Dr. Jamie Jenkins: Thoughts on 41 Years of Marriage

Over Four Decades of Marriage

Today marks a very important day in my life. Lena and I united our lives in marriage on December 28, 1968. We are celebrating 41 years as husband and wife. More than four decades together.

Why would anyone plan a wedding so close to Christmas? One of two reasons: they were college students home for the Christmas break or they were a little crazy. Admittedly both reasons apply to us. At the time of our wedding we were in school in western New York, a long way from our homes in Mobile, Alabama. It made sense at the time to take advantage of the time out of school for the Christmas holidays. Over the years our anniversary has often gotten "lost" since it is sandwiched between Christmas and New Years.

Words fail to express how grateful I am after 41 years with Lena as my wife. God is good! She has stuck with me through good times and bad. She says that I left her side at our wedding reception to get her some punch and I began talking with others and never came back. That may be true (although I remember it differently) but I have never left her since then nor do I intend to in the future.

I certainly do not claim to have all the answers nor know any secrets to a healthy and happy marriage. There are other couples who have demonstrated those principles better than we but I have learned a little from our relationship.

A basic principle to a healthy relationship is the willingness (and the ability) to communicate with each other. Lena is better at this than I am but it is important to have honest and candid dialogue. Conversation. Respectful disagreement at times. It has been said that if two people always agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.

It is easy to get married but it is very difficult to stay married. Not because either of the partners are bad or "at fault" but because it takes a lot of work to merge two distinctly different individuals into one. And it requires both of them to be willing participants. The marriage vows remind us that we are united "for better for worse, for richer for poorer. in sickness and in health." Those are not empty and meaningless words. There is a lot of "give and take" that occurs as you live out your lives together. If the marriage is to succeed, the "winner take all" philosophy that is pervasive in society must be replaced by a desire for "win-win" solutions. Compromise becomes a very important concept that must be put into practice.

The growth factor has been operative in our lives over these 41 years. Neither Lena nor I are the same persons that we were when we dated and on the day of our wedding. Each of us has changed as a result of aging and the experiences of those years. The key is that we have changed together- not always at the same pace or in the same way. We have allowed, even welcomed, the changes that have occurred and have adapted to them. God has helped us to support one another as we are becoming who God intended us to be.

The story would not be complete without acknowledging the role our faith has played in our home and family. God has nurtured us through the Church. God has provided for us and guided us in all situations. The faithfulness of God has been unquestioned. Laity and clergy have been family who have loved and encouraged us through the years. The faithfulness of God's people has been invaluable.

The journey is not over. We continue to love each other and are open to learning more as life affords us more opportunities. I anticipate them with Lena as God guides us in 2010. I expect a good year and wish the same for you.

Jamie Jenkins

[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," the weekly newsletter of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]