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4 Things I Know For Sure After 23 Years Of Marriage

Here are the secrets to making a partnership work.

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photo collage of happy married couple with pink flowers and i love you note
Franziska Barczyk
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My husband and I have traveled a long road together filled with challenges, changes, hardships and celebrations. No one really knows how life will unfold once you declare your vows. People can change in unpredictable ways, causing relationships to deteriorate and eventually break. I’ve witnessed this firsthand with many of my beloved friends who’ve had to endure the trauma and heartbreak of divorce and then find the strength to rebuild their lives. I am one of the fortunate few still in a happy and fulfilling marriage, which seems like a miracle these days. Although every marriage is unique, this is what I’ve learned after 23 years with my husband:

A healthy marriage requires honest, ongoing communication.

My husband and I talk about everything. We constantly share our feelings about anything that transpires in our lives. We ask for what we need and speak up when we don’t feel heard. This has been an evolving process, as we have learned how important it is to communicate our opinions, desires and frustrations to better understand what we need from each other.

Sometimes, we’ve had to work to resolve difficult conflicts, and other times, we’ve had to compromise and find a middle ground. When we ask for feedback, we expect the other to give their honest input. No matter how hard it is to tell (or hear) the truth, we always know where we stand and how we feel. Another critical aspect of our communication is showing appreciation and gratitude for each other and celebrating our strengths and accomplishments.

Marriage is full of sacrifice, selflessness and service.

Early on, I realized I would need to be less selfish and more sacrificial for us to have a successful marriage. Having a husband meant my life wasn’t just about me anymore, it was also very much about him. We consider each other in all our choices and work together as a team. A lifetime of companionship requires flexibility, patience, compromise and regular consideration of the other person's needs. There will be countless times when you give more without expecting anything in return. This continuous process ebbs and flows within our relationship depending on the circumstances we experience, our daily routines and the difficult experiences life brings.

We have sacrificed a lot to care for one another when traumatic events transpired. When my husband was going through an agonizing season of losing both of his parents to cancer, I did everything I could to be there for him. When I had to endure several surgeries back in my 40s, my husband took on all the parenting duties while he tenderly nursed me through the slow and painful recoveries.

Romance can look and feel different through the years.

When my husband proposed, he led me on an unexpected treasure hunt filled with loving notes and special treats around this small town we visited. I ended up at a park, where he had prepared a beautiful picnic with gourmet foods and champagne on white linen. It was the most romantic thing I've ever experienced.

Romance means something different now than it did earlier in our marriage. I know many women love to be lavished with extravagant gifts or taken on extraordinary trips, and of course, that’s amazing. I've realized that the most romantic things my husband does are often in our everyday lives when he goes out of his way to demonstrate his love for me. There’s nothing more romantic than waking up in the morning to find a little love note on my desk from him. He's been leaving me notes all these years because my love language is words of affirmation. (I've saved every single one.)

Marriage takes two to work.

On my wedding day, a friend told me something that stuck with me ever since. She said, “When you wake up every day with your husband, boldly declare, I choose you." This deliberate intention from both partners is the key to sustaining a marriage. (This does not apply to an abusive marriage!) Every day, I make that decision and live out what that means, and thankfully, he does, too. We respect and support one another in our individual pursuits while accepting our weaknesses and embracing our strengths. Some days, this is the most fulfilling and rewarding choice I make, and other days, I keep my ongoing commitment to choose him no matter how challenging it gets. I'm absolutely sure he feels the same.

The marriage is in danger if a spouse stops making this critical choice. I have many friends whose partners gave up, chose differently and eventually walked away, or are in marriages where they give it their all, and their efforts aren’t reciprocated. I am heartbroken for the friends who suffer when one stops choosing the other.

There are countless ways people make their marriages last, and there are many more important lessons I continue to learn. One thing is for sure: Spending a lifetime with someone requires sacrifice, work, honesty and communication.

How many of you are married? How long have you been married? Let us know in the comments below. 

Follow Article Topics: Relationships