Today I have been married for 22 years. When my husband and I started out we had incredible odds against us. We even had family members placing bets on when the divorce would occur. See, we created a child together after only dating for about a year. We then decided to live together to raise our child together. I wasn’t employed at the time and my husband was working at McDonald’s. We struggled with funds and I was able to get state assistance. When we finally did get married I was already pregnant with our second child. We decided on a Catholic wedding where we were told we couldn’t wear white, could only have immediate family at the service and since it was Lent there could be no flowers or other decorations. We were also told that we couldn’t get married in the main area but instead we had to have the ceremony in the side chapel. Essentially they didn’t want us having the perks of a respectable couple. We were to be ashamed of our state and be thankful they would marry us at all. Of course that didn’t sit well with us and we went to speak with a pastor that had been kind to us but had moved to a new church. At once he scoffed at the conditions we told him about and insisted that we were doing the honorable thing and trying to be a good family. He agreed to marry us and would talk to the pastor at the church we had planned to get married in.
As you can see we were properly married in the main church area with over 150 family and friends. Bride, groom and first child were all spectacularly adorned in as much white as possible. It was a lovely service and Father Phil will always have a special place in my heart.
From there my husband found a better job working cable installations. Quickly he moved into a programming job which was his college program. Within the year we were moving to Virginia. This adventure provided the perfect environment for our little family to become very self sufficient. We really had no one to count on but ourselves.
Through the beginning until now there have been lessons learned. So in honor of 22 years I will list my ideas that I think have helped my husband and I stay together this long.
- Forgiveness. As hard as this is, if you cannot find in your heart the ability to forgive a long term relationship becomes very difficult to achieve.
- Do not attack the weaknesses of your partner. Everyone has those insecurities; do not ever use those to go after that person. As angry as you are, using this technique will cause an incredible amount of damage to the relationship.
- Remember why you got together in the first place. As a photographer I have a continuous slide show of photographs that keep to the forefront the life my husband and I shared.
- Do what’s right for you. My husband and I spend a lot of time together. We always have. We often have friends and family that try to get us away from each other, sometimes even using phrases like “you need a break” or “separation is good for a couple”. There are no words to tell these good intentioned people that we like each other and want to spend time together. Very rarely do I feel I need to be away from my husband. That’s what’s right for us. Up until a few weeks ago I have spent every night in the same bed as my husband for the last 15 years. That’s what we like. Do what’s right for you and your spouse.
- Say I love you. It matters. I don’t say it enough but I know it always makes a difference when I do.
- Say I love you in actions. My husband has quite a few little things that he does that he believes shows me that he loves me. Some examples are chocolate, a movie, sitting and watching TV with me.
- Be respectful of your spouse’s parents. I love his parents and he loves mine.
- Watch out for the typical marriage breakers; money, rearing children, chores. These things will cause stress. Figure out compromises. Figure out the rules. Take the time to delve into these before it’s too late.
- Find a hobby that both of you are interested in. It’s easy to know what you like, but what does he like? Find things to do together.
- When an argument does happen use your “I” terms. This is a technique that counselors will tell people, use phrases like; “when you say that it makes me feel”. Keep the argument from your perspective. When you attack, the other person goes on the defense. If you make statements about how you feel, there isn’t as much defensiveness.
- Do your chores, but do his too, and vice versa. Even though I am dish washer and laundry and he’s trash and shoveling, there’s no reason I can’t do some of his and he can do some of mine. I have no trouble helping him shovel and he has no trouble helping me with dishes.
- Be supportive of each other. There is nothing worse than being excited about something but having no interest or support from my best friend. If there isn’t support, find out why.
- Watch out for the green eyed monster. As much as a couple wants to be secure in each other, jealously can put a wedge out there really fast. And it might not always be opposite sex situations. Jealously can appear with jobs advancements, relationships and friendships and other simpler ideas. If you’re in competition with your spouse someone will feel defeated at some point
- Don’t go to bed angry. Unfortunately I can’t do this one. When I’m tired I need to go to bed. However, I think the point really is, if something is bothering you talk about it! Don’t let it linger or grow into something bigger than what it is. Even if it’s dumb, talk about it. Sometimes the dumb thing is just a tip of an iceberg that wasn’t really evident until the conversation progressed. You might think you’re mad because he leaves his stinky socks on the floor, but that might be covering up the feeling that he doesn’t respect you.
- Be truthful, always. This is my pet peeve. I truly believe being honest on all matters is the only way to have a solid relationship with anyone. I don’t go around telling my husband every thought I have but I don’t lie to him if he asks me something. And if something happened that I feel he should know, I tell him. I am not a fan of “apologize later”.
- Patience. I kind of suck at this one too. My husband is really good at waiting for the exact moment. I’m a rush, rush person. I think his way is much less stressful. He lets things have a chance to work out on their own.
- Know how the other deals with frustration. I like to vent. When I get mad I have to let some of it out or I will explode. So I rant. I spew junk until the boiling inside stops a bit. This makes me work. My husband keeps it inside. He becomes very quiet and won’t really have a conversation for a long time, sometimes weeks. Then I have to poke at him to get him to talk. I’ve learned this method after many years of failing at it. We’ve actually gotten to a point where I can ask if there is something he needs to talk to me about. It’s a much calmer process. I still spew. He doesn’t like it but he knows that’s how I need to do it. He patiently waits until I have it out enough to talk.
- Celebrate the holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. These days were important. It’s your job to keep them important.
- Don’t let pet peeves ruin you. I am still really working on this one. There are things that my husband keeps up with that no matter how much I complain about it, he still does it. I only recently realized that he loves me and he knows how I feel yet he keeps doing it. It must be important enough for him to risk having me be mad about it. I’ve decided to back off my stubbornness and see if I can see why it’s important to him. That’s the least I can do. I might not ever totally like it but I shouldn’t always be the bitter voice accompanying it. I should let him have this. It certainly won’t kill me.
- This one’s for the guys. Your wife likes intimacy to be more than the final goal. They like hand holding, soft kisses, hugs, dancing, cuddling, shoulder (feet, back, legs) massages, and really anything that reminds them that you care. They will be more willing to get to the nitty gritty if it’s accompanied with some of these other forms of intimacy.
- Laugh. Make each other laugh. Laugh together. Laugh, laugh, laugh.
- Pray together. As a Christian the idea that I can have this relationship with this other human all alone seems silly. Almost everything on this list, I’ve prayed about. I’ve used the guidelines from faith and religion to create the boundaries of my marriage. I think that has kept it strong. I love God above all things because he has given me my relationship with my husband. He gives me the strength to be a good wife and gives my husband the strength to be good to me.