The St. Patrick's Day that Changed the Course of My Life
Almost 27 years ago to the day, Thursday, March 17, 1994, was the day that changed the course of my life. I had been a Chiropractor for 3 years and had recently bought my first practice in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Since it was a Thursday and I had to work on Friday of the following morning at 8 am, I decided that morning I would have a quiet night at home. My phone rang in the afternoon and it was one of my closest friends, Ed. I answered, “Hey Ed, what’s up, how are you doing?”. He responded, “Get ready. I’m picking you up tonight; we’re going to the Bent Elbow in Ft. Washington for a St. Patty’s Day party”. “Thanks, Ed, but I have to work early tomorrow so I think I’m just gonna stay home”. “Excuse me, what’s your last name?”. I replied, “Donohue”. "That’s right," Ed said, "You're Irish. It’s St. Patty’s Day and I’ll be over at 6 pm to pick you up" and he hung up the phone. Ed was also a Chiropractor and little did I know that his office manager had invited him to this St. Patty’s day celebration and that she was bringing a few of her girlfriends. One of them happened to be a girl named Jill Patricia Kelly, born on St. Patrick’s Day, 1970. It doesn’t get more Irish than that. I’ll never forget her walking into the room and walking over to where we were standing. I immediately forgave Ed for forcing me to come out that night against my will. Jill and I talked and danced the whole night and as they say, the rest is history. We were married that same year and we’ve never looked back.
The funny thing is that I never thought I wanted to get married. My parents divorced when I was 4 years old. I grew up with my Dad and step-mom in New Jersey, only getting to see my biological mom every other weekend when my brother, sister, and I got on a Trailways bus and made the hour and a half journey to New York City where she lived. From what I saw growing up, their relationship was not a healthy one and they divorced after 22 years of marriage, shortly after Jill and I were married. I learned a lot of things from my Dad, how to be a man, how to always tell the truth no matter how hard it is, how to not compare yourself to others but only to your own potential. However, one thing I didn’t learn was about how to be in a committed, successful marriage and what it takes to truly be a great husband. Some things you have to learn on your own. Some things you learn “what NOT to do” by watching others. This is why I didn’t think I would ever get married even though I wanted children. It just didn’t look that pleasant or fun. That all changed on March 17th, 1994. Not only did I meet the girl of my dreams, but I met the girl who would teach me about what it takes to have a successful relationship and marriage.
Because I didn’t see or learn about what it takes to have an authentic and happy marriage, Jill and I struggled early on. I didn’t know the things I know now, and it almost cost us our marriage. It was only through counseling, reading, learning, and through God’s help that I learned the lessons that all great marriages have to understand to flourish. I see many marriages and I’ve seen many of my closest friends go through painful divorces. Life is too short to be unhappy and to be with someone who doesn’t make you feel loved and respected. However, what I’ve also learned is that being in a loving and fulfilling marriage is work and it requires the same important ingredients that success in any other aspect of life requires. Namely, hard work, patience, commitment, and sacrifice. When I said, “for better or for worse”, I meant it but didn’t realize how true that statement would be. There were a lot of “ for worse” times early on in our marriage. However, we paid the price and learned from our mistakes and I can honestly say that the “for better” times have gotten even better and I’m more in love with my bride and more committed to our marriage than ever before. Why am I writing this on St. Patrick’s Day? To give you hope and make you feel lucky to be married. To share a St. Patrick’s Day story and message. Your marriage and your spouse are sacred and special. God has his hand in it and if you let go and stop trying to “force” your marriage or “tolerate” your marriage, you will find joy and happiness in it.
Here is the best advice I have for a successful marriage. I've outlined some of the important lessons that I’ve learned about marriage and from the mistakes I’ve made.
1. Stop focusing on what you don’t like about your marriage and start focusing on what you love about your spouse. You attract what you think about so STOP thinking about what annoys you about your spouse. Pretty soon, all the bad stuff will fade into the background and all you’ll see is what you love about them. Not a bad thing to focus on every day.
2. Put your marriage before your children (at least sometimes!). Your children will be with you for 20-25 years, but your spouse will most likely be with you a lot longer. Have shared interest and spend time together because when your children leave the nest, you may look at one another and say, “Who are you?”.
3. Learn your spouse’s love language. From the book “The Five Love Languages”. They are Word of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. My wife’s love language is gifts and quality time. Mine is physical touch and acts of service. We tend to give to our spouse what we need to “get” ourselves. However, their love language is what THEY need, not what YOU need.
4. Women need Love and men need Respect. It’s in the Bible and God tells us that women need love from their husbands and men need respect from their wives. Jill and I took a course called “Love and Respect” years ago and it was a biblical perspective on marriage. It was one of the best things we’ve ever done for our marriage. If women don’t feel unconditional love from their husbands, they act disrespectfully to them. If men don’t feel respected by their wives, they act unlovingly towards them. It’s called “the crazy cycle” and the only way to break it is to know it’s happening. Stop the crazy cycle by giving each other the basic fuel that you both need, Love (women) and Respect (men).
5. Let them go and be themselves! Trust is based on trustworthiness. When you trust them, you allow them to be the person you fell in love with. If 2 people are identical in a marriage, then one of them is unnecessary. What makes your marriage great is your differences. Opposites attract but they have a harder time staying together if they don’t realize that 1 + 1 = 3 and not 1 + 1 = 1.
6. Say “I love you” and “You’re amazing” often. Who doesn’t want to hear these words? Let your spouse know why you fell in love with them. Even after 26 years, I look at my wife and think “Wow, this chick is gorgeous” or “Wow, Jill is such a happy and fun-loving person”. Some people light up a room when they walk into it and some when they walk out of it. Jill is definitely the former. Don’t just let your spouse know that you love them; let them know WHY you love them.
7. Learn to say, “I’m sorry”. News flash, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes in your marriage and so will your spouse. I remember one time saying to Jill “Why am I always the one saying I’m sorry” and without missing a beat, she said, “Because you’re always the one screwing up”. I’ve learned a lot and don’t screw up as much, but I still know the value and saying “I’m sorry” when I do.
I hope my St. Patrick’s Day story inspired you to focus more on your marriage. Life is difficult but when you have a loving, committed, and selfless marriage, you have one of the rare blessings that nothing else will be able to give you: authentic happiness.
I’ll leave you with an Irish blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
With love and respect,
Dr. Dane Donohue is a Chiropractor in Newtown PA and has been serving his community for over 25 years. Wellness Solution Centers provides all the services you need for a healthy life.