After my post on our 13th wedding anniversary the other day – 13 years of (not always) wedded bliss – I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a successful marriage, note I said successful and not happy, because marriage, like any commitment is hard and there will be good times and bad times, happy times and sad times, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what the recipe is for a successful marriage.
Here are my top tips, from my limited experience of 13 years of staying together, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health…
Get in it for the long haul.
This would be the number one reason Walter and I have stayed together this long, because we made a commitment to stay together. It’s not always easy and there have been issues we’ve been faced with that have made both of us feel like we want to chuck in the towel and walk away but we didn’t.
Weather the storm.
In any relationship, there are good times and bad, learning to weather the storm, to baton the hatches and ride it out is what’s important. Sure, things may be pretty terrible right now, but they will (hopefully) get better. My struggle within fertility was a very long storm, more than 7 years, it stretched and strained the the fibers of our commitment but it did end and we did weather that storm, and a few others, and we did make it through.
If you think you need it – get counselling.
About a year after Ava was placed with us, I was in the tight grip of post placement depression, things were rough, dare I say it, I think both Walter and I were desperately unhappy, we talked about separation, we pondered divorce. And then like grown up’s we decided to stop blaming each other, stop pointing fingers and find a counselor. Almost a year of marriage counselling later and we were back on track, we found our way back to loving each other and believe me, it was a lot of very hard work. We had to work on ourselves as individuals, we had to work on ourselves as a couple. During that year of therapy, things got a lot worse, before they actually started getting better.
It’s that simple really, behind the romance and the love, the basis of our relationship is friendship. He is my best friend. We laugh together, we share together, he’s the first person I think of when something funny happens or when there’s something I’m desperate to share with someone.
Learn things about each other.
Like your love languages for example. For Walter, acts of service are really important so I can show him my love by doing the simplest things like unpacking the dishwasher or making sure the girls are dressed when he comes back from a Saturday morning run and that works in reverse too.
Also, learn to communicate effectively. I think this was one of the most valuable things I learned during our marriage counselling, our therapist taught me how to understand Walter better, she showed me how and why he reacts the way he does to certain things and how to change my reaction to maintain harmony and get the results that I want. This works in reverse too just fyi.
This has been our biggest stumbling block and something we repeatedly focus on, when we go into a down turn in our relationship, it’s so easy to get a bad attitude and all that does is garner bad feelings and bad actions.
Which bring me to my next point – if you do/react how you always do, don’t expect a different result.
And I think this is part of growing together as a couple and not growing apart. It takes a lot of hard work, of leaning into the relationship instead of leaning out.
Marriage is my primary relationship, not my only relationship.
I think this is key, having relationships with family and friends that offer support, fun and friendship outside of the marriage too.
Share interests and values but also have your own interests.
There are things I love doing with my husband but there are also things I like doing alone, just for me.
Immerse yourself in your twosome but never lose yourself in the process.
I learned this the hard way during my first marriage, (yes that’s right, I’m divorced and remarried) and by the time the marriage fell apart, I’d totally lost my sense of self, I didn’t even know who I was anymore or what I stood for.
I’m certainly not saying I have the answers, far from it in fact, being in a committed relationship means that every day is about learning, being present and being better. But the above is what I’ve learned so far……
I’m also well aware that there are instances where marriages do fall apart, I was in one for a couple of years!