Mark and I celebrated our 30 year wedding anniversary this week. We have a big trip planned so we just went to our favorite fancy restaurant and had a delightful celebration. Several people asked us how we got to 30 years. We have arrived at 30 years of marriage where we are still glad to be married to each other. We have many Kudos to some couples who just stuck it out when it was tough and that passed until things got better. That is not our story though. Some might say I am stoic, but really I am about great resolution for a successful relationship. So, we have some suggestions to help you have a marriage you can enjoy and that you want to be in.
1. Laugh. Probably the single best tool. We laugh together. We laugh at each other. Who doesn’t have funny quirks? Don’t take yourself so seriously! And we laugh often – daily. Give yourself permission to laugh. Sort it out as you go.
2. Talk. Daily. Really Talk. We committed to spending an hour a day in conversation when our kids were young. We had a questions box for when we didn’t know what to discuss. We talked about our dreams, passions, the news, our kids, our parenting skills, or lack thereof… Maybe you can budget 30 minutes per day.
3. Express your Feelings. In your talking time, learn to express what you feel. Use good words, like disappointed, hurt, perplexed, grateful, satisfied, liberated, fascinated, hopeful. Look up a list on Google to help you express yourself beyond our top 3, happy, sad and angry.
4. Avoid Debt. Excessive consumer debt is a huge stressor for people. We have never had debt outside of a mortgage and short-term car payments. Live within or below your means. Our schools don’t teach this and debt is a huge cultural problem. Get to a place of comfort with your finances. Listen to how debt and buying things affects your spouse, whether they are the debt creator or debt fixer. Listen.
5. Trust your Partner. There are lots of ways to trust and lots of areas where we give to each other. Trusting each other with our heart and our feelings is probably the most difficult. We still work on this. Trusting each other to be faithful was easier for us, but may not be for you. There comes a place where we need to choose to trust. Maybe repeatedly.
6. Don’t give up. This is appropriate after the trust one. You have to decide to commit to the relationship. That you will read books and go to counselling to try and understand the other person and their needs as well as understanding your own needs. There may come a time when it needs to end, but let that be after it has been bad for a long time and you have tried many ways to make it work.
7. Understand their Personality. Do a personality profile test and read the results. Have a friend who understands the system go over it with you. The DISC is the simplest and was a huge help for Mark and me. I suggest you start here if you haven’t done one. Myers-Briggs is another popular one. More recently, the Enneagram has gained popularity. This one is a bit more complicated, but also reveals a deeper part of us. Look for tests and descriptions online. My favorite places to go are www.TonyRobbins.com/DISC and www.16Personalities.com. For the Enneagram, I suggest the podcast, The Road Back to You, https://www.theroadbacktoyou.com/podcast/. The importance of understanding the core of who you are is that differences in opinion and perspective can go from obstacles to different expressions of the human experience.
8. Read the book, The 5 Love Languages. Huge. Just do it. It is an easy read. If you are speaking love to each other in different languages, your partner and your children may not be receiving the love you are trying to give. Learn each others love languages.
9. Allow the other person to be the best version of themselves. Once you have practiced 1-8 you may really have a good understanding of who they are and what they want and need in life. How can you encourage them to pursue things they love and to be the best version of who they are? We don’t want to mold others into who we want them to be. We should encourage them into the most self aware and healthy version of who they want to be. Ask the question, “How can I help you?”
10. Sex. If the above points are good, sex will be good too. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It exists in a relationship.