Black vultures do it. So do white swans and mourning doves.
Bald eagles start when they’re four years old —they’ll do it perhaps 25 years. An albatross is at it even longer, sometimes 50 years.
Here’s a hint: Valentine’s Day. It’s fast approaching — the season of love.
These five birds are exceptional at love because they mate for life!
In fact, a swan will remain alone if its partner dies. Doesn’t that touch your heart — can’t you see that lone swan, gliding across a lake year after year until it dies?
I deliberately chose these five birds. In addition to mating for life, they also fly south for the winter — exactly like Florida’s snowbirds. Having lived in our Panhandle for many years, I can describe these couples easily: Married 40 to 60 years, remarkably healthy, very active. In fact, they have a glow. I’m serious. Happy little units of two.
I admire them. They don’t know this.
So why do their marriages last while other couples plug along unhappily? The US divorce rate is 40 to 50 percent. I’m not married, I want to know.
Last week, I was invited to a snowbird party. I saw my chance and set out on my quest — a Valentine’s gift to me. What was their secret?
About 25 couples were there. I took a slice of pizza, borrowed a pen, and gathered napkins for a notepad. Here’s what I discovered.
They’re different. Some are from Canada, many from the Northern Midwest. Their careers spanned all walks of life: legal secretary, social worker, accountant, career military.
Some were high school sweethearts, while others were “fixed up” by friends. One couple met on a blind date, and after two more outings they were engaged. That was 44 years ago.
Their faith experiences were different, too. Some worship each week, while others rarely go. I found this part disappointing. Shouldn’t Christ be at the heart of everything, especially your life with your mate?
Then a woman named Lynn said in passing, “My husband and I share Christian values.”
Immediately, I backtracked. I hadn’t asked these couples about their values. Marilyn firmly believed her marriage had lasted because of “honesty, love, respect, and faithfulness.” One couple after another said these same things. Bob called it “moral fiber.”
I had something now!
“Where do you think you developed these values?” I asked.
They all said from church and from their parents. Each had a Christian foundation, their hearts belonged to the Lord!
But there was more.
They told me about their interests: Football, antiquing, gardening, bingo, stocks, museums, dancing, yard sales, home projects. Who knew?
Carol, who is married to Jim, said, “Once our daughter turned 3, we spent a lot of time together on our sailboat.”
Separately, I asked Jim why their marriage had lasted.
“Men don’t think like that,” he said with a laugh. “But she sure is a good sailing mate!”
Ding, ding, ding! It wasn’t just that these couples shared the same interests. No, it was bigger than that. Carol hadn’t come into the marriage as a sailor, Jim had taught her.
“I didn’t like football when I married,” Kathy said. “I decided to like it to be with my family.”
Barb’s husband learned bridge and square dancing.
I could feel goosebumps. This was their mindset.
“It’s not all about me,” Mary said. “We each give 100 percent.”
And in the course of sharing one another’s interests they had become “best friends.” Each couple said those two words over and over again. But you could see it — never a cross word, no discord between any of them.
Bob said, “Think about it. We’re down here living in a one bedroom, not a big house. There’s no yard work. We’re around each other A LOT. You have to truly like the other person.”
God says, “A man shall … be joined to his wife and they shall become one …” Gen. 2:24
That’s the secret — the truth for this Valentine’s Day from these happy couples:
The Rev. R.A.Mathews is the author of “Reaching to God: Great Truths from the Bible.”