Today is my 25th wedding anniversary, which feels like both an amazing accomplishment and an insane, mind-boggling amount of time. I got married young, at age 24, which means I have now spent half of my life with my husband. It sounds crazier than it ultimately feels, sort of the same as I am a middle-aged grown-up, but I don’t feel any different than when I was 25 or 35.
Making it this far, and hoping for another successful 25, made me think about and want to try and articulate, what I think makes a good marriage. Chemistry is key, but beyond that what else goes into a lasting relationship?
Work, compromise, and a healthy dose of ignorance when it comes to minutiae. But the first, and foremost important step, is creating trust. I trust my husband implicitly. More now than when we first got married (we had only been together 9 months and no, it wasn’t a shotgun wedding and I wasn’t desperate to settle down, I just knew). We were recently talking about trust because some of the young people my husband works with, who are dating or engaged, don’t seem to have much of it. I wonder if it’s a millennial thing, or part of our larger social divisiveness of late, but if you don’t at least try to trust the person you are in a partnership with, how do you move forward and make joint decisions that you can both feel confident about? If something bad happens and you can’t trust your partner any longer, so be it. Not trusting your partner won’t keep it from happening, but it may keep you from creating a stronger bond.
Agree on all the big stuff and constantly remind each other where you’re in sync. Family, money (more complicated), how you want to live, religion—if you don’t see eye-to-eye on the key fundamentals, once the initial charm of dating or being married wears off, you’ll constantly feel alone and misunderstood. You will have arguments about things—but if you can ultimately circle back to your common understandings, you will be able to move forward.
Find some alone time as a couple. Yes, I know, easier said than done when you have three kids under 7-years-of-age and the like, but you have to do it. Your kids are the most important beings in your life. But isn’t your husband too? Adults need adult time (however you want to interpret that), and it shouldn’t be a luxury, you should consider it a necessity. You cannot ignore your partner for 18 years and instead focus on helping with homework, cooking dinner or working. Plus, one day you will come out the other end when you’re children have left home (I now have two years and counting), and it will be just the two of you. Don’t be strangers. If you don’t have kids, you still need to be sure you do the same.
Ignore the annoying minutiae. Maybe this is TMI, but these are two things my husband does that make me nuts (sorry honey)—leaving dirty socks and boxers on the floor next to (instead of in) the dirty clothes hamper, and loading the dishwasher exactly the opposite way I do (so as I see it, backwards). They happen with regularity. They still make me crazy. But I don’t say anything, because ultimately who cares? I’m sure he has a (hopefully short) list of things I do that bother him. He supports me and makes me happy in so many ways, I forget and forgive the little things.
Listen. We all need sounding boards for thoughts and ideas, a shoulder to lean or cry on, and someone to boost our confidence and help us get back on track when we’re lost. Taking the time to listen to your partner is so important. Even when you don’t have the time, find it. Even if you’re bored by what they’re saying, still do it. Seriously. As if everything you have to say or want to talk about is Nobel-Prize worthy. Don’t be dismissive.
And if you decide to get married in September, which is a gorgeous month to do so, know that if you have kids, celebrating your anniversary really falls by the wayside with back to school commitments etc. We have both forgotten until the day off before. (Ok, not this one.)
In the end I know I’m lucky. I have the most loving, supportive, engaged partner and I couldn’t ask for more. This is so cliche, but our journey together is everything. It’s life-defining. So many women today identify as being a mother first, but few ever say wife. I get that in an era where women’s rights are still an issue being a “wife” can seem almost sexist and also that divorce happens. But having a successful marriage is something to be proud of. It’s also hard work. I plan on putting in the effort for the foreseeable future.