Getting married is easy. Almost anyone can do it. But, after the bouquets are tossed and the honeymoon is behind you, you have to find a way to make it work.We got married a week before Christmas, so we’d never forget our anniversary. Now every year, December 18th is a holiday for just us. And every year, a few weeks before the New Year, I am forced to reflect on how the most important relationship of my life relates to just about everything else.
We have not had the perfect marriage. Around year ten, we almost called it quits. But the story is never about why I almost walked away, it’s more about how and why I stayed. It’s been lots of hard work, yet a lot of what makes us last is pure luck. The rest can be summed up in the following ways.
- Marry Your Best Friend- Love is great and all but friendship lasts longer. Marry the person you’d have the most fun with on a road trip. Hours in a car mean lots of time for talking and less for physical affection. Who can you trust to drive that car and who can you let DJ for half the trip? That’s the one you marry.
- Know who you are- “I’m not a huge fan of this guy, but he hasn’t changed who you are”, my mother told me months before I got married. I used to morph into female versions of the men I dated. By the time I met my husband, I was comfortable and confident in who I was. I had clear goals and dreams and he was willing to stand by me while I made them a reality. He didn’t want me to change an ounce of who I was and that’s good, because I was who I was.
- Fight but Forgive- I think I have said “I hate you” to my husband far more than I ever intended. The people who love you can hurt you the most. We have been to marriage counseling. We have wanted to kill each other. I have sworn to leave him a dozen times. But more often I have found it is worth it to stay and fight. You can never expect perfection or unlimited devotions from anyone. We fight about loyalty a lot recently. We don’t often yell and scream but when we do, we take a minute and regroup. You have to tell people how you feel. You need to disagree. But at the end of it all, you have to be willing to live with the outcome. Forgiveness is tough but holding grudges will rot all you have. If you can’t let go, you could lose the relationship.
- Fall for each other as often as possible- For all the things that drive me crazy about my man, I still find things to fall in love with. Usually, they involve what an incredible father he is and how he’ll handle things from tantrums to bed time to driving lessons. Often, it’s how he can diffuse a situation when I’d prefer to fly off the rails. Most recently, it was how he rocked a cardigan sweater. But there’s always something, try and find it. Make sure you tell them what it is.
- Find something to nurture together- Whether it’s a house, a garden, a business, or a pet, you need something to care about together as a couple. You must have stakes in something you both care about deeply. This way, when all else falls apart, you have something that bonds you. The more you create and care for together, the longer you can hang in there when things get tough. Children are the “extreme sports” version of this. Having children hasn’t changed us much, but suddenly the stakes of our marriage succeeding went up two-fold. Our love for our kids has made us stick it out in ways we never thought possible. As two of our oldest are about the leave the nest, I can already feel the heartbreak and hope building between us. But there’s also an excitement of what’s to come.
- Kiss as much as you can- The physical aspect of your relationship is key. You need to keep up being affectionate with one another. There’s no need for constant PDA but know that the time you spend holding each other counts for quite a lot. You may start to feel less attractive as you get older. That doesn’t mean the person who chose to be with you forever wants you any less. If you have a dry spell, hang in there and talk about it. And don’t stop trying to get this spark back or trying to seduce your spouse. Maybe try being romantic every now and again. All the work will be worth it, I promise.
Who knows what the future of any relationship will bring? Life is long. Love is complicated. But when you find that one person who is willing to put up with you for the long run, it doesn’t hurt to keep trying.