My parents and my in-laws both celebrated their 51st wedding anniversaries this summer. Weird family coincidences aside, that is some serious marriage longevity right there. I can’t even imagine how many hugs, eyerolls, high-fives, and silent treatments 102 years of marriage comprises. I’ve only been married for 15 years, and we have survived mostly just on sarcasm and making fun of each other. Oh and love, of course. We have a lot of love in there too.
So, while I have only been a witness to these very long marriages, I think I’ve been able to grab a few tips over the year on what actually works if you really want to be with just one person for the rest of your life.
Here you go:
1. Growing will happen. You will grow together and apart and then together again. You will do this over and over, and your only hope is that every once in awhile, you both end up on the same page in the same story.
2. If you add it all up over time, you will spend years of your life miscommunicating. You will be right sometimes and wrong sometimes, but mostly not totally sure what you are even arguing about.
3. You will also spend years of your life compromising. If I had a dollar for every time my parents just rolled with it during a conflict, I would be a kazillionaire.
4. Life gets hard for everyone. No one comes out of this whole ride unscathed, but if you can be that one solid thing for your partner when the shit does hit the fan, your relationship will be better for it.
5. If you never had to talk about money, there would be a lot less divorce. This statement just has to be true, right?
6. When you can’t hear, get a hearing aide. I think that not being able to hear is one of the hugest conflicts I’ve seen with older couples.
7. Nobody is perfect. And no relationship is perfect. Don’t be shocked that you argue about paper towels. We all do.
8. You need to be able laugh your ass off — at yourself, at your spouse, at your children, at the world in general.
9. You will sometimes have an uncontrollable urge to flip them off when they turn around. Just make sure they aren’t facing a window when you do.
10. Friends will come and go. They will. So if you are in it to win it with your marriage, you probably want to be friends with your spouse, too.
11. You should try to have some of your own interests. If you are going to spend 60 years of your life with someone, trust me, you’re going to want to spend some time apart.
12. You might want to have some mutual interests too. My in-laws play one hand of cribbage together every night. Just something to bring you together.
13. Even if you don’t feel like it, you should try to listen to what the other person is saying — even if what they are saying is so boring that it makes you want to gouge your eyeballs out.
14. Keep the compliments coming. I think if there’s one thing that I’ve seen that brings couples together, it’s when you say something simple like, “Dinner was amazing. Thank you.”
15. Physical touch is important. A hand-hold, a kiss, a slap on the ass.
16. You will hate and love your partner more than anyone in the world. And this occasionally happens at the same time.
17. Being on the same side is the most important thing. At least try to be on the same team when it comes to the world, your family, even your children.
18. Tell the stories of your life. History is the great connector and it will help you remember how you got to where you are together.
19. You will both do stupid stuff. Forgive, because there will come a day when you will need to be forgiven.
20. Talk to each other. Your kids will be gone someday, so don’t completely lose each other in the process of raising them.
If I’ve learned anything from watching successful marriages, it’s that you need to be able to see your partner as a struggling and imperfect human, but just the right struggling and imperfect human for you.
After all, a marriage is what makes up a life of kids, jobs, holidays, moves, tragedies, cars, vacations, deaths, dishes, taxes. So, if after all of that, you can still look at the same person and honestly say, “I’m glad it was you,” then, well done.