I am now the father of two married sons.
Until last week, I was the father of one married son and one engaged son. Last weekend, the elder Marcus and his fiancée exchanged vows at a lovely ceremony filled with joy, laughter and happy tears (most of which were mine). Toasts were made. Shouts of “mazel tov” rang from the ceiling. Well wishes were abundant. I’m sure they’re going to do really well.
However, that’s not the case for so many. As I learned many years ago,
“Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. Of those that remain, 90 percent end in boredom. If you want to be the five percent that stay happy, it’s going to take some work.”
To that end, I’ve looked back on over two decades of being in a happy, supportive marriage with my lovely, talented, creative (very patient) wife and I pass along my own take on how to stay married – and happy – over the long term.
Rule #1: Love your partner for who she is today, not whom you think you can make her into “down the road.”
Assume she is as good a partner as she’ll ever be RIGHT NOW. Don’t believe that living together will make her “come around” to your thinking. If she has what you consider annoying traits, don’t make the blunder of thinking how you’ll change them after you’re married. Accept her as she is; not who you’ll think she’ll be. If she’s not who you desire now, she sure as heck won’t be later.
Rule #2: Realize that there are three — not two — entities in your relationship.
There’s “you” and “me” of course. But there’s also “us.” Each needs nurturing and support. I need stretches to just be “me.” You need periods to just be “you.” And we must carve out time to be “us.” Friction is often the result of one or more of the three being overlooked. It goes without saying that if we don’t spend time as a couple, why stays together? Yet, conversely, we can’t do everything as a pair no matter how close we are. Take time apart. Look forward to being together. Enjoy both.
Rule #3: Given the choice between being “right” or being “happy,” choose the latter.
The vast majority of disagreements begin as trivial differences: “Why don’t you make the bed more often?” “Could you please pick up your clothes?” “Why do I always have to do the dusting?” Slow down long enough to ask yourself, “Is this really worth a disagreement?” If it is, talk it out with respect — and the understanding that there’s probably “right” on both sides. If it’s not worth a fight — and most things aren’t (or you’re in the wrong relationship) — let it go. Honor the request. Smile while you do it.
Rule #4: Don’t keep score.
If you find yourself saying, “I’ve told you a thousand times…” it doesn’t mean they’re not listening. It means you’re not communicating. My ex used to say; “I want it on the record that I cleaned the bathroom the last three times.”
“Duly noted,” I replied, feeling like it was being tallied on my “permanent record” like we all supposedly had in elementary school. Instead of making virtual tick marks about who’s doing what, ask directly for what you need. If you get what you want, say “thank you.” If not, see Rule #3.
Rule #5: Understand that the look and feel of the relationship will change.
Passion ebbs and flows but love and respect only deepen. Having said that, bring home flowers; schedule date nights; surprise him with gifts; hold hands in public; hug often. Tell her how proud and how much in love you are with her. Tell her you’d do it all over again. Find new ways to do all of the above.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a nationally known weight loss expert for baby boomers and the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of ThisTimeIMeanIt.com. He is available for coaching and speaking. His new book (co-written with his sister), “The Busy Baby Boomers Motivational Guide to Weight Loss” is now at BabyBoomersGuides.com.