Before we got married, for many years, Orna loved to ask long-married couples she met what their secret was. Meeting an older couple at the airport, parents of friends, even couples at the market would lead to her asking, “So, what’s your secret?” She knew that in their answers lay the key to finding and keeping long lasting love.
We knew all along that the goal wasn’t to get married. The goal was to have a happy marriage. Getting married is easy. Staying married is a whole different ball game. Staying happy while staying married was and is the real goal.
The answers she got were varied but they all revealed a mindset that was intentional. “Marry your best friend,” was the advice of a 70ish gentleman in the airport who had a sparkle in his eye and an obvious love for his wife. “Give the other person room to be themselves,” a mother of one of her friends told Orna. “Always be sure to listen,” came from an older couple while waiting for a table at a restaurant.
Each of these couples knew that having a long and happy marriage was important to them and was worth focusing on. It seemed that they had an intuitive sense that a good marriage didn’t just happen but that it took attention and care. They also knew that by giving it attention and care that they were getting benefit for themselves.
Little did we know that there were a lot more benefits to a long and happy marriage than just the obvious ones. Decades of studies have shown the mental and physical benefits of a healthy marriage no matter what your sex, age, or race. Married people live longer, suffer less depression, are healthier, have less stress and better nutrition. A happy marriage provides an emotionally fulfilling, intimate relationship, creating a sense of social connection, enhancing both physical and mental health.
Of course the same is not true of an unhappy marriage. Sometimes the responses Orna got to the “What’s your secret?” question was great advice in what not to do. “We don’t talk to each other when no one else is here,” said one friend’s mother. An in-laws father joked, “We’ve hidden the keys to the gun cabinet.” “I just let my wife always call the shots,” one man told her; a perfect recipe for resentment. These couples have been together a long time, however, it would be hard to describe them as happily married couples.
The studies are just as clear for unhappily married couples and divorced or unmarried people. Effects of bad marriages include high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. According to the data, these effects are worse on women than on men. A bad marriage creates a highly stressful environment, which increases the likelihood of divorce. Research shows that divorce is associated with an increased risk of physical illness, depression, and premature death.
All of this information can be really motivating to find a way to create a happy marriage. Good communication skills, allowing space for your partner to be who they are, speaking how you feel, always being in forgiveness are all great ways to keep a marriage going and growing.
Our clients have asked us if we argue and we answer, “Of course we do,” and it looks and sounds like an argument. The difference is what happens after we cool off. We know that when we stay in authentic communication that we can work through anything. When you close yourself off from your partner, you create distance and the more you do that, the more difficult it is to bridge the gap.
We also have a saying about our feelings. We don’t allow “any dishes to be in the sink.” What we mean is that we don’t hold onto our feelings until they become so built up inside that we end up exploding. By dealing with the small feelings we don’t allow the tension to build up inside and we honor what each of us is feeling.
On the very rare occasion that we don’t speak up, we take responsibility for it. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mention this last night I was feeling ______________.” We own our feelings without pointing the finger or placing blame.
We believe its important for our clients to know how we maneuver through the tough patches and to let them know that they exist in every relationship. Sharing a lifetime with someone certainly means sharing the ups and the downs, and the goal is for the good times to outweigh the bad, not by a little - but by a landslide.
One top key to a long lasting marriage is something we learned from our close friends on the day of our marriage. They advised us to take the blank pages in our wedding guest book and write down our goals together. We loved this idea and decided to take it a step further. Every year on our anniversary we open up that book and review what we wrote down. We talk about what we created and re-evaluate if they are still important. Then we update them for the next year.
Having a common goal is the key to keeping any group of people together. From sports teams, to businesses, to relationships, common goals are the glue that hold the group together. Discovering and creating common goals together is the glue that will hold your marriage together over time.
It is important that these common goals are about the two of you and your relationship. How many times have we heard of the couple that created common goals around their children only to find that when the children were grown that there wasn’t any reason to stay together. Make sure you have goals that are separate from your children. We know that children are important, however the benefits of a long-term happy marriage are worth setting goals beyond your children.
We believe that relationship is an intentional act; that good relationships don’t just happen by accident. In order to create a happy relationship and ultimately a happy marriage you need solid relationship tools. We love to share those tools with our clients and are constantly looking for more from our many mentors. That’s why we are hosting the Love on Purpose Revolution.
This summer we’ve gathered together 21 top-experts in Love, Dating, Relationship, Sex and Intimacy to spread the word that love doesn’t happen by accident. Join the Revolution and learn how to have long and happy relationships in your life. You can register for free here: www.LoveOnPurposeRevolution.com.