Commitment

This is How to Have a 53 Year Marriage, Say My Abuelitos

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My grandmother, Rafa, was 15 when she first met my grandfather, Marzan. He was 25 at the time, which wasn’t taboo back in 1964. A long time family friend, abuelo would visit abuela’s family in Jima Abajo, a province of La Vega. But he never ran into Grandma Rafa. She was raised with her grandmother in another province of La Vega named La Vega Real.

One summer Grandma Rafa visited her family in Jima Abajo where she worked as a third grade substitute teacher. That’s when she ran into my handsome grandfather. As soon as they laid eyes on each other, they knew. They just did. They say it was love at first sight.

Their love affair, however, was met with resistance. My grandmother’s mother never approved of her relationship. She didn’t want her daughters dating military men; they had a horrible reputation of being womanizers. Grandma Rafa ignored her mother’s warnings, and my grandfather wasn’t going to give up either. One late night Grandpa Marzan went to her house and threw rocks at her window. Without hesitation, abuela snuck out to meet him. Abuelo would also surprise her and meet her at the river where she washed clothes by hand. He’d shoot at the water with his rifle to get her attention. And yes, to show off.

This became their ritual. They didn’t care what anyone said or how anyone felt about their relationship. They continued to date, and after just 2 months of courting my grandmother, my grandfather took her hand in marriage. They’ve been married for 53 years, have 5 children, 10 grandchildren (including moi) and 4 great-grandchildren. It’s no wonder I admire their relationship and hope to emulate their bond and their love.

I also wonder: after 53 years, how do they not get tired of each other? Seriously! In this time of divorce, how do my grandparents commit to each other every day? Well, they finally told me. Here’s how to have a long-lasting marriage:

Communication and balance. Grandma Rafa has a short temper and Grandpa Marzan hates conflict. So you can imagine that communication can be challenging. Their best advice is to communicate your problem as clearly as possible without ripping each other’s heads off. Try to balance each other’s emotions so that you don’t clash too hard. If they go high, you stay low.

Mutual respect. Getting your point across is important, but there’s no need for disrespect. Mutual respect only helps your relationship grow.

Compromise. My grandmother smoked, my grandfather downed a few drinks here and there. Neither of them liked each other’s habits. So they both stopped. You will not always agree with your partner, so – compromise!

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Help each other. Grandpa Marzan cooks for my grandmother every other day. They both do the laundry, mow the lawn and even clip each other’s toe nails. Sharing responsibilities allows you to have time for each other and appreciate each other.

No secrets. Unless it’s a surprise birthday or anniversary party!

The little things. Every single birthday, my grandparents spoil each other. Not one birthday goes by where they don’t buy each other at least a birthday card. And those little things paired with love, respect and commitment, create an amazing marriage that lasts 53 years…and counting.

Alanna is an aspiring writer and editor. Currently a student at Lehman College pursuing her degree in Media Communication Studies, she spends her leisure time hopping from beauty shop to beauty shop, comparing natural hair products for curly gals. The proud Afro Latina was often told she had “pelo malo” (bad hair) and she wants to put a stop to the damaging idea that straight hair is the only hair that will land you a dream job or man. A promoter of self-love, Alanna also encourages women of all backgrounds to love themselves and to not conform to patriarchal norms.