Have you wondered why some people can make marriage last? They just keep moving forward for 20, 30, or 40 years. Some celebrate 50 years or more.
You know there must be factors affecting their success, but the magic formula seems elusive.
For example, one man we know has an overly simplistic formula. He says, “The secret to staying married for 40 years is this: No matter what happens, you just don’t leave.”
While his humor actually bears a lot of truth, we all know there are more factors involved. For example, somebody might choose to leave you.
Here are some tips that can certainly help keep a marriage steady:
n Realize that sex and money are top components. These two areas must be reasonably OK, or the boat will start to rock. Keep bragging on your mate and staying romantic, and whatever you do, don’t hide money secrets.
n Never talk ugly about your in-laws. While you might like to shout obscenities, keep calm. For example, do say, “Your uncle is a little overly friendly with women.” Don’t say, “Your uncle is a pervert and should be locked up.” It’s all in the choice of words.
n Don’t have two big arguments back-to-back. You might be disagreeing over vacation plans for next fall. You’ve got to work that out. But don’t lunge into a big tiff over your wife’s sister coming along on the trip. Move that discussion up the road a bit.
n Address most problems on your own. Don’t drag your mate into the mix, if you can help it. For instance, if you think your 10-year-old nephew has stolen cash from your purse, tell your nephew: “I’ll be watching you.” Then hide the purse. Don’t ask your spouse to get involved.
If you truly do have an adult relative committing crimes in your presence, you should move slowly. In ongoing cases of theft, for example, you must speak up to your mate. Marriage becomes rocky when you have to hide painful truths that go beyond moral decency.
“Some of my clients are in horrific situations these days,” says a marriage counselor we’ll call Meagan. “Their own loved ones, not to mention their spouse’s loved ones, are into drugs, not working, and wanting to be helped financially.”
Meagan advises: “Get ready to set some firm boundaries. Boundaries will keep your marriage boat from sinking. Don’t compromise your morals, your financial health, or your physical safety. Once you tolerate a little trouble, it’s hard to put your foot down.”
She insists that adding a little mercy never hurts. Meagan insists. “For example, if you have to kick a family member out of your home, say: ‘I love you, honey. But, we’re having to say goodbye. You gotta start packing.’”
“Marriage is a delicate balancing act,” says Meagan. “When you hit rough waters, you can’t allow anything to penetrate your home life. We had to permanently bar my teenage stepson from our home. He was selling drugs in our backyard.”
While we once thought of marriage as a safe haven for raising kids and growing old together, things have changed. Complicated societal problems are pushing more problems into everyone’s home life.
“I make it a point to nurture my husband, sit down with him every evening to talk, and ask him what’s stressing him out,” says a friend of ours we’ll call Jeanna. “Simply respecting your mate goes a long, long way. Without respect, there is nothing to build on.”
Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe at usawellnesscafe.com. Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.