I’ve been married for 35 years. There, I said it. When I say it out loud, it sometimes just feels bizarre, unreal, and very cool, all at one time.
We were married on a beautiful afternoon in October. We were young. So young and full of hopes and dreams and ambitions. But in all honesty, I don’t believe either of us considered where we would be 35 years into the future. And while I’m being honest, if I had, I probably would not have envisioned that we would still be married, much less still happy.
Yes, we did talk about our career goals, and how many children we wanted and how much FUN we would have. So, we knew that we were basically in sync. And, of course, we talked about how we would love each other forever, and marriage we be easy for us.
But I’m here to tell you, 35 years later we are still happy. But it was not one big carnival. Sometimes it took work. Sometimes it took sweat. And sometimes there were tears.
The early years are probably the most difficult. You go from being Single to being part of a Couple. Even if you are living together before marriage, there is something psychological that makes marriage different from living together. You’ve made a commitment that can’t be broken without third parties. It’s a legal process to walk away. If you two don’t make it then you become just another statistic in the divorce rate.
Speaking of divorce rate, I keep hearing that the divorce rate is over 50%. But seriously I cannot find any concrete statistics to back up this claim. I find estimates, I find predictions, I find the data isn’t there for marriages longer than 10 years. You know what else I don’t find? The percentage of couples who live together outside of marriage that break up. So if you are worried about how long it will last, don’t. The deck is not as stacked as you might think and you are not the same as the couple down the street.
I’m going to tell you what has worked (and not worked) in my marriage. I have not done interviews or psychological evaluations and I am not putting forth even anecdotal information. This is my story. Take what you can from it.
Remember why you love him/her
Today I consider my husband my best friend. When we became engaged and then first married he was also my best friend. But there have been times in between that this was not so. There were times when everything he did annoyed me. His very essence was offensive. And then during a morning devotion I found some truth. I looked at all the things I found annoying and realized that many of them were things that I HAD FALLEN IN LOVE WITH. Seriously. Talk about an attitude adjustment. It wasn’t him that had changed, it was me. Once I was able to look at him with those young eyes full of love, the annoyances just weren’t there. I found the humor again. I found the respect again.
Treat your spouse the way you want to be treated
During our 35 years we had two children. Boys. Men now. They are the light of our life. And children can make your life very fulfilled and very busy. I found that in the midst of working, little league, PTO, homework, church, friends and family commitments that my husband and I grew apart. I felt that he was just not putting me first and really not treating me like the princess he married. Then I realized that I was treating him no better. And then I made a conscious decision to treat HIM the way I wished to be treated. I spoke to him with love. I flirted a little. I made special meals that I knew he would like. I encouraged him to relax when there was that small opportunity. I treated him with respect. And you know what, it worked! He slowly began to look at me again the way he used to, not as a reciprocal reaction, but because it felt like the relationship was new again.
Sometimes people get tired, and it’s hard to put any extra effort into something that you think should be easy. Not true. Any thing worth having is worth putting the extra effort into.
The two shall become one
This is a phrase that you may hear. It is sometimes said during wedding ceremonies, it is biblical. But it may not mean what you think it means. It doesn’t mean that the two of you must be joined at the hip. My husband is my best friend (notice a trend?). I can’t wait to tell him about something wonderful in my day, or to commiserate with him when something doesn’t go well. But we also need time apart. His every interest is not mine, and vice-versa. This makes you more well-rounded people. It gives you something to chat about. It gives you something to share or teach to each other. It is good to have friends or hobbies that you can do with out your spouse.
This DOES NOT mean going out with the girls (or boys) every weekend. This does not mean golf every weekend. This does not mean doing your hobby to the exclusion of your spouse every evening after work. Everything should be done in moderation, including interests apart from your spouse.
By the way, “eating for two” isn’t good advice either. But that’s another article.
Above all – it’s a Partnership
Think about forming a business partnership with another person. I don’t know what business it is, maybe creating and selling the best dog biscuit known to canines, or developing the next Facebook app, or a construction company, or a house cleaning business. Whatever the business, the partnership between the owners is basically the same dynamic. Each partner uses their skills to advance the best interests of the business. The partner who is good at math will probably do the books. The partner who is good with people will probably do the hiring. There is and should be cross training between the partners, so that no-one is overly burdened and can’t take a vacation. It also helps the partnership, and therefore the business, grow.
Your marriage is/will be the same thing!!! You can’t expect that each of you will be good at the same things. You must divvy up the tasks so that the one who is good at it, is the one who is primarily responsible for it. Swallow your pride – your husband may be better at cooking – or your wife may be better at changing the oil. Do what you do best and share your knowledge with your partner, so they can grow. In this way your business (marriage) can grow and prosper as you work together to accomplish a common goal. A
And in that way, two truly have become one. Because you work together, almost as one unit. With both partners utilizing their talents and strengths and so, even if it is an area of weakness with the other partner, it doesn’t matter. Because you’ve got this.
I’ll share a silly anecdote that happened just a few weeks ago. We were preparing to go out to dinner and my mother in law was waiting for us to get ready, so we were in a bit of a hurry. I had dismantled my Water-Pik to clean it thoroughly and could not get it back together. Then I heard my husband call out. I went into the living room where he was having some issues with his email and asked for my help. I handed him my Water-Pik pieces and asked him to please put it back together, while I diagnosed his email. Three minutes later I had solved his problem, and my Water-Pik was back together! I shudder to consider how long it would have taken each of us to complete the small tasks without the other.
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