Have you seen the wedding video of Kentucky bride Dana Jackson marrying 87-year old Bill Strauss on her 100 birthday (www.aarp.org/bride)?
It's even better than the video taken of my daughter's incredible Hawaiian wedding last year with its mesmerizing hula dancer and those unending pots of poi. That wedding was a true display of family happiness caught on camera, thanks to our forward-thinking son.
In Jackson's case, happiness also abounds. The bride is the lovely. She wore a white wedding dress with an incredibly long train that went well with her ever-constant smile.
Dana had been married three times before — but she never had a formal wedding, so why not? Beautiful gown, happy bride, loving acknowledgements from the groom. If you're in your 10th decade, it just does not get any better.
And once married, the couple acquired a shared room in their assisted-living facility. Think about it. If you were living in any kind of facility environment, wouldn't you want someone to snuggle with at night? Love lives on. Yes it does. But it needs constant nurturing.
I was at an event this week where a couple told me they had been married 60 years. Young at heart, they clearly have a tender, caring relationship. He had given her a series of envelopes in preparation for their anniversary celebration. The first one said, "Buy anything you want to wear on our anniversary — money is no object" (or something like that). The second said, "Buy me something you want to see me in on the day of our anniversary." (This guy is no fool — kind of cute, too). More envelopes followed, but you get the idea.
The couple touched and sort of giggled as they filled in each other's sentences while telling me their story.
How do we acknowledge one another after decades of marriage? Hopefully, we do so with "active, constructive" words, rather than "passive, destructive" language.
Let me share an illustration, lifted from a recent presentation about resolving conflict and a book titled "Difficult Conversations" developed through the Harvard Negation Project.
Here's the scene. Your spouse comes into the house and says, "I placed third in the bowling tournament." A "passive" response would be a shrug and an "Oh." Maybe even a quiet "Good for you." The response becomes "destructive" if you add, "Who came in first?" Or, "Bowling — I'll never understand why you took up something silly like bowling."
An "active" response might be, "Wow, honey, that's great!" And you make it really "constructive" if you add, "I'm just so proud of you!" and "I absolutely adore that bowling shirt on you — it matches those sky-blue eyes of yours I've always loved."
Well, maybe that last part is a little over the top. Although if the shirt really does match his eyes "… your call. I think we forget how magical an authentically affirming remark can be. Find a moment. Find several. I promise you — magical.
Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-776-7371, ext. 210.