This past October, my husband Thomas and I celebrated 21 years of marriage. Today I’ll share my top 5 secrets to the longevity of our loving partnership. But first, let me tell you how grateful I am that my husband chose me to share in his life journey. I experienced being raised by my mom, (whom didn’t remarry until I was on my way to college). My dad was remarried three times before I became a teenager and has since been married and divorced two more times. When I was young, I thought I would never get married because it didn’t work out for my mom and dad and if I did get marries I was sure it wouldn’t last. I had no idea what a loving partnership looked like for the long haul.
Before I met Thomas, the longest intimate relationship I’d ever had, (about two years) was with a young man my friends and family prayed that I wouldn’t stay with. He was quite the player and our relationship blew up when I found out he was cheating on me with a friend and co-worker. About a year later, I met my beloved husband at a pre-party before a Western Michigan University football game. He was making ‘proper’ Bloody Mary’s, (Clamato instead of Tomato juice + pickle juice etc.). Thomas was super kind, quite handsome (in a Captain America kind of a way) and still is! I thank the universe every day for our chance meeting that opened the door to our life together.
In the beginning of our relationship, I could be down right mean when had a fight. I would go for the throat, every time. I was jealous, mouthy and still carrying loads of anger toward my last boyfriend who’d been a player and a cheat which did a number on my self-esteem. I was projecting all of my dark energy at Thomas and seemed hell-bent on pushing him away, (he was going to leave anyway, right?) Thankfully, I sought out a counselor and through our work together, gained a better understanding of why I felt the need to fight to win and why I would often try to blow up the relationship. I got to root of some of my deep-seated anxiety and insecurities. Asking for support was a gift which marked the beginning of my healing journey and our robust marriage.
Our marriage is not and never has been perfect. We’ve been through a lot together, especially in the early days of our partnership. During the first month of marriage, we quit our jobs and moved to a new city. I’d landed a regional sales job at the CBS Affiliate in Traverse City, MI and we had to find a place to live, rent out our home in Kalamazoo and Thomas needed to find a job. Talk about a stressful start!
During the last 21 years, we’ve uncovered the top five secrets to the longevity of our loving partnership.
Five Secrets to a Healthy Marriage include:
1. Demonstrate respect and loving kindness for each other. All successful relationships are built on a foundation of respect. Random acts of loving kindness, (love notes, surprises, special dates etc.) go a long way to keep the fire burning.
2. Practice open and honest, non-violent communication. Learn to practice “fair fighting” when you’re angry or have a disagreement. Do not open old wounds or throw each other into a shame pit when either of you make a mistake. Keep your private issues between yourselves and work it out.
3. Laugh at yourself and each other a lot! Humor is one of the healthiest parts of a long-lasting relationships. Learn to lighten up!
4. Walk through life side-by-side with plenty of time to be independent. Make time for your independence and quiet introspection. Honor one another by allowing for time apart to pursue our personal interests.
5. Practice replacing your high expectations with open invitations. When you replace your expectations with invitations, you can support yourself and your partner to show up in the best light. Unrealistic expectations kill relationships.
On Marriage, a poem from “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran, is the perfect description of how I experience marriage and how you can enjoy a successful relationship with your beloved.
On Marriage by Kahlil Gibran
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. But let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
I invite you to practice my top five secrets of a healthy marriage if you want to enjoy a long-lasting relationship with your beloved. You and your partner deserve to experience a relationship built on respect and loving kindness. You deserve to enjoy a deep connection that includes lots of laughs, open invitations, non-violent communication and space in your togetherness. You’ve got this!