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No long marriage is without its problems, and questions
We finished chores and I stopped at the milk house to get a gallon of milk before I headed to the house. I was dressed in sweats, barn shoes, hair pulled back in a ponytail and no makeup, but my husband looked at me and said, “There has never been a more beautiful woman made on this Earth than you.”

Why do I tell you this? To brag? Nope, because after more than twenty-something years of marriage, this is what I’m still hearing out of the mouth of my husband. It didn’t begin this way, nor have I heard it the whole time we’ve been married. But it’s these moments of hope that have kept us together, along with a little character.

There is an epidemic of divorce in our nation. This is not a newsflash by any means. Couples fall in love, get married and a few years later, when things get rough they give up with a plethora of excuses: We just aren’t compatible anymore; we have fallen out of love; he’s a total jerk and no one should have to live like this; she’s such a nag, let someone else deal with her; I’ve found my soul mate … and it’s not my spouse; we would be happier apart; it’s best for the kids – and on and on it goes.

There isn’t a couple that’s been married 10 years that hasn’t dwelled on one or all of these gems; it’s inevitable. You can’t put two people together for life and expect the sparks, fire and attraction to carry them onto 50 years of bliss. Show me two people who have been married for any period of time without doubt or disagreement, and I’ll show you two people who are comatose. It just doesn’t happen like that.

If you’ve been married 10 years or more you’ve weighed the consequences of divorce. If you’ve been married more than five years you’ve had moments of question or times when you were ready to walk away. If you’ve been married one year, the thought has crossed your mind that maybe you didn’t marry the right person (if you’re willing to admit it).

Instead of asking “Why do people divorce?” maybe we should be asking, “How do people stay married?” I have an idea of what the answer might be: Character.

Character trumps compatibility every time. Making the decision to get married is easy compared to making the decision to stay married. Let’s face it, staying married takes character, not compatibility.

My parents just celebrated their 56th anniversary and, growing up, I can tell you there were plenty of days when they looked anything but compatible. There have been times in my marriage when compatibility wasn’t even on the map. In fact, I don’t think it’s ever been on our map.

But, there was a decision made on both of our parts that divorce wasn’t an option. That decision was made by my parents and the millions of couples all over the world who have stayed married. Do you think they’ve all had great marriages filled with compliments, a continuous honeymoon, constant attraction and an absence of conflict? Heck, no!

Ask any long-term married couple and you will hear about their arguments, days and even weeks or months of despair, times when they wanted to walk away and those times when they DID walk away – but they returned.

It takes character to stand by a decision that is life-long. To change, to improve, to work, to listen, to be unselfish, to love unconditionally and, the biggie, to forgive – all of it takes hard work and character.

Attraction will wane, times will get tough (times will get really tough on the farm), but when everything looks bleak, hope is gone and forgiveness is too difficult, the decision to stay and love still stands – and that’s what makes the difference in being married 12 years or 56 years.

Obviously I’m not speaking to those who are in abusive situations. But I am speaking to those who are headed through tough times, in the muck and mire of day-to-day life and the honeymoon was over long ago.

You’ve got character; maybe it needs to be greased up a bit so it works a little better. Maybe you’re in need of forgiveness. Or maybe you just need to look at your spouse and say, “There has never been a more beautiful person made in this world.”

Try it, and then try it again and again and again. And see what happens.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers with questions or comments for Melissa Hart may write to her in care of this publication.