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On Sunday June 9th, Jim and I celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary. Marriage is an amazing journey. Along the way, I have learned a few lessons about what makes a marriage grow and ripen. The first was that I entered marriage expecting it to last. Perhaps this was because of the failure of my own parents’ relationship. Before jumping in, I took the time to be clear of my expectations of myself, of Jim and what lay before us.

June 9th, 1973

   June 9th, 1973

June 9th, 2013

June 9th, 2013

Were there challenges along the way – of course there were. What forty year journey would be void of a few potholes and speed bumps? As I see it, these are only opportunities to come up for air, check-in and ask, “are we headed in the right direction?”

More often than not individuals within a relationship are headed in different directions which is why the relationship fails. The statistics are clear, one of every two marriages don’t work. There are lots of reasons why they don’t and I have no judgment regarding the ones that fail. I also see that some marriages could be saved. The thing is, a good marriage like anything, takes a little work.

 

What I have learned along the WAY…

Here are a few on the many lessons I have learned that build a relationship and save a marriage:

  1. Don’t make your partner wrong. Notice how you use ‘yes, but’ in your conversations, how you want to ‘win’ an argument or ‘make’ your point. Yes but makes your partner wrong. There is room for two points of view in every conversation. Try using ‘yes and…’
  2. Appreciate the differences. Research has shown that successful relationships are built around differences. In many cases there is more room for argument when you are too much alike. There is truth to ‘opposites attract’ – allow the differences to round you out rather than finding fault with them and trying to convert the other person to your way.
  3. Build your relationship around shared values. This in my view is the centerpiece for a relationship. Differences can exist easily when values are shared. Take the time to define and share them and then engage them within your relationship, with your children and with important others.
  4. After ME FIRST comes WE FIRST. So many couples we work with have put their relationship on the back burner because of their children or their careers. It doesn’t work because one day you will face a stranger. Build in WE FIRST time weekly, whether this is a cup of coffee together after dinner or a weekly date night.
  5. Be interested in one another, whether that is your hobbies or your work. In that shared WE FIRST time, ask questions of one another and learn what is going on behind the scenes, discuss issues, support one another.
  6. Speak up! If there is an issue in your relationship or if you want something to change or shift, state it. Too frequently individuals don’t speak up, believing that the other person ‘should know’. They don’t. You can’t have what you don’t ask for.
  7. Ask differently. Through the years I learned that saying ‘I want this or that’ didn’t feel right to me as it sounded selfish. So I found other ways of stating my viewpoint or asking. My favorite is, “What would be perfect for me is…” or ‘Would you consider this or that…”.
  8. Don’t  hide your anger. It does make you sick. I used to do this as I was taught that is was wrong to show emotion, especially anger. Trust me; it is better expressed at the 8th hour than the 11th hour when it is exploding out of you. Take your partner aside and share with him or her what is going on. A good strategy is the ‘I’ message which goes like this, “when you say this, I feel/think this…”
  9. Learn together. Learn about yourself and learn about your relationship. If anything has kept Jim and I going through the years, it is our desire to raise the bar on our relationship, have some fun and find other ways to know one another.
  10. Be your partner’s best friend. Lustful love and the bells and whistles of new love are temporary. Friendship is much more enduring and feeds the love you have for one another. That does not exclude romance however, which is important. Find ways of keeping it in your relationship as well.

Final Word

Remember, marriage is a journey. It will meander. Two partners will diverge and converge along the way. That’s perfect as long as you stay on each other’s radar and keep connecting. Enjoy the ride.

Until next time…

 

Betty

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