In the June edition of the Seeker, I shared five strategies that Jim and I have engaged to support a healthy marriage. If you read that column, you know that on June 9th, 2023, Jim and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary. When you are a partner in a long-term relationship that is working, you really do not think about all the years you have been together. They pass more quickly than you can imagine, and one day you arrive at this landmark. As I indicated in Part One, there is no simple answer to the question, What’s the Secret? to a long relationship.
Following on the five points I made in the first article, a foundation of friendship, shared values, putting your partner first, treating marriage as an adventure and communication, I would like to add my additional suggestions for a successful long-term marriage. Here we go:
1) Know when to ask for help. All relationships have smooth waters and rapids. Sometimes you know how to navigate through the rapids, and other times you come close to drowning. The key is to ask for help, a life jacket, to keep you afloat and make sense of your relationship when the waters get rough.
Jim and I certainly hit a couple of rough patches. Most times by leaning into our friendship and engaging communication strategies, we found our way through. On one occasion, we simply got lost. We had forgotten to keep our eye on our marriage; career wise we were moving at high speed and definitely moving further apart, until we hit the wall. It was at that time that we sought marriage counselling. We needed to have someone to put a stick in the wheel we were on and stop us in our tracks. I will not deny that the work we engaged in during this time was challenging, emotional, and at times scary. Neither of us were prepared to lose our best friend however, so we did the work and re-built.
2) Keep the Romance Alive. It is easy to become complacent, to take your partner for granted. It is also easy to become lazy and think that the romance does not need to be kindled. Not so. While friendship is the foundation, romance keeps the love alive, fanning the flames of what brought you together in the first place.
Romance is not necessarily gifts and flowers, it is the little things: showing affection, letting your partner know how much he/she is appreciated, sharing a candlelight dinner, having date night or romantic weekend away from children and responsibility. There is an expression that ‘what you focus on grows’. Keep your focus on your romance.
3) Laugh Often, Lift One Another Up! Thank goodness I am married to someone who sees humour in situations, who loves to laugh and yes, tease and who because of his nature always lightens the mood. While that may not describe your relationship, find things to laugh about: cartoons, comedies, stories. In these times, it is easy to get caught up in social media and the daily dramas that occur, not to mention the news media. Do not let them dominate your relationship. Find ways to break away from media, take social media sabbaticals if you have to, come up for air, turn off the devices, and share time together. Look for things that make you giggle, that light you up.
4) Live Within Your Means. In a throw away society, where consumerism is extolled, it is easy to swipe the credit card, purchase the latest gadget or household ‘must have’. Be careful. Financial issues are the major contributor to a troubled marriage. While one person often manages the household finances, make sure that both of you are in the game of managing your money. Have a monthly budget and live within it.
Not to say this is the best advice however, when we had two salaries coming in, we always endeavored to live on one salary and used the second one to pay down mortgages. When the mortgage was paid, then and only then did we purchase luxury articles, take expensive vacations, or splurge. I know this is a conservative approach and one that you feel might deny you the pleasure you seek today. All I can say is that this approach has given us a great deal of pleasure as we secured our financial well-being for this time of our life. And we truly appreciated the splurges, when we could afford them.
5) Shared Interests. Jim is a hockey player and has been since we originally met. I am not a fan and have little interest in attending his games or watching sports.
I am an artist and a writer, fueled by my creativity and curiosity and a perpetual student. Jim does not share these interests.
Despite this there are many things we have cultivated through the years that keep us in the game together: travel, books, biking, the great outdoors, friends, and our work. And I do mean cultivated, making an investment to share as well as appreciating the things that the other person wants to participate in that may not include you.
Final Word: When we got married, Jim and I chose a poem by the philosopher and poet Kahil Gibran. It read as follows:
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of the lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
A healthy marriage is one of individual and collective growth. A healthy marriage is a true partnership, where both individuals are equal, where mutual respect and unconditional love exist, and where each partner shines.
Until Next Time,
Your thoughts and strategies are always welcome and if you care to share you can reach me at: [email protected]