36 Things I Know After 36 Years of Marriage

P & W Yosemite 2014IMG_0086 copyNext week, my husband and I will celebrate our 36th anniversary.

Some years we’ve gotten dressed-up and gone out to dinner. Other years we’ve simply marked the day with a kiss.

Once, we were both sick with the flu and I vaguely remember clinking our glasses of orange juice together and then sleeping right through the day.

Then there was the year when we were so embroiled in struggle that we let the day pass without even a word.

That’s what marriage is: richer, poorer, good times and bad. Each year with its surprises and challenges, its hard fought lessons, its moments of sweetness.

To honor our many years together, here are 36 lessons I’ve found most valuable: Continue reading

5 Myths About Marriage That I’m Glad Aren’t True

Couple-Sleeping-in-Bed

Ask ten happily married people, “What’s your key to success?” and you’ll get fifteen answers — many of which contradict each other.

Some will say couples should never to go to bed angry. Others will say it’s fine to sleep on your arguments. For them, World War III or not, it’s lights out at 11.

Many will say, “don’t sweat the small stuff,” while an equal number will tout the virtues of talking things out.

Do opposites attract or should we be birds of a feather?

Are we better off lowering our expectations, or setting a high bar?

And do couples really need to be each other’s best friend?

The truth is, many of the widely-dispensed bits of marriage advice are more fiction than fact. Continue reading

10 Daily Choices For Building a Marriage That Lasts

There are a hundred paths through the
world that are easier than loving…
But who needs easier?
— Mary Oliver

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before:

Marriage is not a noun, it’s a verb.

bricks_and_trowelIt’s hard to dispute, isn’t it?

Anyone who’s been married longer than, say, a week, knows that marriage requires effort. Not back-breaking-drudgery kind of effort, but make-it-count, put-your-heart-into-it effort.

We build a marriage the way we build a house: day by day, brick by brick, from the ground up. Continue reading

25 Ways to Say “I Love You” Without Saying a Word

Recently, on a cross country flight, my husband and I were LASTchocolate-chip-cookie-bite-taken-97737seated on opposite sides of the aisle. Several times, he leaned my way to ask, Would you like a bit of my sandwich? Can I get you some water? Once he offered to share the last bite of his cookie. A while later, he reached over and touched my arm, just to say, “Hi.”

At the end of the flight the woman next to me said, “Your husband really loves you. I can tell.”

And she’s right. He does.

As couples, we express love through our everyday actions — our gestures of kindness, our generosity, our attention, our touch.

We say, “Drive safely.” “Take an umbrella.” We kiss each other goodnight.

And our spouse hears,”I love you,” in a way that touches more deeply than words.

We all have our favorite ways to show love. Here are some of mine:

1. Do the stuff neither of you wants to do. Someone has to call the plumber, resolve the mystery charge on the credit card, figure out what in the refrigerator is making that smell. Go ahead. Be the one.

2. Cut your partner some slack. We all forget things, lose things, or screw things up. Why rub it in?

3. Flirt. You’re never too old or married too long to make it clear that the two of you have still got it going on.

4. Be patient. Like it or not, sometimes you just have to wait. Skip the eye roll or foot tapping that says, what took you so long? Take a few deep breaths. Relax.

2296932_s5. Pay attention. As in full-on and undivided. Not every minute of every day, but show up when it counts.

6. Clean up, above and beyond the call of duty. Not your dirty cup? Who cares?

7. Keep two feet in, especially when things are difficult. Commitment is about staying with your challenges long enough to make things better.

8. Let down your guard. Vulnerability and intimacy are one and the same.

9. Receive and acknowledge your partner’s acts of love. The happiest couples are those who notice and respond when their partner reaches out. A thanks or a smile is all that it takes.

10. Stop a fight in its tracks. One of the most loving things you can do is stay calm when your spouse is getting worked-up.

11. Look for the humor in those less-than-endearing behaviors. What’s not to love about someone who second guesses the GPS?

12. Leave enough gas in the car, enough hot water for a shower, enough milk for coffee.

12383231_s13. Make dinner. You don’t have to be Julia Child. Simple is fine. Just give it your best shot.

14. Hug back. Kiss back. Smile.

15. Give your partner some space. Space to watch the ballgame in peace. Space to go for a run, call a friend, or curl up with a book.

16. Be willing to sleep with the window open a little more than you like.

17. Be willing to sleep with the window closed a little more than you like.

18. Stay in touch. You’re busy. I’m busy. No one is too busy to text xoxo.

19. Your spouse wants to go back to graduate school, eat more fruits and vegetables, train for a marathon. Your response: that’s great!

20. Be the first one to reach out after a fight. Don’t think for a minute that the first person to give ground is admitting fault. Marriage isn’t a game of chicken. It takes courage and kindness to yield.

21. Choose — at least once in a while — not to elbow your snoring spouse. Chances are you’ll eventually snore, too.

22. Make your relationship a priority. Marriage doesn’t stay sweet all on its own, year after year. Have a date night, a weekend getaway, keep work hours within bounds. And for goodness sake, when you’re together, turn off your phone.

23. Think your spouse deserves a standing ovation? Tell someone how talented, smart, loving, gracious she is. How patient he is with the kids. How he makes the world’s best pie crust. Make sure he overhears you.

24. Do what it takes to stay healthy and sane.

25. Keep in mind that life is short. Don’t waste time holding grudges or focusing on petty upsets that, in the big picture, mean nothing. Focus, instead, on the ways that your marriage is loving and good.

_____________________________

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4 Reasons to Put Date Night on Your Calendar — In Ink!

510ff0fbe181e_supreme_clientele_concierge_reservationWhether you’ve been married five weeks, five years, or even five decades, date night is a ritual you should regularly observe.

I know. This is hardly a news flash. Read any advice column about how to keep the spark alive in your marriage and you’ll find date night near the top of the list.

Yet, if you’re like most couples, Continue reading

7 Things About Marriage I Wish I’d Known As a Newlywed

wedding-feetMost of us step into marriage hoping for a lifetime of love and happiness, knowing far too little about what might give us our best shot at getting there. Many of us assume that because we’re in love, because we have common values and compatible dreams we’ve got everything we need to have a marriage that lasts.

Sure, lots of couples divorce. “But, honestly…” we think, “how hard could it be?”

The answer: Continue reading

7 Things No Spouse Can Be Expected To Do

Business Woman With Arrows And Questions Sign Above Isolated OnWant to guess?

Hint: I’m not talking about the laundry or housework or some wild, exotic move in the bedroom.

And no, this has nothing to do with being able to bake a souffle, or adhere to a budget, or be cheerful about putting your cranky toddler to bed.

The main thing that no spouse can be expected to do is… Continue reading

7 Small Things Happy Couples Remember to Do Every Day

Offering CoffeeSo much in life is about the little things, isn’t it? The smell of fresh coffee. A cardinal on the bird feeder. The first crocus in spring.

Even so, most of us assume that our greatest happiness comes from life’s big events, like landing our dream job, getting married, or giving birth to a child. While these extraordinary moments create a brief spike in happiness, current research confirms that sustained happiness is derived from life’s ordinary, everyday stuff. Continue reading

10 Relationship Skills We Teach Kids That Grown-Ups Often Forget

Kind But Firm“Chew with your mouth closed!”
“Don’t hit your sister!”

So much of childhood is about learning the rules and then striving to follow them — at least occasionally.

While some rules are unreasonable — like being told to sit perfectly still at age five or made to skip recess, as I was, for doodling on my homework —  the basic relationship skills that we learned as children were, in fact, of great value. Continue reading

7 Relationship Myths Smart Couples Don’t Fall For

hands-raisedIf you think marriage is hard, raise your hand.

Yep. You and everyone.

Yet, when the going gets rough, it’s as if we develop amnesia about how universally challenging marriage can be and think, instead, that our struggles are a sign that things have gone terribly wrong.

We don’t say, “No big deal. We’ll get through it. All couples struggle.”

What we do is freak out. Continue reading

The Surprising Truth About What Makes Happy Couples Happy

Senior couple kiss situation in white isolated backgroundThey make it look easy, don’t they?

You know, those cheerful couples you see chatting away in the grocery line, holding hands in the movie theater; the ones who’ve been married forever and they’ve still got their spark.

Ever wonder, how do they do it? What do they know that I don’t?

Back when I was struggling in my marriage, everyone looked happier than my husband and I. Continue reading

9 Crucial Questions to Ask Yourself Before Calling the Divorce Attorney

contemplating-divorce-300x199

None of us gets married thinking that five, ten, even twenty years down the line we’d be so frustrated or miserable that we’d be considering divorce. Most of us step into marriage with hope and enthusiasm, determined to have ours be a marriage that lasts.

But marriage is difficult in ways few of us are prepared for. And rarely do we have all the tools we need for success. Nor do we have a guidebook or a road map to make the journey easier. Continue reading