Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How to Stay [Happily] Married for 30 Years

Hubby and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary.




I can't believe we have been married for 30 years. 

That fact makes me reflect on what kept us together through all of the highs and lows of life during that time.

What does it take to stay happily married for 30 years?

Well, thank you for asking.  I do have some ideas about that.


Here are what I think are the necessary  ingredients to stay happily married for 30 years:

This is a film term for the charming, ironic or amusing ways a guy and a girl meet in movie rom-coms, such as Woody Allen meeting Diane Keaton's Annie Hall on the tennis court. 

 Hubby and I "met cute" when he hit me on the head with a full can of beer in Big Sur, California, and we ended the night singing a duet of "Endless Love." 
(If you are interested, the full, and brilliantly entertaining, story can be found in my review of the remake of the movie "Endless Love" in my blog "The Best Films of 2013 that No One Saw"). 

But my point here is, if you "meet cute," together you can bore people endlessly at cocktail parties recounting how you met.  It's a bonding thing and will keep you together for 30 years at least. 

How 80's can you get?  Headband, armband and, Hubby, what's with the chest hair and the ciggy?


Also if you both are single when you meet, that helps. 

Getting together while cheating on your spouses or significant others doesn't bode well for the next 30 years.


  • Kiss on bridges
     
       
Hubby and I have this tradition. 

 Not sure how it started, but whenever we walk across a bridge, we must kiss (I think Hubby started it. He's an affectionate guy).




The point here isn't that you must kiss on bridges to stay happily married for 30 years, but that you need little rituals that are just yours to add to that all important "history" that you need to make together.



  • Take turns planning the wedding anniversary
I think I got this idea from a magazine article, but it has worked well over the years. 

The article said something about if you want your husband to remember your wedding anniversary, take turns planning what you will do to celebrate. 

So that's what we did.  Each year it's one of our turns to plan the event (Hubby get's the even years, I get the odd years). 

And I'm not talking about a card and dinner.  I am talking about planning something BIG.  Our anniversary celebrations have taken us as far from home as Paris and the UK and as close to home as British Columbia, but it has always constituted something special.  This year's celebration was Vancouver and the Okanagan wine country in B.C.  

And the article was right.  Hubby has never forgotten an anniversary, and we have had some wonderful adventures together.


In England's Lake District c. 1994 with my hair in an 80's "Flashdance" side pony.




At Lake Okanagan 2014 - wish I could still rock that 80's side-pony.


  • Thoughtfulness

My father was the most thoughtful person on the planet so it's not easy to fill those shoes. 

I hope I have inherited some of his thoughtfulness, but being thoughtful also means recognizing when someone else is being thoughtful in all of its incarnations, large and small.

When Hubby fixes a big breakfast for himself (because as you know, I am not up yet) he always leaves me two pieces of bacon. He remembers things I am "wishing for." And he never forgets my birthday, Valentine's Day, our Anniversary, Mother's Day.  And when he travels, he always calls me every night before bed.

For my part, I try to be a "full-service wife and mother," meaning I don't forget to do what I am asked, I remember what people like and don't like, I think of fun things to do, I celebrate all accomplishments big and small, bring home gifts for no reason and anticipate what needs to be taken care of.
     
 
  • Pull your weight
       
If you both contribute equally to the marriage, then there won't be any resentment. Contributing equally can take many forms.  

       
I always worked and there were times when I made more than Hubby and times when he made more than I did
(mostly he made more than I did.  Librarians aren't in it for the money). 
       
       
Even when we had children, I didn't say, "I'm staying home with the kids."  Much as I would have liked to (and I know I missed a lot), we couldn't afford it.  And I did have a career I cared about.  However, I often wonder what my life would have been if I had been a full-time Mom.  Maybe my kids would have liked me better.



And I am not saying that the people who stay home with the kids don't pull their weight.  They do.  It's not easy taking care of kids, but I think staying home with the kids also means housework, cooking and other household chores, so the person who commutes off to work each day doesn't have to add yet more to his or her list of duties.  That doesn't mean, however, that the person who goes off to work doesn't also have household duties and needs to take the burden off of the person staying home. 

This is something that needs to be decided between the two of you.  Whatever you decide, it must feel right to each of you - that no one is being taken advantage of.  Think of it this way.  You are basically roommates albeit roommates with benefits, but you wouldn't like it if your roommate was always late on the rent, left the bathroom dirty or ate all of your food without fixing you any. 

See "Be Considerate" below.


  • Be considerate
       
More marriages than we can count have broken up over the toothpaste cap or the toilet seat.

      
 Hubby is a morning person.  I mean, he gets up at seven even when he doesn't have to.  I just don't get it, but at least he keeps things quiet for me while I am sleeping in because I am decidedly NOT a morning person.  He also will run to the store for me when I am cooking and suddenly realize I don't have those two eggs I thought I had, though they are probably gone because Hubby ate them.

       
On my part, I don't put walnuts in the brownies, I put things back after I use them, I am never late and I pick up after myself.  You can thank my Dad for that (except for the walnuts.  That's Hubby's thing).

  • Interests in common; interests of your own
     
I think you need to have some common interests.  If not, you will never do anything together, or one of you will be resenting having to do things he or she doesn't want to do.  On the other hand, you want to have something interesting to bring to the table and that only happens if you also have your own interests, friends and activities.
    For example:
Hubby likes sports; I don't (but I sometimes let him talk to me about them).
Hubby plays golf; I don't.
Hubby is in a band; I'm not (but I usually go watch him play so some groupie doesn't get him.  That's important for staying married too!)

I like to watch "Ru Paul's Drag Race;" Hubby doesn't, but he's not judgmental.
I write a blog; Hubby doesn't (but he shares it).
I meditate; Hubby doesn't.
I like to shop for clothes; Hubby fumes. 

But we both love fine dining, wine tasting, concerts, theatre, travel, dogs, stair walking and going to the gym.  Well, the gym, not so much.

One of the Seattle stairs we walked.



  • If one of you is bossy, then the other one can't be. 

        Bossy?  Hello, that's me. 


This child may not look bossy, but at seven she already knew how to pose and tell people what to do, so I rest my case.  Believe it or not, I am in a fashion show here rocking the latest fashion in pajamas for seven-year-olds with a little bunny as an accessory.

But by bossy, I mean I like to get things done, don't like procrastination, don't like being late, don't like lazy, so there is a certain amount of nagging going on.  Hubby certainly doesn't like to be bossed around or nagged, but he will be the first to admit my sometimes Teutonic methods have helped him. 

Being bossy, though, does not mean thinking I am always right, needing the last word or being a know-it-all.  That's Hubby's department. 

I can see the "smart-ass" element already forming.


In our early days, we argued more about the "being right" thing, but now I say, "OK, fine, whatever," knowing that if I really cared, I would look it up and point out the error of Hubby's ways (and he is wrong a lot).  But if you spend all of your time looking things up to prove someone wrong, then you won't have a life, will you? 

So he lets me boss him to a certain extent, and I let him think he is right, and answer questions about which he has no knowledge whatsoever.  The family joke used to be calling him "Mr. Know-It-All."  "He will answer any question whether he knows the answer to it or not including rhetorical questions."

Which leads me to the next criteria. 


  • Having a sense of humor.
Hubby makes me laugh and also has allowed himself to be the subject of a bit of family ridicule.  It's his own fault.  Once the family started watching "The Simpsons (and we were there from Day 1)," and Hubby started imitating Homer doing "Doh!," what did he expect?  It made the kids laugh, but he was forever after Homer.



But, the point is, he has a sense of humor about himself which is absolutely essential.  I feel I do, too.  If you can't make fun of yourself, you shouldn't be making fun of anyone else, says Ms. Bossypants.

I also make Hubby laugh because he gets a kick out of my foibles and my sense of humor.  He gets me.  And he still thinks I'm cute.


  • Be on the same page in the bedroom, if you know what I mean.
       That's all I am going to say about that.


  • Happy Hour
      
You can call it Happy Hour, sitting by the fire, reading together, whatever rings your bell. It's a euphemism for spending time alone together.  But the important thing is spending time together, quality time, no kids. 

       
Don't get me wrong, we adored our children, but I don't think we would have been doing them any favors by letting them stay up until they dropped.  No, they had a bedtime and we adhered to it.  And, yes, sometimes it wasn't necessarily convenient to "do bedtime," but we did.  I even did it when I was going through a terrible divorce, because it is comforting to a child to have a routine.  I would do "The Old Gray Mare (on my hands and knees, child on my back, singing)," perhaps there would be another song, then bath, two stories and then lights out. 

      
Then it was "adult time."  

      
Now that the kids are gone, we still make time for each other. 

      
At the end of the day, we get together on the deck or in the kitchen, share a cocktail and talk...or sing.  Out on the deck, we might crank up Pandora and enjoy our surroundings.





       
We are known to sing The Animals' "We Gotta Get Outta this Place" at the top of our lungs.  What the neighbors must think.  Who cares?

       
Each person needs to feel the other really wants to spend time with them. And it needs to be fun. You are supposed to be each other's best friends, right? If you can't do that, you might want to figure out if you really like spending time together without your kids, because once they are gone, what will you talk about? Do you have fun together, just the two of you?




Finally and probably most important,


  • Commitment.
       
None of what I have written will make any difference at all if you don't want to stay married.

       
When I discovered my ex-husband had been cheating on me with a coed, while we had a two-year-old son and I was slaving away to put my ex through college, I was devastated.  But what hurt even more was when I still tried to make it work, and I asked him if he wanted to stay married to me and he said he didn't know.  Wrong answer!

       
You will never make it for 10 years let alone 30 if the commitment is not there, because there will be times when you might resent or even hate your spouse for awhile.  Stuff will happen that you will both need to go through, stuff that isn't fun. There will be temptations. If you are not committed, forget it.  You just won't want to make the effort.

It's your choice.  Every day you need to *choose* to love, choose to forgive, choose to stay together.

I don't mean to preach.  I'm just celebrating.  After all, it's been 30 years.

       
I really don't have all of the answers by any means.  I just know that somehow, through thick and thin, Hubby and I are still together after 30 years.  My parents and Hubby's parents were together for over 50, so we have some years to go.  But at least, this is what has gotten us this far. 

And we still love each other.  And we still have had fun together.

       
Sure, you need to be on the same page about money and child rearing, but more than that, it's a shared history, it's those little things like kissing on bridges and going on stair walks, it's your shared love of your children, it's being best friends, it's having fun, it's wanting to stay married.

         
If that helps anyone, then I am happy.

          
And who knows? I could get served with divorce papers tomorrow. 

         
This is just how we got through 30 years.  If I make it the next 20, I will probably have more to say when I write, "How to stay married for 50 years," if I can still write...or see...or sit up...or stop drooling...




What are your tips
for a happy marriage?


See you Friday for

"Movies that make you go...What the...?
and The Week in Reviews"



 
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3 comments :

  1. Loooove. :-)

    Congratulations to you both, and may the next 30 be just as wonderful, and interesting!

    And you are so right on with your points. Every morning I repeat the mantra to be kind.When I am kind to my spouse, he does cartwheels for me in return. Seriously, cartwheels! Being kind goes such a very long way in a relationship, truly.

    My husband still makes me laugh, and vice versa. We are both frequently silly together, and it makes us both feel young, and remember our early years. And you are so right that 'honoring' the bedroom is of utmost importance, and must not be neglected. ;-)

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    1. Oh shoot! Rosie, this is Tamara, not Mike! I'm using his computer and forgot to change over to my email account!

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    2. Somehow I knew you had a happy marriage, Tamara. :)

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