In an ideal world, when you’re planning on getting married, “what if we end up divorcing?” isn’t a question that crosses your mind. But we live in the real world, a world where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 6.8 people out of 1,000 get married and 3.6 out of 1,000 get divorced. That’s just over half of all married people! I also think its ok to have the question cross your mind, because that means you are serious about the commitment.
So how can you make sure your marriage is a lasting one? Friends and family will probably give you lots of advice, solicited or otherwise. Let’s check in with some couples who have been married 50 years, and hear what worked for them. Although things have changed dramatically since 1963, its always a good thing to check in and see what you can learn from people who came before you.
Three tips from three Oakland, CA couples married in 1963:
1. Never go to bed mad.
Stewing over your anger for too long can lead to bitterness, or compounding the issue at hand with other things, making it into a bigger deal than it was. Better to address differences sooner, rather than later. Plus, you’ll get a better night’s sleep!
2. Find a way to laugh together every day.
Laughing together brings you closer. Scientific research has shown that laughter produces endorphins, those chemicals in your body that make you “feel good.” A 1990 study in the International Journal of Aging & Human Development found that couples who had been married for several decades listed “a sense of humor” among their top three reasons for their relationship’s success.
3. Be able to say “yes, Dear.”
Some things are more important than always having the last word, or always expressing your opinions. Simply saying “yes, dear” rather than “yes, dear, but…” is harder than it sounds. Communication is important, but so is knowing when to just let the other person have their say.
If you’re already doing these things, what else should you keep in mind to make your marriage strong? Here are some other ideas.
One plus one does not equal one.
There’s no such thing as a soulmate, that is, someone who is a perfect match. It’s better to think about being complementary, rather than about being “one and the same.” There will certainly be differences between you and your loved one, from minor lifestyle choices like food preferences, to bigger ones like how to raise children. The great thing about being in a relationship is being able to see the world in a different way, through someone else’s eyes. Instead of trying to fit someone into a template, cherish the different perspectives he or she has to offer.
No one’s perfect.
Expecting smooth sailing almost ensures you’ll have trouble when you hit some bumpy water. On the scale of easy to difficult, relationships surely measure up more toward the latter than the former. No one is perfect, not even the love of your life, the apple of your eye. Exercising forgiveness over small things is a good habit to get into. It helps develop creative problem-solving skills that might come in handy for whatever happens down the road.
Communication is key.
Everyone’s heard this one before, but it’s so important that it bears repeating. Be sure to listen to your partner, even when you disagree with his or her point of view. It shows respect.
Marriage should not be the death of courtship.
Here’s one last tip. Don’t stop “dating” when you get married. This is another one you’ve probably heard before, but it’s so easy to get stuck in the mindset of everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning, work, and caring for children, that sometimes we all need to take a step back and examine our relationship from a distance. When you first start seeing someone, you are each trying to “win over” the other. Your spouse or spouse-to-be probably fell in love with you because you have compatible goals and dreams and you also made him or her feel special. So keep being that person! Make time to un-bog yourself from the daily demands of life and spend regular quality time together. Cast off your worries for an evening, and just have fun!