The secret sauce of long-lived marriages
This December, Diane and I have been a couple for 42 years! Wow! In this day and age that is quite an accomplishment. Periodically friends want to know--- what are the ingredients in the secret sauce of long-lived relationships?
Here’s my recipe.
Choose wisely. This is a hard one to qualify or quantify. So much of attraction is chemical rather than cerebral. Why are we attracted to one person and not another? Make sure that there is some chemistry to start with---it’s important. Don’t rush into a relationship—take your time. Be on the look out for red flags and when you see them, salute them, don’t ignore them. Love won’t make them disappear.
Don’t take each other for granted. Over time, it’s easy to forget that out of all of the men or women in the world, you choose this one to be your mate. It’s simple to forget marriage is voluntary. Your kids will always be your kids forever no matter what happens, regardless of the quality of your relationship. But your wife or husband can wake up one morning and say goodbye. Every day, spouses should renew their vows! It would remind us never to take each other for granted.
Accept your spouse for who they are. This is big. Diane is my total opposite. She’s a detail person. I’m a big picture guy. She does stuff right away. I tend to procrastinate. She’s thin skinned. I’m thick skinned. There is a long list of personality differences between us. Most people are attracted to someone who is their polar opposite, and then they spend the next 20 years trying to get them to be just like them! Take my word for it, it won’t happen.
Love is a verb. It’s not enough just to “love” your husband or wife. It requires regular and frequent acts of “loving kindness”. Sure, flowers and chocolate are nice, but folding some towels, putting away some laundry, making your partner’s lunch, or washing tonight’s dishes goes much further. That expression of love is more likely to lead to affection in the bedroom than a card or a gift. What does your guy really value? Maybe some time with his buddies or an afternoon fishing. Be creative.
Know when to keep your mouth shut. This can be so hard! So many irritations in life are minor and unimportant. It’s not necessary to say everything that comes into your mind. Better to let the small things go.
Don’t give up on the important issues. It’s difficult to change patterns of behavior that have developed over many years. When you have a conflict about something that’s important to you, be patient and persistent. So many adults give up too soon.
Don’t discuss important problems when you’re angry. Mary is angry with Ted over their lack of physical intimacy. One day she is just fed up, and starts yelling at him about her frustration. Not the best recipe for a discussion about intimacy. Better for Mary to wait for a romantic moment to discuss this quietly, kindly, and without anger. Be strategic about when you bring up important items.
Remember that love came before the baby carriage (hopefully!). During those childrearing years, it’s easy to focus entirely your children. Those are such powerful bonds. But don’t forget the relationship that brought these kids into the world! Keep the home fires burning through date nights, time away, and romantic moments.
Expressions of affection and intimacy are important. Hugs, kisses, and more are vital. They reflect and enhance your emotional connection. Human beings have a wide range of sexual energy—but this is a significant component of romantic relationships. Otherwise, couples can become just roommates.
Relationships take work. Magic, chemistry, attraction, and love are just not enough to keep the fires burning over 40 years. There are many ups and downs, hard times, mountains to climb, and rivers to cross. It takes time, effort, attention, awareness, and endurance to keep those bonds strong and resilient. Long-lived relationships are a marathon, not a sprint.
What’s the secret sauce in your relationship?