“Marriage: Love is the reason. Lifelong friendship is the gift. Kindness is the cause. Til’ death do us part is the length.”
I have been working on this one project for 19 years now. There have been plenty of highs and just as many lows. It has required an ongoing commitment long after the gloss of being part of something bigger than myself has well and truly worn off. It has required diplomacy and tact and a willingness to forgive and forget. It has required being part of a team and accepting the strengths and limitations of the other team member. Like any job, it has its moments and you whinge about your colleagues. I have also thought at times of quitting and moving on to something shining, bright and new. But I have always pulled back. because this project still means so much to me. I am still passionate about it, find it fulfilling and rewarding and know it will be my legacy to my children and grandchildren. Today my husband and I are celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary. He didn't give me flowers or chocolates but a kiss and a coffee. A simple kindness that brightened my day.
Life gets messy, boring and stressful so how do you make a marriage a long and happy one? Movies and daytime TV series take the viewer on a roller coaster ride that includes deceit, passion and melodrama. If a real life marriage was like that it wouldn't last a year. Come to think of in Bold and the Beautiful they generally don"t - at least not at one time. This topic has been the subject of much research and many books so what value can I add to the discussion that has not already been said elsewhere. Probably not much, so I'll be brief. I believe the key to our marriage has been the following:
- Respect - We both have a clear understanding of each others strengths and limitations. As we are very different personalities we have to be careful not to become irritated with each other, but to revel in that difference. We also appreciate that while we have a common goal, we also have individual pursuits and passions that require our time and energy. Over the years we have been very supportive of each other in chasing our individual dreams. I know it's easy to fall into bad habits and take each other for granted which leads to the appearance of bad manners. Using the "magic words", like please and thank you is not just for dating, children or strangers. It is the grease that keeps the wheels of a good marriage turning smoothly.
- Commitment - I have always thought of a marriage as being like a company, with the husband and wife being the board of directors - having equal say in advancing the best interest of the group. In this way, bumps in the road are seen as a shared obstacle that requires a solution as opposed to a naming, blaming and shaming activity. I also feel it helps if you believe that marriage is for life, whether from a religious perspective or the way you were brought up. If you don't believe there is an escape clause in your marriage vows then you are more likely to exert the necessary energy to make the relationship work. And believe me it does require hard work. If your committed for life then you will also need to be committed to grow and mature together. This will require staying in touch with east others growth over time so we don't end up being married to a stranger.
- Best Friends - At the start of a relationship when the passion is still like fire in your belly it's easier to stay positive about the person who is lying next to you every night, possibly snoring or dribbling from the corner of his mouth. As the years pass by, while it is important to keep those fires burning, it becomes more important, I feel, that your husband is not only your lover but also your best friend. He should be the person you turn to when life kicked you in the guts, the person who supports you through the lows, encourages you to progress your goals and helps celebrate your wins. There should be a high level of trust, a shared interest, and laughter. Remember and reminisce about the good times and overlook the painful periods. Finger pointing, is not only rude, it is destructive and will bring the house down around your ears.
I know that there are many other couples out there who have been married a lot longer than me. For instance my aunt and uncle are celebrating a 50 year marriage this week-end. So what secrets can you share we me that might assist me to reach the same happy place in 31 years time?