NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Commentary: Marriage

By William Holston

Dallas, TX –

Commentator William Holston celebrated his 27th wedding anniversary earlier this month. He reflects on why the union endures.

If someone asked me what I thought made my marriage work, I'd say there are a number of factors make for a happy marriage. But not necessarily the ones you might imagine.

They say opposites attract. Jill is a classic extrovert. She loves meeting new people. She lights up a room full of people with her presence. I'm more likely to sit and in a corner and have a deep conversation with one person about torture survivors. This difference has worked out, because each of us is flexible enough to give the other freedom. Sure, I've had to spend a few evenings getting to know new people. I've even tried to like board games. Jill's learned to give me space to be alone. We're still learning too. Jill values a tidy house. Let's just say, our definitions of tidy still differ.

I think it helps that we began our relationship with lots in common. We are both voracious readers. We combine Christian faith with progressive politics. It's been critical that we share common values, such as simplicity, environmental care and working for international human rights. We are a partnership, stronger than the sum of our parts.

While we initially shared common interests, we also developed new ones. We both developed a love for theater and have been subscribers to local Kitchen Dog Theater for over ten years. This year we spent hours watching shorts at the Dallas International Film Festival. We love discovering new restaurants. Through our son Fred, we met many local musicians and artists, and discovered joy in watching live music. In past summers, we read and discussed a book over beers.

Yet, I think it's important that while we are together most of the time, we also have separate lives. Jill has been in a women's book club for about twenty years. I just completed the training to be a Master Naturalist. Neither of us is threatened by the relationships and interests that we've pursued separately. I think it keeps us more interesting and helps prevent stagnation.

Perhaps the most important factor has been a sense of humor. Jill cracks me up. And, despite my occasional melancholic moods, I can find humor in even dark situations. I've extracted myself from hot water more than once with humor, like the time I asked her if she wanted me to eat dirt, and then did it.

I think our marriage has deepened through hard times, That's important to remember as you begin to pick who you want to spend your life with. What began as a giddy celebration of life has evolved into something richer. We've buried friends. I conducted her dad's memorial service. She helped me take care of my elderly dad, Neither of us is as carefree, but we know that we are there for each other, in good times and bad.

Finally, the wisest thing I've ever heard about marriage was from the movie Shenandoah. Jimmy Stewart is talking to the young man courting his daughter. He asks, "Do you like her?' The young man responds, "I love her." Jimmy Stewart replies in his wry fashion, "No, no. you just said you loved her. There's some difference between lovin and likin.' He goes on to describe about how real love takes years, and finds its roots in something more like friendship. Our marriage works because I married my best friend, Jill, I love you, but I really like you.

William Holston is an attorney from Dallas.

E-mail any questions, opinions or rebuttals to the "Contact Us" section of