The hubs and I have been together since we were 17. We got married in 1994. Both just babies at the ripe old age of 19 years. At the time we just knew we loved each other, couldn’t keep our hands off each other and we believed we could just “figure the rest out” as we went along. Luckily for us, that worked. “Figuring things out” had several different meanings, and each choice had infinite consequences. We were just too young and stupid to be afraid of any repercussions. Which in our case, was a good thing and not normally the outcome that people expect.
Neither of us were particularly responsible with money, so we got to “figure out” what it was like to be extremely poor together…and more than once. Since we are both ambitious and like nice things, we worked hard as a unit and we were able to scrape together a business. Worked harder to make it grow and flourish. Then ultimately watched it burn to ashes around us because neither of us had the business acumen needed to save it when the economy tanked. However, by going through those peaks and valleys together it has made us a much tighter crew. It has been just over five years now that we literally started over from scratch. We lost everything but each other. (and in the end, isn’t that all that matters?)
You really do not know how strong you or your marriage is until it is tested. In our case it always seems to be tested financially. Which I will take any day over illness, idleness, infidelity or any of the other many marriage woes that other couples face.
Through many years of trials and tribulations, we have finally “figured out” how to fight. You know, like adults. In the beginning we could have some pretty ugly arguments. I am talking bombs-dropped-from-the-ceiling- WWIII-style, No-holds-barred, Blood-Sport style arguments. Lots of yelling, maybe some name calling (which was ALWAYS me, as he has never stooped that low. He has always been a better Gentleman than me) before the tempers and the air were cleared enough for make-up “talks” (insert eye brow wiggle here). We are both mule-headed stubborn and I have the ugliest temper (mine is more volatile, while his is more of the vindictive variety. Like laughing at me via text when I get locked in the bathroom). Learning how to “fight” in a way that doesn’t intentionally inflict harm on the other person- but just gets a point (a really heated one) across and opens up communication without a full scale war is one of our greatest accomplishments as a couple. Hashing it out with mutual love and respect. Either that, or we have just mellowed with age. Tomato, tomatoe.
We also got to “figure out” what it is like to try and maintain a friendship while establishing a marriage- which is quite a bit trickier than one would think. When you first get married and are riding on that blissful Newlywed buzz, you just think that you will always be the best of friends, and that you are both so fun-filled and happy that friendship will always be easy. But as time passes you start to realize that you have to have some independent time and freedom or you will bore each other senseless talking about the same stories over and over again- that you were both the main characters in.
It took both of us entirely too long to find hobbies that we did not do together. I am not saying that you can’t have hobbies as a couple, but for the sake of providing scintillating/fascinating/remotely interesting conversations with your lover- find something to do independent of each other. If you are constantly in each other’s pockets, what would you possibly have to say that the other wasn’t already present for? By experiencing life both together and independently, you have both shared stories and new anecdotes to talk about on date night.
He has Dart League and I have Running, and we are both perfectly happy to support each other from home, or the occasional special tournament/event. And our marriage is better because of it. Obviously we have never had any trust issues where spending time apart has created any real anxiety. However, if that is an issue for a couple from my limited perspective I see only two choices:
One:Get over it and move on
Two: Move on.
I have seen too many couples remain miserable because they weren’t able to do either, and the relationship always, always fails eventually. People make mistakes. We are all only human and are naturally flawed beings. Figuring out that no one is perfect including one’s self is a huge epiphany for many of us. Finding out if you have forgiveness and empathy in intense situations is something that no one truly knows until they are tested.
Date Night. Often overlooked, but never over rated. When we first had our babies all I wanted to do was be with them. ALL. THE.TIME. Which is what a Mother does, but- without maintaining the relationship with my spouse as a wife, mother and lover, I wasn’t completing the full scope of the marital unit. By simply establishing a date night every week, we were able to maintain a level of intimacy and communication that could have easily been lost in the day to day work and worries of parenting and life. It is amazing how many visual and non-verbal cues a couple that maintains intimacy has that others do not. This “ESP” comes in as strategically important both as partners in a parental unit, and in other areas of life (like escaping from oily sales people, or old acquaintances that you wish you never knew). It also creates a united front to the kids, and the world at large. Which is needed, as the little monsters figure out “divide and conquer” quite quickly.
We have also been very lucky in maintaining outside relationships. We have a group of friends that we have known since forever. Some as far back as High School. It does help when your marriage hits the occasional rut, bump or valley to have a support system in place. A system that loves you both as a couple and as an individual. Being able to receive honest advice (whether wanted or not) from long standing friendships means they will tell you the truth. The good, the bad and the ugly truth of what they see from the outside looking in, and what their experiences have taught them. To me, these are the real marriage experts. Some are still married 20 + years as well, some have divorced, and others have serial dated- but all have a wealth of knowledge to cull from.
We have also had the unfortunate experience of figuring out how to deal with “Watching helplessly while other long term relationships flounder and ultimately fail”. In twenty years we have seen this happen too many times to count. We have learned how important it is to try to not take sides. Regardless of the story. There are always three sides to each story, right? His, Hers and the truth. Or Hers, Hers/ His, His. Whatever. (Also, the man in the middle tends to get shot in the ass entirely too often)
With all of this being said, I am not an expert by any means, but I really do think that taking a common sense approach is the best way to happiness for most things in life.
Luckily for us, we somehow managed to do many of the things that “relationship experts” say are good and healthy for long term marriages (and many that are not on the list- like being able to tell the other one to “fuck off”. But you know, in the nicest possible way, leaving communication open- just for a later time.)
Some shared activities: