How to Choose a Spouse: Plan Your 50th Anniversary


My first husband and I did this entirely by accident, and now I highly recommend it, even though he did not survive to enjoy the date, and I am happily remarried to someone very different.

Who will celebrate with you? It’s likely your parents and perhaps even some of your siblings and friends will be gone by then. Do you (both of you) picture being surrounded by children and grandchildren? Or off on a grand trip you can afford only because you had none of the expenses of raising children and spoiling grandchildren?

Would you (both of you) like to celebrate in or near a home you’ve lived in and loved for at least 30 years? Will most of your family and friends be neighbors or flying in from distant places? Or would just the two of you be enough?

If one of you is by then dealing with dementia, the results of a stroke, or some deadly disease, will you have the money for paid help or will one of you be pushing the wheelchair or guiding the elbow of the other?

Do you (both of you) hope dancing will be a big part of your celebration? How about other energetic pursuits? Ours was to be at Six Flags Magic Mountain, and I have friends who might enjoy a celebration at the top of a mountain they’ve climbed up or plan to ski down.

Do you (both of you) expect to be retired before this date?

Will you (both of you) want your celebration be a fundraiser for a great cause?

How do you (both of you) hope you’ll be dressed for this event? Formal? Stylishly casual? Jeans and flip flops? Or maybe bunny costumes or Steam Punk outfits?

Do each of you expect the other to keep the exact date free, even if there’s a war to be covered, a disaster where your help is needed, a book due to the publisher, or a grandchild receiving a doctoral degree that day?

And what do you (both of you) hope your sex life is like that week after 50 years together?

If you cannot discuss such long-term lifestyle issues together before you marry, it’s likely to be an especially rocky ride. If you can handle the discussion, it’s the ones you disagree on that will shape you as a couple, because you will need to be aware of what matters to your mate and find some happy Third Alternatives for the ones you don’t agree on.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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  • This is a wise idea for couples considering marriage. But now I really want to know the story of how you and your husband accidentally planned your 50th anniversary. And what were your plans, beyond it being at Six Flags Magic Mountain? 🙂

    • Thanks, Roodle. We were in a park in California when we planned it, sitting on swings in the sunshine. I had just recently met his family and discovered at Magic Mountain that my boyfriend loved amusement parks as much as I did. We were in college and heading back back there after this summer of working. We actually discussed whether to have children at our 50th and decided we’d invite our siblings and their kids (at this point, just one of those) and grand kids, because kids are a lot of fun at amusement parks, especially if, for any reason, one or both of us could no longer ride the rides. (Yep, we discussed pushing wheelchairs.)

      That’s when we both first revealed that neither of us thought we could be good enough parents with his chronic disease that required periodic hospitalizations and the difficulty of a woman earning enough to support a family or get time off for childcare without earning even less back then. Fortunately for me, we had a surprise child nine years before he died, and I was able to earn a lot more than I had expected.

      We would, of course, invite our high school and college friends, at least the ones who still liked amusement parks in their 70s. And we hoped we’d have enough money then to pay for everyone’s admission and lots of picnic food (we loved picnics!), and maybe even their travel. At the time, jeans and sneakers were the only clothing we could imagine for a Magic Mountain day, although we did much better with the wedding clothes we designed and sewed for ourselves. We learned a lot about each other in one short conversation, and we decided, in that same conversation, that the best month for this 50th would be May, so we set a date for a May wedding. In planning for the wedding, we learned how much both of us loved historic buildings and laughing at convention.

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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