You meet someone, fall in love, and get married. That’s the easy part. We all know the honeymoon doesn’t last forever, but how do we keep that “lovin’ feeling” for the long haul? Being married myself, I wanted to get advice from some couples who know what it takes to make it work. Fortunately, there are quite a few in my own family who have over 30 years of experience: My maternal grandparents have been married for 62 years, my husband’s aunt and uncle for 50 years, his parents for 47 years, and my parents for 36 years. Pretty impressive. Although each couple is unique, there are common themes they all share, and–drumroll please–here they are….
The 10 Commandments of Marriage
#1 Respect your spouse. Remember that song? R-E-S-P-E-C-T….It’s not only a famous lyric, but a common and crucial theme in successful marriages. There was oodles of advice about this one, such as never demeaning, humiliating, or verbally eviscerating the other person–no matter how angry or upset you become. As my grandmother said, “Once the genie comes out of the bottle, you can’t put it back.” A deeply hurtful exchange can create a nasty scar that may never heal or be forgotten.
#2 Lies and deception have no place in a marriage. This was a monumental no-no. Lying and making up stories takes a lot of energy–not to mention memory–catches up with you with you in the end, creates those above-mentioned scars, and can ultimately lead to the destruction of a union. Admit when you mess up, and make a pact to be up front with each other.
#3 Communication, communication, communication. This commandment is fundamental in all aspects of a relationship. Whether to air out differences, connect on an intimate level, solve problems, avoid misunderstandings–you name the issue or desired result–communication is the solution.
#4 Don’t try to change the other person. First of all, it’s not going to happen, so save your energy and frustration. The only person you can change is yourself. Accept your spouse as they are, and make peace with the little quirks and behaviors you aren’t so crazy about. Remember why you fell in love in the first place. Focusing on those qualities may lessen your irritation to the little things.
#5 You have to be willing to give up control. Human beings like to be in control, whether it’s over a person, thing, or situation. Giving up your desire to control the world (or your spouse) is in everyone’s best interest. Cooperate with each other and share responsibility equally. Don’t try to micro-manage or take on all responsibilities; but on the other hand, don’t leave the lion’s share to your spouse.
#6 Be your spouse’s BFF. This advice covers many areas of the relationship: Encouraging the other person’s goals, hopes, and dreams; putting your spouse on an equal or greater level of importance than yourself; being there for the other person in their time of need by being supportive, sympathetic, and/or helpful; laughing with each other; being present in the moment; spending time with each other (having “date night” is a great way to connect. Ideally, get out the house since there are a million ways to be distracted at home).
#7 But don’t be joined at the hip like Siamese twins. Give each other space and privacy, don’t smother each other. It’s healthy to have your own interests and independence. If you’re never apart and share only the same knowledge, you’re not going to have much to talk about!
#8 Don’t ever go to bed angry. That communication commandment would come in handy here. Besides, you won’t be sleeping well anyway. Perhaps you won’t come to a resolution, but you can at least agree to disagree. Saying, “I might not like you right now, but I do love you” is better than the last word being an angry one.
#9 Be willing to say you’re sorry. It can feel like extracting your own teeth, it can often be the quickest way to end an argument…and your spouse can’t be wrong all the time, right? Successful couples say they are sorry for several reasons; for example, when the thing being fought over is trivial, or when the issue means more to the other person than it does to them. And sometimes they say they are sorry because they are wrong and have the courage to say those two small but powerful words.
#10 Forget what society is telling you to do. Don’t worry about what others are doing or what they say you should be doing. Worry about yourselves and do what’s right for you and your spouse. You two are the ones making the rules. And your marriage is just that…yours.
The wonderful thing about these couples is anyone can see they are still in love and enjoy each other’s company. Each generation has new or different challenges, but the guidelines seem to remain the same for a long-lasting marriage. Being able to say, after three to six decades, that you and your spouse are best friends and attractive in one another’s eyes? That’s amazing and heart-warming and encouraging to all “newlyweds” who desire that lifetime commitment of keeping the love alive!
Do you have any secrets to marital longetivity that weren’t mentioned? Please chime in!