Today, my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. In my estimation, they’ve had 40 years of love, life and laughter – and that’s just the beginning, I’m sure! With this many years of marriage under their belt, they’ve unknowingly taught me a bit about it, too. Here are a few things I’ve learned from this couple wise in the ways of the heart.
1. Put your partner first. I don’t care if you have kids, dogs, cats or a whole slew of extended cousins and friends that need your time and attention. You chose the person you’re with for life, and if you don’t keep the two of you strong, you’ll falter and fail.
2. Keep laughing. Don’t ever forget the kids inside yourselves and have fun with each other. If you can’t let your guard down and be an absolute goof with the one you love then there’s not much hope for you with the rest of the world.
3. Share the wealth. Don’t count your dollars in terms of who makes what and who spends what. A twosome puts their salaries into one pot and figures the rest out accordingly. (In our family, we ‘didn’t count’ and that went for cookies and cash.)
4. Avoid picking at each other. We’ve all seen the person at the dinner party who uses the other guests as an audience for making critical jabs at their partner. Sure, a little good-natured teasing can be fun, but when you start dressing him/her down in front of others it doesn’t make either of you look very good.
5. Take some time away. No couple can spend 24-7 with each other and still live to tell the tales of their relationship. When you do things with other people, it makes you both more interesting to come back home to each other. You don’t have to fulfill all of each other’s needs!
6. Recognize your faults. Hey, none of us is perfect. We find that out pretty darn quickly when we hook up with someone for life. Or maybe you thought those faults were ‘cute’ when you were dating. Now, they’re still there and they’re bugging you. Let it go. Other people have faults too – they’re just different ones.
7. Travel. Change the scenery around you a bit. Sometimes you have to take a little trip to get back to where you started – in your relationship I mean.
8. Support each other. So your partner wants to take sky-diving lessons? Take a class in haiku poem-writing? Go for it, you say. Who are you to question why they’re interested in that? Just stand behind them, in whatever they want to do.
9. Stand together and conquer. Stick to the same story as your mate. Whether you’re deciding whether to let Junior stay out past his curfew or chatting with your friends about your partner’s foibles – one chink in the armour and the blade will be able to slide right in. Work out your relationship problems with your partner, not your friends. And work out your joint answer to Junior’s naggings before you each give Junior a different answer.
10. Put your partner first. This one is so incredibly important that I just had to mention it twice. Do you think a couple can be married for 40 years and still be glad they said ‘I do’ and not have done this?
I’m sure there are many more things that I have learned from watching my parents together over the years. There are probably a few more things that I didn’t catch – and I hope to learn these things in time. My parents have made their relationship look easy but I know that there probably have been times where it was a good lot of work. Maybe the good lot of work they spent was the reason that it looked so easy.
They’re happy. Still. After 40 years. They’ve been great role models and a great set of parents. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad.