My Secrets to Building a 30 Year Long Happy Marriage.
Okay, I started dating my (now) wife in 1991. January. In Edmonton. 30 years ago.
I remember the squeak of our boots on the snow walking to Rundle Park for outdoor skating. And seeing the beauty of the ice-cold river valley as I went to visit her at her downtown apartment. And all the memories associated with snow and prairie and the 90’s music of the time.
I remember the 800 volts of electricity that went through my arm the first time we held hands after umpteen dates (I’m not a huge playa 😊). And the long talks on the (corded) phone until late at night.
Quick aside: One time I rode my motorbike to her place in the fall. We watched a movie, and when I went to go home, I discovered it had snowed.
So, I rode my sport bike home (30 minutes, much of it highway) in the snow, which is both interesting and educational if you’re a student of defensive motorcycling skills. I made it btw!
We married after dating for 2 ish years. And because we never lived together prior to dating, actually setting up house together was something of a shock. Because we have different DISC scores. She is a microbe hunter, and I have an unusually high tolerance for bacteria of all kinds. Live and let live I say. She doesn’t roll that way!
BTW, if you don’t know each other’s DISC personality scores, do yourselves a favour and find them out here for free:
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We’ve had incredible joy and sorrow and hard times too. But we’re happy together, and that’s what I hope for you too. A happy relationship that endures over time. So here are a few random pieces of advice.
Cluck twice with your tongue if the other person is snoring
Discuss it beforehand. Then when snoring happens, give two loud clucks and your partner will turn over without really waking up, and without you having to say something or nudge them. It works. You read it here first.
Never go to bed with unresolved anger
It’s fine to be mad at each other. But when anger stretches from one day into the next, it’s a problem. Because that anger can extend to a third day and beyond. And when you get to the stage where you’re saying, ‘forget it, just move on,’ you’re in an unhealthy place. My advice is to stay up, however late and work it out. Get past it! A happy marriage is more important than a good night’s sleep.
Develop hand signals to communicate in public
We have hand signals that we use in public places. That way we don’t have to discuss how to handle things in front of other people. These signals include messages like:
- I love you
- Time to leave, I’m ready to go anytime now
- Marriage related messages I’m not prepared to reveal in print. Make up your own! No G rating required! You’re married!
We both live public lives and have a protocol for how to handle introductions to people whose names we can’t remember (Say, “This is my wife, Jenn” and stop. She then knows to say, “And you are?” BAM! Suck it Dale Carnegie!)
Establish your happy marriage conflict rules
We’re both natural born pugilists, so neither of us has ever really shied away from a fight in our lives. But there are things that are okay to do in a fight/conflict, and things that are definitely not okay. Here are some of our rules:
- Nothing physical (obviously). No shoving, pushing, or God forbid, hitting. Not on the menu, ever once in 30 years.
- No name calling or belittling. Doesn’t help. It’s silly and simply entrenches each person in their initial positions. And it’s just stupid and dumb and wrong besides.
- No yelling or throwing things. Why break our own stuff? What world does this make sense in? Heated emotions are ok.
- Can’t go to bed mad
- Take a cooling off period. This might be an hour or more. Get to a place where you can discuss things without emotions taking over. Understand that it’s okay to say, ‘I’m not ready to talk about this yet. Give me an hour or two.”
- No sacred cows. Anything can be discussed. If there are issues in your marriage that can’t be talked about, I think of it as a part of your body that’s not working. If you can’t discuss money, you have a withered hand. Why not have a whole, healthy body? Why not have a happy marriage?
- Make every effort to fully understand things from your spouse’s point of view.
Look to where your partner is strong
It’s easy to find each other’s weaknesses. They’re obvious, and the longer you live together, the more apparent they become. So, you have a choice: will you focus on those weaknesses, and become impatient and upset, or will you choose to focus on their amazing strengths and encourage them to become the best person they can possibly be?
The more you focus on how you can be a great spouse, the happier your marriage will be.
Put your moods on the shelf
Don’t feel in the mood to talk after a long day at work? Who cares if you’re in the mood. Talk. Do what’s going to make your marriage better because it matters to your spouse.
Don’t feel in the mood for sex? Do it anyway. It will enhance your marriage, and everyone will be happier.
Don’t feel in the mood to do yard work on Saturday? Go out to dinner on a Friday night? Do you want a happy marriage, or do you want to zone out in front of Netflix? You get the idea. Do what you need to do to get in the mood! Act your way into the feeling.
Make the decision that your marriage IS GOING TO WORK
We’ve never ever discussed divorce, although both of us have fantasized about murder a few times over. We just decided from the start that we were going to make it and have a happy marriage.
The battle is won before the battle has begun. If your view of marriage is that you’ll see how the other person does meeting your needs and then re-evaluate based on performance, you may not do well.
But if you decide beforehand that it’s going to work and you’re going to deal with the inevitable storms that come your way, and you’re going to get good at forgiving and asking forgiveness, and you’re just going to see it through, you’ll make it.
That’s assuming of course that you picked a good partner from the beginning.
I could go on for a long time.
But I’d love to hear your relationship advice on how to have a happy marriage in the comments below,
Your personal life and your professional life are the same life! Make both work!
Jenn, my amazing partner through life of 3o years!
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