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« Perspective | Main | Working Bible magic »

A short guide to happy anniversaries

June is here, traditionally a popular month for weddings, though I suspect that goes back to the days when young folk were expected to marry shortly after high school or college, and weddings followed graduation.

If a lot of past weddings occurred in June, that means a bushel of anniversaries will happen this month. While rhapsodizing to friends about a 25th anniversary trip that Jan and I enjoyed over the Memorial Day weekend, I was reminded that many folks find anniversaries more frustrating than fun, often because the wife tends to remember the big date, but the husband forgets.

I'm not an advice columnist, but here are some suggestions for making anniversaries more memorable:

(1) Remember that it's mutual. Weddings, let's face it, are all about the bride. Anniversaries should be all about the marriage. Most men remember their weddings as high stress, intensely uncomfortable affairs in which they were required to wear formal clothes and speak in public with lots of people staring at them while still playing second fiddle: it's no wonder they suppress the memory. Perhaps more husbands would remember anniversaries if we reframed them, not as wedding anniversaries, but as marriage anniversaries, or even "honeymoon anniversaries." For both bride and groom, the honeymoon is a time to get away from the hoopla and focus on each other. That's the part you want to recapture when anniversary time rolls around, not the tight shoes or the embarrassing thing with the wedding cake.

(2) Talk about upcoming anniversaries in advance, and plan them together. Making it a test of love for hubby to remember to buy a card or make dinner reservations is setting the stage for failure and disappointment. It's much better to plan for success: instead of dropping hints here and there, talk openly about the upcoming day and brainstorm about what you'd like to do (it doesn't matter who brings it up). Sometimes, Jan and I will take turns: "I'll plan something this year, and you plan it next year." If there's a surprise, it should be in learning what your partner has planned -- not in seeing his blank stare of forgetfulness.

(3) Make it an event. Anniversaries are special, and they ought to be celebrated -- all of them. Some years, a picnic in a park or an economy restaurant may be all you can afford, while other years a Caribbean cruise may be in the cards. The most important thing is not a meal or a card, a trip or a gift, but taking the time to reflect on your relationship and cherish one another. When possible, get out of town without the kids, even if it's not on the exact date (anniversaries have a nasty habit of turning up on Tuesdays). When those memorable years divisible by five roll around, do something special, even if you have to save up for it. The more anniversaries you really enjoy, the more likely you are to remember and look forward to the next one.

Good anniversary planning won't rescue a miserable marriage, but the act of open and honest conversation can often turn misery into melody. Marriage is a daily gift, and celebration is in order.

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Reader Comments (5)

This is great!! I appreciate your words of wisdom. In the "hurry-up" world, we often lose focus of the importance of things like this. Thanks.

Jun 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephen

Tony, we have two anniversaries because we were wed in the pastor's office in one state and then married in a church ceremony about 2 months later in another. So we celebrate both. Whichever one falls on or nearest a weekend (and one or the other does), we try to take a short trip, with overnight stay, sometimes at a B&B. We spend the time talking about our relationship, plans for the year ahead, and how we can be better partners for each other.

BTW, we also celebrate the anniversary of her proposal!


Jun 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArce

Thanks for the 'timely' reminder. May 26th was our 36th anniversary and we celebrated it by spending a couple nights in Raleigh. We had a lovely dinner at "The Duck and Dumpling" and attended the ballet "Beauty and the Beast."

It was something we had talked about for a long time and finally had an opportunity to enjoy.

Happy anniversary to you and Jan!


Jun 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjohannes

As it turns out, today (3 June) is our 20th anniversary. Yet as is often the case for military families, we have a house full of packers prepping for our move to Germany. (Hey, at least we're together this year, which has turned out to be the best blessing of all.)

Once this group of packers leave, we're off to the beach for a couple of days before the next group returns next week. Oh, the joys of military life.

Thanks for the reminder of how to do it right!

Jun 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDC

Tony-- Great post! I laughed out loud! We're getting ready to celebrate our 2nd anniversary and my husband recently gave me the "dazed and confused" look when I dropped a hint. I forwarded it on to him as a helpful hint too. I like the idea of rotating who plans the trip!!

Jun 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterleanngunterjohns

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