Shhhhh…..I’m cheating. My 23rd wedding anniversary is this coming Saturday, and I’m re-posting a column here that I wrote several years ago, not because I’m feeling lazy but because it’s one that I really enjoyed writing. It meant a lot to me then, and it still does. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂
I’ve heard people often ask those who’ve been long married, “What’s the secret to a good marriage?” The answer is usually different, depending on whom you ask. And I think that’s because the answer IS different for everyone. Because, regardless of what we might want to believe, there is no one special ingredient, no magic formula, that’s the secret key to wedded bliss.
My husband and I will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary at the end of June, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately wondering how the heck we pulled that off. We married young, at only 22 and 23. And in an age of divorce we have, thus far, been able to trump the statistics and somehow hang in there year after year.
We couldn’t get enough of each other from the time we met in college, at the ages of 17 and 18. We were young and stupid and stubborn, and wouldn’t listen to anyone’s advice or opinions and we did what we wanted to do. We even quit school so that we could work full-time and save money to get married. To heck with college, we thought. We were in love and that’s all that mattered.
I’m shaking my head even now, as I type this, at that young, foolish couple. What we really were was lucky.
I can’t honestly say we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, because we did. We waited five years to get married, and we got to know each other very well in that time. We fought, we broke up, we reconciled, we worked, we fought, we broke up, we reconciled, and that’s how it went for five years. I ignored my parents’ attempts of advice, telling me that we fought too much, and it wasn’t healthy, and maybe we should take a break from each other. I wouldn’t hear it. And neither would he.
And some way, somehow, we always managed to scrape our way back to each other, regroup and keep our eyes looking forward, together. We were always able to somehow get past all the petty crap, for lack of a better term, and keep the big picture in mind…the part where we still wanted to share our lives and raise a family and grow old together.
And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing ever since.
So now, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to impart a few words of my own wisdom on what it takes to have a good marriage. I’m no expert by any means, but I have learned a few things over the years.
First of all, you have to learn how to compromise. And it ain’t easy, believe me. The power struggles and arguments that can happen in the course of a marriage can be exhausting, and sometimes ugly, and if you aren’t familiar with the art of compromise now, learn it. It really does make things easier.
Second, learn to listen. If you’re spending a majority of the time talking to your partner and not listening to them, you’ll regret it. Respect what they have to say and pay attention to them. You’d want the same for yourself, wouldn’t you? It’s not too much to ask, or to expect.
Next, if they come home in a cranky mood and say they don’t want to talk about it, understand that they don’t want to talk about it. Don’t rain down a bunch of questions, and foolishly assume that you’re helping them by forcing them to let it out. They’ll let it out when they’re ready, believe me.
And don’t underestimate the importance of giving each other a little space now and then. Everyone needs to do their own thing occasionally. You really don’t need to be glued at the hip every free second of every day to prove that you love each other. Have your own interests.
On the flip side of that same note, make some time to be together….alone. I can’t stress that enough. Life can get crazy with work and kids and sports and so many other distractions. Make a date where you can have a drink, or see a movie, or take a long walk and hold hands and just talk and be together. Connecting is so important.
And make love as often as possible. I don’t care if you’re a newlywed or a couple who’ve been married 50 years, showing your physical desire for the person you love and enjoying each other intimately is one of the most important expressions of human emotion you can make, not to mention the fact that it’s a basic human need. Passion shouldn’t die once the babies have arrived, nor should it after the kids are gone off to college. Those flames need to constantly be fed.
Finally, have a sense of humor. Being able to laugh at a situation (or at yourself, as the case may be) is so important. It’s true that something that seemed so significant at the time can…and will…most likely be laughed about down the road. Being able to laugh at something together can bring you closer. It can make you feel like kids again. It can make you remember that it’s OK to be silly and funny and goofy together. Everything doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.
Marriage isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. It can be hell on wheels sometimes. It’s like a maze where you can be constantly twisting and turning and ducking and weaving. It’s an uncharted road for everyone, and each couple has to find their own way. But if you’re able to stick together, if you can continue to hold hands and keep your heads down and just keep plowing through, while managing not to kill each other, it can be the greatest adventure of your lives.
With that said, I would like to wish my husband, my confidante, and my partner-in-crime a very happy 20th anniversary. Thank you for all we’ve built together….the good, the bad and the crazy.
May we have many more years of us.
Credit to Gatehouse Media New England