close the door behind them fuming. We’d try to eavesdrop on their “conversation” by leaning on the wooden wall that separated our living room from their bedroom. We knew early on that being married did not mean hugging, kissing or saying I-love-yous all the time. Disagreements are normal and healthy in a relationship.
  7. Marriage is annoying each other. This is definitely on top of our own list. Haha! Sure, it’s easy to tell how much my parents admire each other, but MOST of the time, they’re pushing each other’s buttons. Whether that’s papa’s constant coughing and neck tics or his being a packrat. Or mama’s sarcasm, lack of tact, and tardiness (now you know where I got all three! 😂). Banters spice things up—they give you something to laugh at later on.
  8. Marriage is not about being perfect. Whoever came up with the wedding vows “For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health,” surely knew what he or she was talking about. Marriage isn’t a union you stick to only when your partner remains loveable, profitable, or healthy. There will be not-so-good days which will make you question your decision of getting married (especially if you’re like me who goes crazy when PMS-ing! 😂). “I won’t take care of you when you get old and sick,” mama would tease papa. But then, she never fails to prepare their daily dose of lemon essential oil-infused honey water and to remind papa about his maintenance medicines.
  9. Marriage is surrendering everything to God and letting Him do His work. Had my parents not taken this principle to heart, they would not have gotten married in the first place nor had four children together. They would not have had a house built nor have bought cars. They would not have sent us to good schools nor have we gone on family vacations. They would not have stayed married nor forgiven each other. Mama and papa didn’t have what they have now because they just got lucky or because they are successful—they surpassed the bumps, the lows, and everything in between because they embraced the fact that they are God’s children first and foremost, and that He will make things okay.
  10. Marriage is not for the faint of heart. My parents, though religious, are in touch with reality. They are well aware marriage is not for everyone, which is why they’ve always advocated that it is a CHOICE. If you don’t suck it up or shape up, then you have no one to blame but yourselves when you ship out.
My papa and mama at our #AllYouNeedIsLove2015 wedding
image RAJ Photo
shot on location at BALAY INDANG

Easier said than done, they say. I totally agree. But that does not mean these are not doable. Forty-one years of staying married is no easy feat, but my parents managed to tread on. Does that make them better than others? Not really. But it clearly makes them more faithful, loving, forgiving, and trusting. Every time I see or read about failed marriages, I am reminded to be grateful for having parents to look up to for strength and inspiration. Thank you, mama and papa, for gifting us with loving parents who vowed to love each other through it all! Happy 41st anniversary!

How about you? What do you think keeps a marriage alive? Do you agree with what I wrote above? I would love to hear your stories—whether your own or your loved ones’! Feel free to share below, send me a direct message on Instagram, or email me at bequalshappiness@yahoo.com. Thanks and happy Fourth of July (it is still July 4 in some parts of the world 😂)!

Lovelots,

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