My Secrets to a Long Happy Marriage
Yesterday was mine and Hubby’s wedding anniversary. We celebrate being married for 31 years by going out to eat. Now some of you may wonder what it takes to stay married to the same person for so many years. I’m not sure IU am an expert or anything, but I will share some of my thoughts on what makes our marriage work or what makes it different from the relationships of many of the younger set I have met.
When we got married in 1986, we had known each other for almost four years and dated each other exclusively for the entire time. It might be of note that when we met, I was sixteen and hubby was nineteen. No, we weren’t high school sweethearts. I was still in high school, but hubby was in college. Back in those days, education was the top priority for both of us, so much of the time we spent together was spent doing our homework. Some of the time was spent in my family’s home and some was spent in hubby’s family’s home. On the days we didn’t see each other, we often talked on the phone. Now mind you, this was well before the cell phone and pager days, heck it was even before the cordless phone days. If you wanted privacy while you were on the phone, you better hope you were home alone.
Hubby used to be a bug man when I first met him. While I was at marching band practice during the summer or after school, he would often stop by and sit on the sidelines and watch us practice. Since he was supposed to be working and was really just on his way from one place to another, it was understood that he couldn’t stay long, but it meant a lot that he went out of his way to stop by and watch for a few minutes once in a while. He would also come to all of my performances and often pitched in to help move band equipment and his help was greatly appreciated by the other band supporters.
Because he was three years older than me, both our mothers were concerned about him being a bad influence on me. I was afraid one set of parents or the other would object and tell us we couldn’t see each other anymore, so I made sure that my grades were as high as possible. All the homework time paid off because My semester grades for the last two years of high school were straight A’s. Nobody was going to use my grades as a reason for us to stop dating. Apparently, hubby had not been one to do much homework before he met me, so the fact that we spent so much time doing homework must have improved his grades some too. Hubby and his parents came to my high school graduation. Because of hubby’s influence, I graduated 8th in my class from high school.
I wanted nothing more than to get married and have kids but was bullied into going to college by my parents. Even though I had no idea what I wanted to study, they pushed me to go saying everyone takes the same classes the first two years anyway. I finally agreed since hubby was in college as long as I could live at home and go to the local university. Coincidentally, hubby went to the same school and was more than happy to show me around campus. We never had any classes together, rarely even in the same buildings. He worked during the day and went to school in the evenings. I went to school in the daytime and worked a part-time job in the evenings and weekends. We treasured the times we could see each other or at least speak to each other.
We got married when I was just twenty and he was twenty-three. Neither of us was finished with college, but we weren’t letting marriage stop us either. We started looking for a small house to buy before the wedding and thought we would be able to buy one about the time of the wedding , but the house we had been working on negotiating for was pulled off the market while we were on our honeymoon and we had to start over looking at houses again, so hubby’s parents let us move in with them after the wedding and even bought us a double bed for our wedding gift. While we lived in his parents’ house, we saved almost everything we made. We were like money hoarders.
One of the most common things I hear from younger couples these days is that this person pays these bills while the other pays the rest of the bills. It seems most young couples have separate accounts. It makes me so sad to hear these couples explain why they do it this way. Hubby and I got a joint account from the start. We also made a pact that neither of us would spend more than $50 without discussing it with the other. It seems like so many young couples are never fully committed to the relationship much less willing to commit to marriage. They seem to have one foot out the door before they even get started. Not sure if it is a matter that they have been raised as children of divorce and don’t trust marriage to last or what.
We have always discussed things we wanted to do like go on a trip or make improvements to the house. We do some activities together, but we also have activities that we do by ourselves. I think we are each individuals working toward common goals together. We also both understand that marriage is a partnership and that both of us have responsibilities to keep things working at home. We each do chores around the house. We are each good at some things the other person is not so our talents compliment each other and we make a good team. We are willing to work together to get tasks completed even if one of us is more capable than the other. The less capable spouse is right there supporting the capable one in any way they can. Often times, since hubby is a terrific handyman, I find myself being the helper who hands him tools or goes to get something he needs from another room. When he changes the breaks on my car, I am there handing him tools or holding the flashlight when the dark comes before the job is finished. We can then share the sense of accomplishment of a job well done and money saved because we did the work ourselves.
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Another thing that might be helpful is to read the book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman. I found it very helpful to understand that Hubby’s love language is acts of service (thus taking the trash out, fixing things around the house and working loads of overtime are ways he tells me he loves me), while my love language is quality time and gifts.
I’m no expert at being and staying married, but I am also not a quitter. I made a lifetime commitment before God and our families and friends, and I intend to honor those vows as long as we both shall live. How committed are you to your relationship with your significant other? Ann Landers used to say “Ask yourself, are you better off with him or without him”. Sometimes, if the answer is without him, that means being willing to walk away. Sometimes, if the answer is with him, that means fighting for your marriage and doing everything you can to make it work.
The most important thing to remember to enjoy a nice long marriage is that you must communicate, cooperate and above all else respect and trust each other.