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We hosted a party for my in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary last weekend. I think it’s fair to say that 50 years of marriage isn’t exactly common these days. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to have a happy, successful, and long-lasting marriage, so over the last several months, I’ve been interviewing women who have been happily married for a minimum of twenty-five years.
I ask all of the women the same three questions…
- How long have you been married?
- Has it been a good marriage? (I can tell if someone is being dishonest. I’ve not included their responses.)
- What makes your marriage a success?
Almost all of the women who I spoke with included the same three things as keys to their relationship happiness: Work at the relationship daily, have open and honest communication, and respect each other—always. Both partners need to put in the effort. If only one person is working on the marriage, that person cannot possibly hold the relationship together alone–no matter how hard he/she may try.
A friend of mine, Karen Carter, who has been very happily married for twenty-seven years (together for 32 and quite possibly the healthiest relationship I’ve ever seen) said, “First off, choose the right person. Try to always be supportive, respectful, and kind. Talk through problems, compromise, and try not to get into ugly fights. Really listen to each other! And most importantly, go on a date every week, have a glass of wine or, our favorite, a martini, and get a little silly!”
I also spoke to Karen’s husband, Rod. He said something that really stuck with me. He said one of the reasons it works with he and Karen is that they both keep their egos out of the mix. I think that is huge!
I have read about many other factors affecting the outcome of marriages–like if one of the partners have been married before, money matters, religion, sex, infidelity, etc., but I am more interested in what real women have to say.
Here is a list of what the interviewees said is important to lasting marital happiness:
- Fight Fair.
- Accept your differences and don’t try to change your spouse. Irreconcilable differences are normal. Come to terms with them; don’t try to resolve the unresolvable.
- Work on your own issues. Take a look in the mirror–don’t always palm off the blame on your partner.
- Continue to build intimacy–both sexually and emotionally.
- Openness to change.
- Set goals together.
- Have your own goals.
- Respect one another’s need for privacy and space.
- Learn something new together.
- Be honest.
- Parent together.
- No nit-picking. Save the battles for big issues.
- Forgive one another. If you don’t—bitterness will grow and negativity will fester. Be willing to let go and to move forward with your lives.
- Comfort, encourage, and affirm one another in a healthy way. If one person can’t seem to get enough attention or validation that may be a sign that person needs a little counseling.
- Have fun together, laugh together, and use humor in healthy ways.
- Be nice and stay positive.
The list could go on forever, but these were the things that were repeatedly mentioned when I was conducting the interviews.
Most people think marriage is 50/50. It’s not. It’s 60/40. You give 60. You take 40. And that goes for both you and your spouse!
Remember—there is no perfect marriage; only perfect moments!
What do you think?
*I’m sorry to say that I don’t have more of the male perspective here, but I don’t see that many men in the places where I interviewed the women.