Just because I’ve been married for 38 years doesn’t mean I’m an expert at everlasting love. On the other hand … there must be a reason people turn to us with fascination at the longevity of our marriage. People say we’re dinosaurs, but we think more like natural treasures.
If opposites attract, then we own the phrase in stature, physicality, and personality. My husband is tall and I am small – I’m so short I can stand behind him and disappear. He is methodical in sharing his thoughts while I pour my heart out in poetry. He is a behind-the-scenes-bass-player-turned-sound-tech while I happily dance on public stages. I allow the earth, wind and stars to guide me; he calculates life with logic and privacy.
So, what makes love so enduring that two opposites can enjoy 40-plus years of marital courtship? Therapists and psychologists report hundreds of studies that show it’s more than compatibility or luck. Studies reveal common denominators blissful couples share, such as being friends and remaining playful. Not that smooth sailing blesses these relationships – far from it. Like us, many long-term couples face life’s most tragic unfair dealings; it is how those dark alleys are handled that strengthens the love core year after year. For us, we rely on faith and respect that little gold ring which graces our never-ending tale.
Enough back stories, you say – what’s the secret? I’ll share mine, from a non-professional, personal perspective. I pared it down to a few simple categories and one favorite concept: Keep on dating!
On a regular basis, leave responsibilities behind, drop shop talk, and become date-worthy. On a budget? That’s why Happy Hour was invented. And ice cream shoppes. And seashells on the beach. With life so stressful, date time moves us to chat about things not so heavy weight – like our dreams, aspirations, and what’s good in our lives. I emphasize “on a regular basis” because so few couples spend time learning about one another – cherish this alone time with your honey. Before blurting out excuses, think about how much time is spent with co-workers, shopping for others, or imaginary friends on Social Media. Don’t let anyone else’s time be more important than your partner’s.
And for those Simple Categories:
Respect and Lift One Another. We choose our battles, and if we must squabble, it’s never in public. At a party, he still tells me I’m the most beautiful lady there, even if his eyes stray to some stunner across the room. In turn, I can appreciate that beauty too – male, female or otherwise. After the honeymoon phase, I don’t know why couples become less gracious to each other or worse – they think manners aren’t necessary. I was the editor in an entertainment company’s newsroom when I got a call that my husband had arrived for lunch. A junior writer was stunned when I started to brush my hair and put lipstick on! I’ve never stopped behaving like a girlfriend – that’s why he treats me like one.
Think Small. Trips to Europe or roses delivered at work are fabulous, but what makes my heart throb are the everyday little things that, collectively, become big things in my book. Like coming home from a brutal work day to find a plated home-cooked meal waiting for me in the fridge. Or when I ran my own business, to walk into my office and find a new phone I’d been eyeing all hooked up and ready for success. I’ve never balked at my hubby opening doors for me; in fact I expect it! My daughter chuckles at the ancient chivalry, yet loves to see her parents doing it. I succumb to niceties too, like taking out the trash on occasion, or keeping him on schedule for outings with his 91-year-old mother. I don’t expect him to always remember anniversaries or birthdays, so I write it on his calendar and talk about how we will celebrate. I never hope in silence that he’ll remember, and I’m never disappointed.
Be True to Yourselves. In the beginning, there was a reason you were attracted to one another. Maybe it was your smile, ingenuity, or sense of humor. Keep reminding one another about those qualities and take heed when the spark starts to dim. Earning a living, starting a business, or raising kids can take the joy out of being a couple if you’re not careful, loving and kind – the way you were while courting. In the end, if you chose well, those qualities could be your saving grace.
Abella Carroll. Freelance Writer