Long-Married Women Share The Secrets To Making A Relationship Last
The very best advice following decades of making it work.
My husband and I just celebrated our 22nd anniversary. When I reflect on that day we both said our vows, we were so naïve, not yet knowing how to love each other well. But through all these years, we eventually realized that tending to one another’s needs and supporting each other’s dreams takes sacrifice and compromise, commitment and unending grace. We’ve learned that if you don’t nourish love, it can slowly deteriorate, so we make our relationship a priority as best we can.
Life can be so hard, and sometimes the strain on love can stretch until it breaks. I’ve learned that no matter how strong and successful a marriage might be, any relationship can collapse in the most surprising and tragic ways. I’ve witnessed many friends face the traumatic end of their marriage. I also have friends who are struggling with the shredding strands of what’s left of their love, doing all they can to hold on.
Every marriage is unique in how they make things work. Each relationship has its own dynamics in how they communicate and do everyday life together. There’s certainly no wrong or right way to love one another because there are countless complicated layers to making love last for a lifetime. I admire my friends whose longevity of love is still going strong after being married for 25+ years, so I wanted to ask them to share their best advice from their well-worn experiences. Here’s what they said:
"Don’t get hung up on the 'big' days, like Valentine’s or anniversaries, because lasting love is in the details of everyday decisions. My husband bringing me my slippers that he’d warmed by the furnace vent spoke love a lot louder to me than him bringing me flowers on our anniversary. Knowing what the other needs and being considerate and generous in taking the time to meet them in those small and intimate ways have kept our love strong. Make sure you know what makes your spouse feel loved and communicate clearly to him what makes you feel loved too. Our love languages can be very different, so this is a critical piece to making a marriage last. Speaking their love language when it’s not your native tongue shouts love more loudly than if you 'talk love' in a language that is easily your own." — Elizabeth, married 27 years
"Find topics to talk about other than the kids. Sit next to one another on the couch when you discuss them. Develop at least one common interest or hobby that you can share with one another. Example: Take an art class or language class at the library, volunteer together for a good cause, or read the same book. Hold hands when you walk anywhere. It breeds togetherness and defines you as a couple." — Lisa, married 43 years
"Open communication is essential as well as understanding that we each express ourselves differently and experience things differently too. Speaking with a couple’s therapist can help you really hear and understand each other and not get caught up in being 'right' or holding grudges. As a mom, it’s easy to pour all of yourself into your kids and have little left over for your husband or even yourself. Make sure you set aside time to invest in both." — Sydnei, married 31 years
"You need to take responsibility for your own happiness. Find hobbies and passions that bring you joy, and be supportive of that with your spouse. I’m also a huge fan of incorporating gratitude into your daily routine. When I’m going through a tough time in my marriage, I write three things down about my spouse so it re-centers my focus on the good instead of the negative. It’s made a huge difference." — Whitney, together 27 years
"Not every minute of free time needs to be spent together with your spouse and it's probably best that way. What energizes you, may not always energize your spouse. Engage in rewarding hobbies, community volunteering, building friendships with your girlfriends, etc. When you do things that fulfill you, you will connect better with your spouse." — Lee Ann, married 32 years
"Hold on tight during the hard times. Try maintaining a heart of gratitude. Comparison will rob you of joy. Disagreements will happen, so try to remember you are on the same team." — Julie, married 32 years.
"Turn complaints into requests. No one can read our minds and yet, so often we walk around resentful and angry and dissatisfied but we don’t ask for what we want. We have a false belief that our husbands should just know what we need. We’re afraid we won’t get what we ask for, but if we never ask, we will go through life unhappy and resentful, always building a case against our spouse. This has been a learning process in thinking about what I want and communicating my feelings in a way that doesn’t blame or attack my husband." — Sheryl, married 33 years
"The famous line from Jerry McGuire was, 'You complete me.' But my husband and I are able to celebrate 30 years in May precisely because we learned (through grit and grace) to flip the script on that mindset. It’s impossible for another person to fill the empty spaces in our life. We must find wholeness within to experience true joy." — Shelby, married 29 years
Have you been married a long time? What's your secret? Let us know in the comments below.