Like I’m an expert — having been married (for the second time) an entire month. But I did live with Jose for 11 years before we married, long outlasting many official marriages along the way.
Here’s a smart blog post with tips from a few American couples who’ve been married a long time.
Argue when necessary. I don’t believe marriages whose motto is: “We never fight.” Hmmm. So, you never, ever, ever have a difference of opinion on anything? If so, cool. If not, and someone is perpetually squelching their feelings for fear of conflict, look out. Jose and I are passionate, stubborn perfectionists. It’s gonna happen.
Apologize — and really mean it. Not the “I’m sorry you feel hurt” which is BS, an insult and so not an apology! Forgive quickly, and mean it. Grudges are poison.
Flowers are a very good idea, any time. Women who adore them cannot get enough of them. Find out your spouse’s absolute favorites — buy big and often. Every time she looks at them, she sees your love.
Never stop saying “please” and “thank you.” About three years ago, we went out for dinner with an older woman who had never met us, and who had no idea how long we’d been a couple. Watching our behavior, (still respectful, even a bit formal), she guessed a few months. The late Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue, in her fab 1997 autobiography DV, said she always stood up a little straighter when her husband walked into the room. I like that.
Your spouse comes first. It took a long time for Jose to understand that work is key to his happiness and our income, but he must put it aside to connect with me, certainly at day and week’s end. I’m a driven, ambitious and passionate person, and all for someone who loves their work, but not at the expense of their marriage. I’ve had to stop obsessing about my own issues, especially my mother, who lives very far away, whose life is forever full of demanding and emotionally draining complications.
Laugh long, loud and as often as possible. My Dad has stayed with us a few times in our one-bedroom apartment, sleeping on the sofa. He says he was struck by how much Jose and I laugh in bed together. We do laugh a lot. Life in your 40s and beyond gets crazy stressful as friends and parents sicken and die. Laughter heals.
Never abandon seduction. I don’t mean sex, per se, but effort. I really appreciate it when Jose puts on a coat and tie, whether for church or a party or a meal out. I, too, make a point of shedding my sloppy at-home clothes, which I live in because I work alone at home all day. Perfume, cologne, a fresh shave, a pedicure. Having a wonderful meal prepared for you, offered at a lovely table. Jose brings me coffee in bed each morning, It all helps.
Cultivate close friendships with people who share your spiritual values. I stay far away from whiners and emotional vampires, especially from those clinging to abusive mates or contemplating, or having, an affair. Every marriage needs all the strengthening it can get, and none of the weakening. Surround yourself with healthy role models.
Vacations! Every relationship needs some fresh air and new perspectives, on the world and on each other. Jose and I had a doozy of a fight at 6:00 a.m. in Paris after I chose the wrong bus to get us into the city. But when we arrived at Notre Dame just in time for the sunrise, he quickly forgave me. We’ve also taken separate vacations and thrived. One of my favorite memories was when I was in Tunis, in June 2003, and he was in San Francisco, and we spoke by phone across that impossible distance, my coins clanging through the pay phone like hailstones.
When we can afford it, we come here, (five times so far!) to this idyllic Canadian resort, and look forward to more shared memories there. I love having “our place”, where they know us well and remember our previous visits over the past 10 years.
Totally separate interests. Yes. Jose is passionate about Buddhism and golf. Not I. I love antiques, design, museums, dance. We both need to recharge our batteries, make space and time alone to enjoy ourselves, share our loves with friends and strangers — so we can come home with fresh material. Every marriage needs new material!
Here’s a new book that offers some of the same ideas, and others…
What keeps your marriage thriving?