LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH
A friend recently admitted to me they were not happy in their (relatively new) relationship but couldn’t understand it because the love was so strong.
How many times have you seen people feel this way? They are so full of love for each other, but in a relatively short time things start to go wrong and before you know it, the relationship is over.
When I told my friend love was not always enough to hold a couple together they asked what made a relationship work.
I’m no expert, but in a few weeks Hubby and I will celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary so I guess I’ve learned a few things in that time.
Relationships are complicated and never as easy as romance novels and movies would have us believe. They take endurance, not giving up, bravery, and tenacity – and above all, love.
Even as we strive to be better, kinder, more grateful and caring, we lash out at those closest to us and it is our partners who carry the brunt of our frustrations.
You don’t get through decades of living together without hurting one another and letting one another down at times.
So what’s the glue that keeps you together through all the rough times?
I believe it’s a combination of things that you continually improve on throughout the years.
Here are my 30 tips (one for each year of marriage) for a happy relationship. Be sure to read right to the end for an extra tip that will surprise you.
30 TIPS FOR 30 YEARS OF MARRIAGE
- LOVE: While it may not be enough in itself to keep a couple together forever, without it there is no relationship, so it must top the list for a healthy marraige.
- TRUST: If you trust your partner you can let them do what they want without fear of losing them. It’s not just about trusting them not to betray you, but also trusting them to understand and forgive your mistakes which gives you the freedom of honesty in the relationship. Unlike love, which we often have no control over, trust has to be earned which is why the ‘honeymoon’ period of any relationship is so important. The ‘honeymoon’ period, when the relationship is shiny and new and not knocked around by the wear and tear of life, is when you build your foundation and trust has to factor into that in a big way.
- RESPECT: Like trust, this one has to be earned and isn’t always an instant given. There will be times it will fluctuate as we stumble and make mistakes but if it’s part of the marriage foundation it will endure.
- FORGIVENESS: Things are not always perfect and we are human, so we make mistakes and bad decisions. While I understand there are some acts that cannot be forgiven, there are many that can and this is made easier if the marraige foundation is strong to begin with.
- NURTURE: The definition of nurture is ‘to care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing’. Just because we are adults doesn’t mean we have stopped growing – we grow right up until our last breath so the nurturing always needs to be there. The relationship itself also needs to be nurtured – protected from all the outside influences that can break it down.
- UNDERSTANDING: Having the ability to understand why your partner does certain things makes it easier to forgive, when necessary, and also to nurture when they share their thoughts and emotions. It’s also important to understand that things won’t always be perfect but if you work through the tough times they can be wonderful.
- FUN: This has to go near the top – too many relationships fail because at least one partner is bored and not having any fun. You would think fun just happens – it did when we were kids – but as we get older and more world-weary we often need to work at having fun and not just take it for granted that it will happen.
- GRATITUDE: When you are together for a long time it is so easy to become complacent and take the relationship for granted. I have two friends who lost their husbands and it was a shock and a wake-up call to never take a moment together for granted, you never know when it will be your last.
- CUDDLES & KISSES: When you’ve been together for decades you fall in and out of love with each other and that’s OK, just never let the cuddles and kisses stop – they should be foundation anchors in your marriage relationship.
- BEST FRIENDS: My mother always told me to marry my best friend – and I have. That means when the lust and sparkle aren’t there I have something to fall back on – the friendship. This stops you from giving up on the marraige relationship and then the lust and sparkle returns and you are so glad you rode out the tough time.
- ROMANCE: Make time for romance. This doesn’t mean sex, though it often leads to it. It means making the other person feel really special, like there is no one else as important. This can be done with big gestures such as date nights and gifts, or little gestures which can be the most romantic. Leave little love notes around the house to be discovered, or send a text reminding your partner how much you love them.
- ENDURANCE: In our throwaway society, where your phone is obsolete before you’re even finished paying it off, it’s easy to give up on stuff and get rid of people. To make a marriage work long term you need to be prepared to put in the time and effort and not give up on it at the first sign of trouble.
- DON’T LOOK TO OUTSIDE FORCES TO SAVE YOU: A lot of people think having children can mend a troubled marriage. This sometimes works but more often than not it doesn’t. Sleep deprivation, screaming babies, out of control toddlers and terrible teens can cause so much stress and actually break a relationship if it’s not on very solid footing.
- DON’T GO TO SLEEP WITHOUT MAKING UP: This is an oldie but a goldie – it is so bad to try and sleep while still arguing. As much as we know this it is so hard to follow sometimes. A few weeks back Hubby and I were ‘having words’ (isn’t that a funny expression?). Actually, by the time we got into bed, we weren’t speaking at all. Pride wouldn’t let me try and make up so I turned out the light and turned my back with a ‘humph’. Before I even had time to close my eyes I felt something crawling on me. When I went to get it, the insect felt soft and a bit furry and I screamed. It was a harmless cricket and Hubby became Superman and saved the day. We both ended up laughing. I thanked the universe for that bedroom invader because it reminded me of the importance of not going to sleep angry.
- COMPROMISE: There is a big emphasis on self-growth these days and I agree it is vital. Sometimes though, for a marraige to succeed, you may have to compromise and put your own goals on hold in order to reach your common goals. If you have shored up reserves of trust, respect and understanding, you realise this isn’t a permanent sacrifice and there will be space and support within the relationship to follow your own dreams.
- SUPPORT: It is vital to support one another’s individual goals. I know of many relationships where one partner supported the other while they were studying and then went on to reap the benefits of a comfortable financial life resulting from that study. Support comes in many different forms though. It can be financial support, it can be patience and love while a partner is fighting an addiction or a debilitating health issue. Or it can be in individual endeavours, such as studying for a new career or hobby.
- SHARING THE LOAD: If you read my post How to Spice Up Your Love Life With Steamed Pork Dumplings, you will know I am blessed with a husband who enjoys and is good at cooking. Whether it is one of his (near) famous specialities or a simple omelette, I am always happy to have the break from meal making. We tend to share the load when it comes to all household chores these days as we both work part-time. When Hubby was working full time, I did most of the housework as I only worked a few hours a week and it seemed only fair. Too often these days I see young stay at home mums who expect their partners to not only support them but also carry the brunt of household jobs. By the same token, there are many men who become used to their partners doing all the cleaning and cooking and forget to readjust when their job hours change.
- APPRECIATION FOR SIMILARITIES: Hubby and I are always appreciative of our similarities as they just make life easier. We enjoy the same food, wine and music, have similar morals, political and religious beliefs and a mutual fascination and love of nature. These commonalities help to reaffirm our own beliefs and give us lots of harmonious talking points.
- RESPECTING DIFFERENCES: While it’s great to have a lot in common, it’s our differences that help balance out a relationship and also keep it interesting. If we did everything the same way life would soon become boring. When we come across a subject we disagree on we respect the other’s point of view, without compromising our own belief system.
- MURDERING THE MONEY MONSTER: Money problems are one of the key factors that destroy relationships. When discussing finances and plans to get out of debt or save for something it’s important to do it when you are both in a good mood and receptive to ideas that could involve sacrifice to reach a goal. Avoid playing the blame game and instead try to work out the problem as a team.
- SEX: A good sex life keeps you engaged with each other on all other levels. Some would wonder why I’ve put it so far down on the list but after 30 years, three children and an open-door policy, I have learned that this is one area that does not have to be consistent to remain happy. Consider people who are having health issues that destroy the desire or possibility of sex. Many are able to have loving and caring relationships without the physical release that sex provides. There are times you fall out of love with your partner and there are times that other commitments and concerns make it impossible to connect this way. When that happens you fall back on the other key ingredients to a happy relationship and wait for things to improve. When they do improve, you put all your efforts into supreme lovemaking and reconnect with the feelings you had when you first met.
- COMMON GOALS: Working on and planning common goals for the future is a way of affirming there will be a future for you both. Spend time planning for that empty nest, the addition of grandchildren and in-laws, how you want to buy or renovate your home, what you want to do in retirement. All these things are building blocks to your future together.
- PLANNING: Get used to planning things together – what to have for dinner, creating a garden bed, shopping lists, time spent with friends and family. All too often one partner will go ahead and plan things without consulting the other and this can cause conflict. Maybe your partner invited friends over on the day you were planning to stay in your PJs and watch a movie marathon. Consulting each other affirms your partner’s needs and wants are as important as yours.
- SHORT AND LONG TERM GOALS: Short term goals give you both something to look forward to together. These can be date nights, excursions, repainting the house – whatever as long as it’s something you can enjoy together. Planning holidays is one of our favourite past times – sometimes the planning is as much fun as the actual holiday. The long term planning doesn’t always need to be about holidays though – see tip number 22.
- SPONTANEITY: While good planning helps affirm your future together, spontaneity keeps the fun alive all the time. Be prepared to drop plans and dive into some fun if your partner comes up with a good idea. Similarly, try to come up with your own ideas to suddenly change the course of a day and ensure you don’t fall into a rut.
- SECRETS: Have a few secrets that no one else shares. This one is tough for me – I’m usually an open book, but Hubby and I have a few secrets that are special and just for us. Sorry, not sharing them with you!
- HOBBIES: Hubby has absolutely no interest in making crafts but feigns interest and joy when he sees what I’ve made. I have played golf and nearly broken the club in frustration (that is one annoying game to play) so am not a fan but I’m always interested in how Hubby’s golf game goes. At one stage (before the nearly broken club incident) I thought it would be fun if we played together. I was lots younger then and didn’t understand why Hubby wasn’t jumping for joy at the thought. It’s important to have your own hobbies, separate from partners and family as it helps keep your identity intact. You need to give each other space to do this.
- TIME: Set aside time for each other. Hubby left his full-time job a few years ago to work part-time from home. My job only keeps me away from home for a few hours each week. We appear to have nothing but time together but have learned to actually schedule in focused ‘us’ time each day as the demands of family, babysitting Goddesses, fun with friends, chores and work can easily get in the way of this.
- HISTORY: You start building a history together from day one. After a few short years, you have a unique set of memories that go with being together and it’s these memories – your history – that can help keep you together through the rough patches. Whenever things have become really tough and we start to talk about past experiences together I am reminded of our special history and it is added incentive to make things right again.
- OTHER COUPLES: Have other couple friends you enjoy spending time with. You tend to encourage each other through the tough patches and it’s a safer place to vent when things aren’t wonderful.
- BONUS TIP: Remember that bonus ‘shocking’ tip I promised? Nagging – it can be a good thing. You’ll often hear that nagging erodes the foundation of a good relationship and so it can. But it can also enhance and show genuine love and concern. If I tell Hubby I’m angry because he never listens then it could be the beginning of tension. If I nag him about wearing sunscreen and a hat I am showing love and nurturing and he knows it so doesn’t take offense (he usually replies by asking if I’ve made that dreaded doctor appointment yet!).
- EXTRA BONUS TIP: This one is from Hubby – when all else fails, there’s alcohol. Funny man.
Your turn, did I leave something out? Let me know in the comments.
Wishing you a long and loving relationship and a gleeful week, Tamuria.