This Path We Share: Beating the Odds
According to DivorceMagazine.com, the percentage of married persons who reach their 25th anniversary is 33 percent; 20 percent of couples reach their 35th anniversary; but only 5 percent reach their 50th. Clearly it is not easy to stay married.
But what if you do stay married? For sixty years and counting? What does it take? What does it look like?
Most books and articles focus on newlyweds or couples facing midlife crises. Where can couples turn for advice on how to make a marriage thrive after 40, 50 or more years of marriage?
Happily, author/speaker Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad shares the story of her 60 (and still counting) years of marriage in her third book, This Path We Share: Reflecting on 60 Years of Marriage (©April 2010, MulberryHillPress.com).
"To stay married for a long time, you have to be blessed with unusual longevity," says Hjelmstad, "and you have to find a way to resolve the many differences that arise over the years. My husband, Les, and I did very well until our 33rd year. Then one day the word 'divorce' came up during a heated discussion. It took four months to figure out that that probably wasn't a great idea."
"Another thing that amazes us is that we actually traveled 400,000 miles together, speaking on breast cancer issues, after we were 63 and 72. And we didn't kill one another or even mention divorce."
In This Path We Share we learn the story of Hjelmstad's long marriage – through four children (born two years apart), illness (including breast cancer), tragedy, and unprecedented social upheaval.
A few of the core bits of advice shared in this book are:
- Nurture your primary relationship tenaciously
- Fall in love with each new person your mate becomes
- Create a post-parenthood marriage – if you are lucky, there will be years after children leave
- Reinvent your lives to fit changing circumstances
- Foster a lifelong sexual connection
Lois hopes This Path We Share will help couples from the about-to-be-marrieds and young marrieds to those struggling to hang on to what they once had and those looking to affirm their long happy relationships.
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As I read through this incredible story, I realized it is a lot like my story in many ways. Perhaps it touched me so much because I have lived in that era. Its many and varied facets surely will speak to persons facing a variety of issues and stages of life. I especially appreciate that the author did not attempt to gloss over the tough parts of life that most of us face in one way or another. Lois Hjelmstad's story and life journey are very, very real. Thank you for the inspiration and honesty in its telling.
Carol Swartzendruber, Chaplain
I loved seeing how your relationship developed into the core of your being without ever subsuming either one of you. Whitman says, "The kelson is the creation of love." This book shows this to be true.
Anne Strobridge, English teacher at Colorado Academy
The combination of your careful history – keeping via journals and your poetic writing – make this a rare window into a marriage and family.
Vern Rempel, D.Min.
…sheds light on the post WWII and Vietnam generation seen through the lens of marrying and raising a family in this historic time.
Walter Friesen, Ed.D.
"Crazy in love," Lois married Les when she was 17. She has written a wonderful love story that gives insights into how they created a mutually supportive, caring, and egalitarian relationship in response to changing personal and societal circumstances.
Anne Rankin Mahoney, Ph.D.
co-author of Couples, Gender, and Power; Creating Change in Intimate Relationships
Lois's prose and poetry are wonderful and the story of her marriage is both heartfelt and enlightening. She and Les have been blessed with each other and have shared a magnificent journey, not without its share of bumps. But with each challenge, their bond grew stronger. Though there are many husbands and wives, there are few true partnerships. A partnership is a deep and intimate sharing of life, a bond that goes to the very core of our being. They are partners in the purest sense. To read This Path We Share is to read a story about that which we most value. It's about love, perseverance, but most of all, about two lives that have been and continue to be lived to the fullest.
Fred Silverman, NY Producer of Living with Cancer