My husband, Jim, and I recently celebrated 11 years of marriage and 16 years of being together. Sometimes that seems like a lifetime ago, at other times it seems like it could be just like yesterday. I think back to the fact that I was only 17 when we started dating and what I imagined marriage was all about. At that time we were communicating, a lot, by phone (yes, an actual telephone hooked up to the wall) or by AOL Instant Messenger (AIM!).
Jim was always known as the funny guy who was the star percussionist in band. And his ability to make me laugh was one of the most attractive features and still to this day is! Over the past 16 years we have experienced so much together. It can be very easy to take those things for granted and not pause and appreciate.
As the number of years together & married climb, we tend to get asked that age-old question, “what’s the secret to a great marriage?” I don’t always feel qualified to answer considering it’s “only” been 11 years, heck compared to my grandparents who were married for 60+, those are the people I am always wanting to ask that question to!
Whether you’ve been married for 1 or 70 years, you learn each year a little more about what it takes to keep it together. Married isn’t always perfect, nothing in life is! And I think embracing that is just a part of success. So, I’ll go through my top 5 keys to our success below. Add your own in the comments if you would like to share some of your own secrets!
I don’t just list this as number 1 because I graduated with a communication major, although we learned very early on in my studies that communication is key in any situation. But what I mean when it comes to marriage is beyond just asking your spouse or partner how their day was. It’s being in tune with when something is off and asking them about it. It’s communicating during times of frustration rather than letting it sit and boil over. It’s communicating in a respectful manner as to not belittle the person. Communicating effectively in our daily lives only makes our lives more clear. In a marriage I think that it’s especially crucial to be able to provide feedback and talk about the hard things.
2. Be a Good Listener
This ties in with the communication piece. Being an active listener is just as important as being able to communicate appropriately. In order to provide necessary feedback, it is so important to listen to what your spouse is saying. I know, it’s sometimes hard to listen to other’s thoughts and opinions when you have so many strong ones yourself. I GET that because I’m guilty of that (Jim would agree) but I continue to try to listen before I speak. It’s only fair to let your spouse have their time to speak.
3. Work as a Team
Jim & I exercised this last night as water started dripping from our ceiling. Instead of overreacting and going into panic mode, he climbed up into the attic. I handed him things and cleaned up the mess. It was a stressful situation, especially given the fact that we were just about ready to go to bed. I was proud with how we dealt with it and still got to bed at a semi decent time. Teamwork goes beyond homeowner duties of course. And I think finding your balance in that is a great way to succeed together. They’ll be times when you feel like the playing field is a little uneven, but, then you go back to my #1 key and figure out a solution.
4. Enjoy Time Apart
This has always been one of my favorite pieces of advice to give people. Although I will admit that early on in our relationship, I wasn’t this way. I was probably a little too clingy for my own good (bless Jim). I think part of the fact that I wanted to only hang out with him was because I was in college and worked quite a bit, so any free time, I wanted to be with him! Thankfully I grew out of that stage, and often think back to it and equally cringe and laugh at my early 20’s self. What we have both gotten better at over the years is finding things that we enjoy separately. It’s so easy to feel guilty to your own thing. But I think that can be one of the most healthy things you can do from time to time. Hang out with your girlfriends or guy friends. Don’t lose those friendships because you’re too worried to be away from your partner. I encourage Jim to get out there and do things that light him up and excite him, because I don’t allow myself to not do things that light up my soul just because I have this notion that being a good wife means that I have to do everything with my partner. I absolutely love adventuring with Jim, but I also like adventures that he isn’t quite into, and I don’t think it would be an overall fun time if either one of us went and did something we weren’t as passionate about.
I often feel like people can lose their identity a bit when they are in a new relationship and put things on the back burner. If you feel that way, I would suggest making a list of things that interest you. And then make a list of things you would like to do as a couple. We made a bucket list a long time ago, sadly I have since misplaced it, but it was fun to come up with things we’d like to see and do together. This key doesn’t mean live different lives, it just means don’t forget what you enjoy. You can absolutely be an amazing partner without having to give up your passions.
5. Laugh & Have Fun
As I wrote earlier, Jim’s sense of humor has always been one of my favorite characteristics of him and our relationship. If you cannot find the humor in life, and to laugh together, then I would challenge you to start doing that. Find things that bring you joy. Take time to reminisce on what brought you together and what made you swoon for that person in the beginning. There will no doubt be some moments that bring a smile to your face. Our relationships will see their share of challenges, that’s just a part of the process and experience, but being able to come through those and find the laughter is an accomplishment in itself. Never lose the laughter and never stop having fun!
I could continue to go on and on. As I was writing these, I felt like I thought of about 10 total. But for me, these are the top 5 that come to mind in our marriage. Do you resonate with any of these 5? What would you top 5 be?