I was at a party, sitting next to several couples I only see a few times a year. They were young – millennials – married just a few years each. Somehow it came out Andrew and I have been married over 30 years. It’s 32 years as of this week.
- How do you do it?
- What’s the secret?
- What’s your best advice?
Yep, everybody wanted to know what tips we had to give.
Andrew led with the ones you’d expect:
Communication is everything
Do things together
Make each other laugh often
But me? I have a new go-to answer. I said my advice was simple: We’ve chosen not to get divorced.
Marriage Is Messy
I was twenty-two when I got married. Fresh out of college, I had this narrow view of the world. I had no idea what to expect from living with someone the rest of my life, especially because I’d never really had a chance to live on my own.
That’s how things were done. I felt a little behind. I was young. And even in the 1980s, you didn’t want to wait too long before you tied the knot. If you waited too long, the good ones might be gone.
Luckily, I found a good one. We had brand new careers. And we’d “found” each other. Of course, we were going to have the “happily ever after” all the fairy tales promised.
But fairy tales have a problem. They end the book or movie with “and they lived happily ever after” so they really don’t give you a guide to what “the after” is going to look like.
When you walk down the aisle, you can’t imagine what’s coming in year one or year two. Or year ten or year twenty.
And just when you think you have it figured out, year thirty throws you a curveball.
- You talk about making a million dollars – but what about when it happens? (Trust me, this isn’t as easy and gratifying as it sounds.)
- You dream together and plan out a business – but what about when it fails? (Especially when it fails BIG time.)
- You love your family – but how do you deal with medical problems, death, or even when some walk away?
- You have a child – and they test you at every level humanly possible. They make you question everything – them, you, your life, your marriage – everything. (Not a bad thing. I think that’s what kids are meant to do. But it can be … challenging.)
And honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing.
(Okay, maybe a couple of things. Like the move to Florida – we really should have done that. And traveling the world a little sooner than we’d planned? Yep, I’d kick myself in the pants and scream “DO IT” if only I could go back in time.)
It’s About Not Getting Divorced
I read an interesting article a while back. It interviewed lots of couples who divorced when they were in midlife.
Some were for big reasons, things a couple could never and should never recover from.
But a lot of the couples divorced more out of boredom than anything. They divorced because “they grew apart.”
And that can happen quite easily in midlife. After twenty years, you each have a busy life. You work full time. You’re keeping up with your kids, running here and there. Maybe you have caregiving responsibilities with elderly family members. And only occasionally do you sit down next to your spouse, really look at them, and have an intelligent conversation about love and the future.
You grow apart. Simply because you’re never together.
That’s what happened to the couples in this article. These couples grew apart. They wanted something new. They wanted something exciting.
But the funny thing is, years later, a lot of these couples looked back at that first relationship and wished they’d tried harder.
Why? Because the honeymoon phase of a new relationship can only last so long. Eventually, they would wind up right back at square one.
Finding a new relationship is thrilling. The sex may be good – great! But the relationship? That takes a while to form. They don’t have years together. They don’t “get” one another. That takes years to build. And as they put in the years with number two, they fall right back into the same old patterns – the ones they found “boring” the first time around.
A lot of them questioned what life would be like if they’d put all that energy back into the first relationship, the one they “grew apart from.”
Because as long as it’s a healthy relationship to begin with, chances are you still have a lot in common.
New relationships take work. We somehow seem to think once we’re in “happily ever after” zone that we can quit working at it. That’s the biggest mistake.
What’s it going to take to “not get divorced?” It’s about working on yourself, so that you can always be better for your mate.
Happiness Is a Journey
Oh, love …
Love is a many splendored thing. Or so the song goes.
But as much as you love the one you marry, occasionally you don’t like them very much. Like, really, REALLY DON’T LIKE them very much. Like, can’t stand to be in the same room for fear you might explode.
Trust me, you can’t survive 32 years of marriage and not have been in that position a time or two.
But the thing is, even when we’ve been in the stay-away-from-me-I-don’t-even-want-to-see-your-face mode, there was always something in the back of my mind that said he loves me. I trust him. He has my back.
There’s a song from the 1970s called Please Come to Boston by Dave Loggins. I’ve loved it for years. Probably because of the Denver reference.
This past weekend as we were driving to the coast, the song came on the radio, only Kenny Chesney was singing it. I turned it up and sang along.
If you don’t know it, a quick summary is it talks about a ramblin boy who won’t settle down. He asks his girl to come to Boston, Denver, and finally LA to live with him. She just keeps saying:
Hey ramblin boy won’t you settle down
Boston (Denver, LA) ain’t your kinda town
There ain’t no gold and there ain’t nobody like me
I’m the number one fan of the man from Tennessee
As I sang along with the last verse, I looked at my husband and said: she’s a fool. Or maybe they both are for different reasons.
It’s all about priorities. If you find love – have love – you should be willing to move for it.
Or let it go.
(Yes, I know, it’s a song. But how many years did this relationship go on while they were both wanting the other to change?) 😉
Nothing stays the same. Everything changes.
There is no such thing as “settling down” because just when you think you have things where they should be, it all changes. You lose friends. You lose family members. You lose jobs. Kids grow up and move away. Familiar disappears. Goals change.
Everything in my life has changed over the course of the past 32 years. Everything.
Except for my relationship with my husband. It’s the only thing still in my life that I rely and depend on in the same manner as I did 32 years ago. I can’t imagine if I hadn’t been willing to give everything – change everything – for it.
Happiness is a journey. And when you can share it with your best friend, all the better.
It’s the one thing I recognize right here in midlife. It’s the one thing I’ll keep working on just as hard today as I did way back when.
Because it’s everything.
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