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Hagen: You get years of life wins when you invest in marriage

Marriage is a roller coaster with its ups and downs, twists and turns. But as long as you’re willing to hold on tight to each other during the ride, it will never get boring or end.

Luke Hagen column sig.jpg
Mitchell Republic Editor Luke Hagen.

Marriage looks easy on Facebook.

You see the smiles, the happy kids and the accomplishments. We all post pictures of our life wins.

In the past two months, I’ve spent a couple Saturdays watching good friends get married. Their days were beautiful and the celebrations were memorable. Sure enough, photos flood social media a day or two after the ceremony.

It’s an easy way to remember the details of the wedding day without going through the old-school method of pulling out the photo album and flipping through page by page. Just while writing this, I scrolled back and was reminded I wore a sharp brown suit, my wife had a dress with a mile-long train and our reception was the best party we could ask for.

That was on Sept. 27, 2008. Monday was our 13th anniversary.

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What started as a grocery store produce clerk asking a girl out while she was working the checkout counter became my life’s greatest win. Talk your all-time underdog story.

That’s mostly because we were young when we were married, just 22 and 23 years old. If studies show half of all marriages fail, statistics really aren’t good for the early 20-somethings who exchange vows.

Luckily, our first five years were mostly peaceful. We didn’t have much, so we didn’t have much to worry about. Then, a baby girl came along in 2014. More expectations and responsibilities with careers. And another little lady in 2018. But all the while, my wife and I were there for each other, seemingly impossible days and all.

I tried to research the probability of marriage success for a 22- and 23-year-old couple staying together for 13-plus years, but instead ran into a wonderful Time Magazine story that explained why we and others remain compatible.

In the article, the writer referenced a study by Northwestern University psychology professor Eli Finkel, who in 2014 said that “marriage is both the most and the least satisfying the institution has ever been. ‘Americans today have elevated their expectations of marriage and can in fact achieve an unprecedentedly high level of marital quality,’ he wrote in his study, but only if they invest a lot of effort. And if they can’t, their marriage will be more disappointing to them than a humdrum marriage was to prior generations, because they’ve been promised so much more.”

In other words, marriage is a roller coaster with its ups and downs, twists and turns. But as long as you’re willing to hold on tight to each other during the ride, it will never get boring or end.

On the day you get married, it’s hard to realize or fully grasp the idea of investing “a lot of effort” toward your partner. Everything’s so perfect right away. There’s always a Kodak (Facebook, for the younger crowds) moment. It’s easy then.

Two days before our anniversary, we were at a gorgeous fall wedding in town. Early on in the evening, the DJ encouraged all married couples to the dance floor to celebrate all of their years together, perhaps to cast good vibes to the newly wed couple. As the DJ announced years of commitment together, couples left the dance floor if they hadn’t achieved that mark.

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By the end of the song, two couples were still dancing at 50 years together. The room cheered.

What an amazing accomplishment.

Maybe in 37 years I’ll celebrate that same life win. But until that day, I’ll focus on holding tight while the roller coaster keeps moving.

Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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