How to Have a Long-Term Successful Relationship — My 27 Year Love Story

Know your priorities and the rest is easy

Tim Ebl
Tim Ebl
Mar 1 · 7 min read
Photo / KieferPix / Shutterstock

Relationships are hard. I look around and see that most of the couples I knew back in the day aren’t together anymore. Their marriages bit the dust.

It isn’t just one thing that doomed my friends to leave their partners. Sure, people break up because of affairs, or huge gambling problems, or depressions. But what about that middle group, the ones that didn’t have any big problems? The ones that just weren’t nice to each other.

Annoyance and hurt built up until the pressure was too great. Then the volcano blew, and they split up. Statistics tell us that over 40% of marriages end in divorce. Lovers turn into haters.

Is it fate? Did these couples get together only to learn life lessons and then move on? Or could they have stuck the course if they did things a little differently?

It depends on the couple. Sometimes people get together for the wrong reasons, and they would be crazy to stick it out. But maybe their focus was off-center. Maybe they needed to treat their relationship like a process, a skill that you can practice.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was our 27-year relationship. It’s ongoing.

My Wife And I Put Us First

I’m still married because it’s a priority for both of us. We take it seriously. My wife is more important to me than all of these other things:

  • My Career
  • My hobbies
  • TV shows
  • Video Games
  • My car
  • My friends
  • My adult kids (although they are next in line)

I made a promise to put her first. It doesn’t mean these other things aren’t important to me. They just have to take a back seat to make sure I’m good with Nicole.

Why does this work? Because she does the same thing for me. I’m more important to her than her friends, job, etc., Until you get to kids, and then I’m sure they are higher on the totem pole than me! But I’m okay with that.

We Aren’t Attached At The Hip

Just because I put my wife first doesn't mean we hang out every second together and gaze into each other’s eyes like some romantic freakshow. We have our own lives. We don’t share everything.

We don’t like all the same books, movies, or TV shows. Our other interests are the same. I don’t enjoy hanging out with the same people she does. She doesn’t want to talk to all my friends. So we do those things on our own.

Life gets busy. We make sure that we check in with each other and share our schedules.

I go out of my way to not make Nicole feel bad by leaving her out. She does the same for me. If she really wanted me to go shopping on Saturday, I make it happen. If I had plans to barbeque with my buddies, she finds other activities.

Do You Avoid Annoying Your Person When You Can?

Everyone is going to be annoying part of the time. The important thing is that if you know you’re annoying, you care enough about your person to try to stop. You don’t do things that suck, like getting on their nerves on purpose.

Are you willing to bend on this thing that’s so annoying? You need to be.

If I sigh every single time I walk past the living room on the way to the fridge and Nicole says, “Stop sighing!” that means I’m pushing her buttons. This needs to matter to me. If I make a mess in the kitchen and I know she will hate it, I have to clean up my act.

We have to treat our person as well as we would treat our best friends. That’s how I treat my wife: Like a human being that matters to me. And if you matter to me, I won’t be an annoying douchebag.

Date Night Is Important

Some couples never go out. It’s like once they got married, they both thought all of that was over, thank God. No need to waste time wining and dining now. Let’s put on the sweats and ignore each other. That’s how all the romance dies.

I take my wife out a couple of times or more every month, no matter what. If it’s possible to go to a restaurant, we share some appetizers. We chink our wine glasses and celebrate being together.

It doesn’t have to be super fancy. Since Covid came into our lives, we can’t always dine out. One of our dates was a walk around a nearby lake followed by an ice cream treat. Another found us in a large indoor mall, all masked up but still holding hands.

We Do Little Things For Each Other

This morning while I was writing, I went to grab more coffee. On my way by, I took Nicole’s cup and refilled it too.

She didn’t ask me to do this. I just wanted to.

My wife insisted I buy a new office chair because she was thinking of my back.

I cooked her a roast when she had to work late, even though I don’t eat meat.

She goes to extreme lengths to keep the house quiet when I record a podcast, even if she really wanted to watch TV.

All of these little things add up. A marriage is a mountain of little things, and you chose if they will be positive or negative.

It Doesn’t Have to Be 50/50

If you think your relationships need to be totally equal, then you have a problem. Life doesn’t work like that.

Yeah, okay. It has to be at least 70/30. It can’t all be one-sided. But as long as you get what you need, who cares if you’re totally equal?

For instance, I do 95% of the cooking in our relationship. I like cooking. She likes eating. What’s wrong with that?

It will never work out equal. These things all have varying importance levels. Somebody has to be pulling more of the weight. But who cares? The relationship is helping us both.

We Communicate

I knew couples in the past who didn’t talk. At least not to each other.

Have you ever been in the situation where you tell your bestie all of your love life woes, and meanwhile, your partner tells all their complaints to their friend, but you never tell each other? That sounds insane, right? But this is what people do. They don’t openly communicate if the love of their life hurts their feelings or isn’t meeting their needs.

They bitch to someone else and just let the problem keep on rolling. And they pretend everything is hunky-dory until it’s time to explode in rage after bottling it up for weeks, months, or years.

We don’t do this. If something’s going south in our lives, we bring it up. You can’t put it off. Important things like happiness and feelings need to be discussed. I want to know if Nicole’s got a problem. And whether she wants to know or not, I’ll tell her if I’m going through something. It’s called being there for each other.

Being in a Relationship Pays Off Big Time

We are happy together. And we get big advantages in the world from facing it as a team. Two heads are better than one, as long as those heads are on the same wavelength.

  • The two of us share expenses on our living space, our phone plans, food costs, basically everything. One coffee maker instead of two. One mortgage payment. One set of bedding, furniture, etc.
  • We always have a backup in emergencies. There’s a team member on standby if things get hairy.
  • My partner has someone to support her dreams and vice versa. I’m there to assist her with her gel nail salon. She supports my writing.
  • We raised kids as a team, and now they are living their own lives as stable adults. We weren’t perfect, but we were a unified couple with common goals, and our children saw us working together.
  • Life changes around us, but we have one solid point — our relationship. We trust that our partner is there even through pandemics, work layoffs, and world trouble.

Final Thoughts

When I walked down the aisle all those years ago, I was just a young punk with an attitude. I had no idea we would end up where we are today.

I made a lot of mistakes, and so did she. We went through some rough patches where both of us considered throwing in the towel and moving on.

But through it all, I decided to stick with my favorite person.

If she’s having a bad day, I try not to make it worse.

I apologize when she thinks I’m an ass. I know she puts up with most of my silly behavior without a complaint, so if it’s bad enough to bother her, I better cut it out!

She does the same for me. When I bring up a no-go area, she tries to adjust for me.

That’s why we are still together after 27 years. We care what each other thinks and feels. We put the effort in. And we keep going no matter what.

That’s what “til death do us part” means: I’m with you for the long haul, baby. Let’s do this!

Want to stay in touch? You can get more of my stories here.

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Thanks to Elizabeth Dawber

Tim Ebl

Written by

Tim Ebl

Writer, Meditation Instructor, Laser Beam Repairman. Author of the book: 90-Day Meditation Challenge. ambitious.eclipse@gmail.com

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