Twenty Years Toward Eternity Together

I love that commercial in which an attractive middle-aged couple walks romantically through a plaza in Italy and the man suddenly bends down on one knee, pulls a diamond-encrusted "eternity" ring from his pocket and appears to propose to his stunned yet responsive partner.

As he picks up his wife and twirls her high in the air (because of course she's a size 2 and he's fit and athletic), she spots her parents (distinguished, gray-haired, well-dressed) seated on the plaza steps. They were hiding behind newspapers. Seeing them, she realizes she is the victim of a happy-anniversary conspiracy.

At this, the unseen announcer nearly whispers, "Give her the ring that says you'd marry her all over again."


I've never taken a poll on this, but I'm pretty sure every middle-aged woman from Chattanooga to China wants to be the wife in that diamond ad.

First, just admit it; we all want to be a size 2.

We all would love a romantic stroll in an Italian plaza alongside an attentive husband — a husband who actually could lift us off the ground.

And then spin.

A husband carrying a sparkling new diamond anniversary ring in the pocket of his perfectly tailored Italian sports jacket.

Heck, I'd enact the whole scene in the Kroger Plaza if a diamond anniversary ring was involved, size 2 or no size 2.

At about our 12th wedding anniversary, I decided a diamond-encrusted anniversary ring would be an appropriate way for my husband to acknowledge me on our 20th. At the time, our children ranged in age from 2 to 10, and I believed the perpetual state of physical exhaustion I was enduring would result in a serious piece of jewelry down the road.

I started hinting with subtle comments like, "So, are you saving up for that diamond anniversary ring for our 20th?"

It's not that he doesn't want to buy me a new ring. He loves to surprise me occasionally with a piece of jewelry, even though I'm not one to wear much of it. Besides, I think Jim even would agree that I've earned a sparkly new bauble after all these years.

There's just one problem, and I swear it didn't hit me until a few months ago.

Having had our first child two years into our marriage means that this same child is nearing 18. Just four months after our 20th anniversary this Wednesday — almost to the day — she leaves for college.

This may be a milestone anniversary, but my diamond "eternity" ring looks uncannily like a sparkling new dorm room and the unlimited meal plan required for new freshmen.

Timing is everything.

Nonetheless, 20 years of marriage is a big deal. Already we've surpassed the marriage records of Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, Britney Spears and K Fed, and Tori Spelling and Charlie Shanian — combined. I think you even could add in the various remarriages involving some of those folks, and we still would win the matrimonial sweepstakes.

We never made much of our anniversary until we hit double digits. Before that, we just used it as an excuse to put the children to bed early and order takeout.

Then, at some point, my husband and I realized that in our culture, every year of marriage is a victory. A couple celebrating a dozen years together, or 15 years or 18 years — never mind 30 or 25 or 50 — is living a commitment that endures countless tests.

Surrounded by the prevailing belief that marriage equals romance, fulfillment and delight, most of us are stunned to discover instead that marriage entails far more sacrifice than seduction, much more negotiation than nurturing. On its best day, a healthy marriage is hard work. On its worst day, it's simply a decision to stay and work some more.

Our 20-year marriage is no exception. From seemingly insurmountable struggles to insignificant battles that cause the dust to fly from day to day, we have put our bond of marriage through the proverbial fire.

We have fought over everything from putrid paint colors (okay, he was right about the salmon walls) to politics to parenting.

He thinks I waste money; I think he wastes time.

We can invest so much emotional energy in a discussion about the relative merits of buying orange juice from concentrate, you would think we were hammering out a piece of funding legislation for the war. (For the record, if I buy frozen concentrate, no one will drink it. Where are the savings there?)

That marriages fail so often is a sad fact of life. That ours has endured is largely because of our shared belief that we have no alternative but to succeed. No doubt if either of us thought there was a way out of this life, we would have considered it at least a few times along the way.

Instead, we have relied on the one and only thing that upholds our covenant regardless of the circumstances: boundless and inexplicable grace from God.

The diamond-marketing folks know how to make a new ring look like a very appealing purchase, and I'm not going to lie, I would love one someday. In the meantime, I'm going to remember to take more peeks at the inscription inside the ring my husband gave me 20 years ago — "MB, My love eternally, JH."

It's the "eternity" ring that says I'd do all over again.

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  • Guest

    That commercial drives me crazy.  Real love is not about diamonds.  It goes a lot deeper than that.  The love my husband shows me and the sacrifices he makes for me mean more than the most expensive diamond in the world.

  • Guest

    This year, my husband and I are coming up on 29 years (July 8).  Every year we look at each other and say, "thank God, made it through another one!"  Sometimes it truly seems as if the only glue that keeps us together is that grace, between the "discussions" over how to stack the dishes, and the sometimes fruitless efforts to get hubby to hang up clothes!  I too would love a diamond at some point, but that "diamond" is now putting one son through college, and possibly postgrad work (unless he wins a scholarship).  It's true that real love is anything but diamonds and other "stuff".  Took a long time for me to learn that, but it's happening, and God willing, the next 29 years will be a great improvement over the previous 29. Smile

  • Guest

    I suppose it is a common boomer generation goal to be wealthy enough to vacation in Italy, buy a big diamond ring, etc. This is the same boomer generation which, on another thread, is apparently the first to be less healthy than their parents. One wonders if there is a connection.


  • Guest

    God loves you .

    C’mon, you guys! Those of you who put in the efforts of and from love to be there for each other – you are each a gem by the day for the other, and vice-versa. No diamond can compete with you. You wouldn’t accept a wheelbarrow full of diamonds for your partner. Well, except as she might be canny enough to tell you, soto voce – [‘Take the diamonds and I’ll escape and get back to you!’] You ladies DO have other-worldliness that sometimes comes around as potent and positive worldliness that can astound we poor male folk.

    Boomers dream and then put it on our fourteenth credit card. We have not been raised to ‘consequences’ as we ought to. We can too easily foreclose on our temporal future, let alone our eternity, for verily not having been raised to address our eternal destination. That we can fantasize an ‘eternity ring’ gift to a petite dear wife from her still-studly husband, with Mom and Dad in tow, in the Plaza Santo Marco in Venice is little short of pathetic. What do we get out of it all? Stresses killing us faster than they did our parents. Eternity ring: $6000; dream trip to Venice: $23,000; unconsciousness of eternity: senseless.

    Remember, I love you, too

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell or …

  • Guest

    We just celebrated our 22nd anniversary and it's taken me about that

    long to plumb the depths of what agape(sacrificial) love really means.

    It's said that there are no planes in the spiritual life.  Either you are

    making progress and growing, or you are sliding down.  I think the same

    is true of marriage.  The key is growing in agape love.

  • Guest

    About the ad: Spending time in Italy with those people would be awful.  They look boring.  Their "got it together" good looks don't fool me.  They are in debt up to their eyeballs, popping pills, and are scamming everyone they have in their trance.

    That being said the worth of a husband giving his wife a peice of valuable jewelry is mysterious!!!  Much more mysterious than a college education these days….  MaryBeth, I say if you can pay cash for it and it won't put you on the streets, and you really want that eternity band, get it!

    Love ya! 


  • Guest

    I'm sorry: I'm laughing hysterically at you "kids".

    There was a time–long ago and far away……and, admittedly, when our marriage was pretty rocky–when I'd have given every last tooth in my mouth for an eternity ring.  (Pretty picture, that?) 

    Somewhere before our 40th wedding anniversary, I "got serious" with God.  Now, hubby shows me pictures of (gaudy) expensive jewelry, wanting to buy me something.  I appreciate his sentiment–probably more than he'll ever realize–but always give him the same response: "And where would I wear it?  To wash the dishes?  To fold laundry?  To Wal-Mart?  To the vets'?"  He has to work so hard just to keep us going.  I'd much rather have more of him and less "stuff". 

    Now, we're coming up on our 46th, and I am not burdened by glittering little pieces of stone that we'll use to play kick-the-can in Heaven. The cute couple in Venice makes me chuckle: they don't have a clue.

  • Guest

    Amen, Cooky.