There is a lot to be said for a couple who can remain married for 26 years, and Lawrence and I are celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary on July 28th. Having dated over four years, this is someone who has known me, and I mean really known me, for over 30 years. That is a long damn time!!!
Dr. Joyce Brothers said, “Marriage is not just spiritual communion and passionate embraces; marriage is also three meals a day, sharing the workload, and remembering to carry out the trash.”
Many who are new to marriages often ask me what it takes to stay married. I find it humorous, because, I often ask folks who have been married 30 years, 35 years, or those who have been married even longer – the same question: Just HOW do you stay married til “death do us part”?
My first answer is always, “One of us has a lot of patience… and I’m guessing it is me.” But, honestly, there is a lot to be said about patience, and other things, that help you stay in a long term marriage.
Here are ten tips you may (or may not) find helpful in seeing your marriage go the distance.
1. Don’t kill each other
The quickest way to ruin a marriage is to kill your spouse. You WILL end up in jail. Even maiming the other is a felony, so DON’T DO IT!
2. Remember the Important Dates
Anniversaries and birthdays are important, don’t forget the dates. Buy gifts ahead of time and hide them in the house. When an anniversary or birthday pops up unexpectedly (not that the actual date changes from year to year) you will have a gift in the house and ready to go when you need one. TIP: You WILL score bonus points if the gift is wrapped.
3. Be Honest – from the beginning
“Does this dress make my butt look big?”
“Yes, yes it does, you may want to change before we attend your high school reunion.”
Your spouse’s knee-jerk reaction may not be appreciative, but when you come home from a successful evening of “Wow, you look better now than you did in high school” remarks – you WILL get “lucky” later in the evening.
4. Have Recreational Activities in Common
Over the years we have met tons of other couples. The ones who end up divorced are almost always the ones who have nothing, and I mean nothing, of interest in common with the other. It is wonderful to be an individual and have your own interests; but you must have fun – together – when it comes to your down time.
5. Marriage is a Committment
When the two of you married, you made a committment in front of your friends, and likely your God. You promised to face life together through sickness and health, richer and poorer, and all that other crap! As we age we realize we have seen more “poorer” than we planned as a youthful couple, and most recently we have seen more “sickness” than we ever thought we would face; yet – we are still hanging in there. You must hold on to the promise to “love and to cherish”.
6. Make a Daily Conscious Effort to Stay Married
There are times in your marriage that you MUST make a conscious effort, on a daily basis, to stay married. Trust me – this too will pass. Every single day you are with the same person, and every single day you deal with their dirty socks, smart-ass comments, and an ability to piss you off more than anyone else in the world! Always remember, this IS what YOU signed up for… no one forced you!
7. Be Faithful
In most relationships, cheating and adultery is a deal-breaker – period!
8. Be a Good Lover
One of the best things about a long term relationship is the sex. Over the years, we have learned there are three types of sex, categorically speaking. In the beginning you have “house sex”. You are newlyweds and you will have sex anywhere and everywhere… in the kitchen, on the washer, on the living room floor, etc… After a few years, you have what we refer to as “bedroom sex”. You likely have kids by this point in your marriage, and finding privacy is predictable. For the sake of convenience you find it easiest to have sex on Tuesdays, Saturdays, and an occasional Thursday, too – always in the master bedroom – always with the door closed. Then, you get to 26 years of wedded bliss. At this point, the sex moves on to a new level. The kids are (hopefully) more independent and have their own activities, or better yet – have gone on to college or otherwise moved out of the “nest”. This frees up a long-term married couple to have what we refer to as “hallway sex”. This is where you encounter each other in the hallway and say, “F-you!” as you pass.
9. Know that you must WANT to stay married.
I mentioned earlier that marriage is a commitment, but it is more than that. You must, deep down in your soul, know that you will honor your vows because you truly WANT things to work between you. In a life long relationship, there is a lot of money, time and energy that has been invested and you should want to realize a return that many others have failed to receive.
Know matter how stressful life can be, keep a sense of humor. Life is serious, but finding the humor is a gift to treasure and if you two have the same, sick sense of humor – well, even better. Here is a recent example: I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer this past year. After my first surgery, I was left with an colostomy. This is a surgical opening created for the bowels to empty into a bag on the outside of the abdomen. It was gross, disgusting, smelly, messy, and well… it pretty much freaked me out ALL of the time in the beginning. I am NOT in the medical field for a reason… I can’t handle it! My husband was a trooper. When I came home from the hospital he would help me change my ostomy pouch. It took scissors, towels, a fresh appliance, powder, adhesive remover, adhesive paste, waterproof seals, measuring tape, an ink pen, skin wipes, and so many other supplies we had to keep them in a medium sized U-Haul moving box! But, through it all, he stuck with me and helped me change dressings and bandages several times each day. Every day I was whining and complaining about the waste coming from a hole in my side. And every single time I cried out, “It’s not worth it! Just let me die!” He would laugh, make a joke or wisecrack, and help me learn to change the appliance. Once, he even woke up in the middle of the night, knowing full well the seal on my pouch had come undone, and he actually accused the dog of crapping on the floor. I laughed so hard I cried!
In my opinion, life is too short to sweat the small stuff and the longer you are with someone, more and more of the “stuff” appears smaller.
… as they say, “Live simply, laugh often, and love deeply.”
Happy Anniversary, Lawrence… I love you!