Our Own Tips for Staying Married Forever!
Keeping expectations real. Most of our fights tend to be about stupid things that really shouldn’t surprise us after all these years – Michael is not going to turn off his phone during dinner, I’m not going to call the pool guy until it fits into my schedule. So for either of us to get mad about something the other one has been doing or not doing since we met – well, what’s that definition of insanity again?
Laughing and holding hands. Not necessarily at the same time – although, hmmm, that might be ideal. Michael and I have always made each other laugh – seriously, I just have to think about this one dance move he does to get me started, and I’m gone. I don’t see how a marriage can last without laughter. Also, we hold hands before we fall asleep at night, which is so grounding and brings us back together after a long day in our own individual worlds.
Remembering why we love each other. Sometimes it’s all about to-do lists and kids and bills. Boring. Not romantic. That’s why we have lots of old photos of the two of us scattered around the house. I made Michael a scrapbook for our 18th anniversary and a video montage for our 30th. Looking at any of those takes us back to the college kids we used to be – now we HAVE them! – and reminds us what an amazing life we’ve had together. And one look at the perm I used to have is enough to get us laughing.
Independence. When we’re together, it’s because we want to be – not in a needy way. We are both individuals with our own interests, opinions and friends. We respect that, we need that for ourselves and for each other. Paul doesn’t need me to watch sports with him, I don’t need him to go to depressing movies with me. Win win.
Understanding our strengths and weaknesses. Luckily, they are complementary. Paul has learned to ignore the multitude of nail holes behind each picture or piece of art I’ve hung before asking him for help – which comes along with a tape measure and a level. I have learned to resist the urge to put together IKEA furniture at midnight by myself without the manual and to wait patiently – well, maybe not patiently – for him to lay out all the pieces, count each screw and read the instructions.
Last, and not to be underestimated, my mom’s cooking – especially her brisket. My mom is a great cook, and Paul loves to eat. Paul is an optimist, and after 25 years of marriage, I think he is still hoping I will learn how to make a brisket just like my mom’s.
Commitment and Perseverance. It is too easy to give up when the going gets tough, and there have been many rough patches in 23 years of marriage. We have always viewed our life together as a journey, with joyous hills and dreadful valleys. You have to be willing to hang in there during the valleys of life and do the hard work it takes to climb back up the hill to where the sun is shining.
Common Values. We both have similar views on the big items like family (getting along with our extended families), raising children (Catherine always came first), politics (moderate), religion (spiritual rather than church going), ethics (treat people the way you want to be treated) and dogs (we love them and will always have a pet; Buster is our current love.)
Kindness. We have always (well, almost always) been kind to each other, trying not to be hurtful with our words, deeds or actions. Larry has been better at this because I can be too honest and frank at times. As the saying goes, “you attract more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.”