Kevin and I have been married for 20 years. Count ‘em – one, two, three, four, five, 20. I’ll probably mention it until we get to 21 because I think 20 years of marriage is an accomplishment. But… maybe the number of years married isn’t the major milestone as much as our ability to grow together as a couple during that time.
Let’s be clear: marriage is not easy. It’s work. It’s giving up your right for his wrong to keep the peace. It’s accepting all of her faults because you know she’s not perfect and you still love her. It’s showing up every day, whether you’re enjoying a good day together or just trying to get through a bad one. It’s appreciating the bond created by experiencing both and knowing your relationship can handle whatever comes next.
Here’s how Kevin and I got to 20 years of marriage (in no particular order):
Listen more than you talk. Stay in the moment during conversations and listen to what your partner is saying without letting your mind wander to how it will affect you. Bonus tip: Advice is not always necessary or welcome. Sometimes your partner just needs to talk and all they need you to do is listen.
My way or…
Learn the art of compromise. You’re not always right and he’s not always wrong. (Kevin, this is not applicable to you!) Find a middle ground you can both accept. Get through the situation and, if necessary, talk about why you wanted X and your partner wanted Z. Talking through it will help you either avoid a repeat of the situation in the future, or help you establish a long-term compromise.
Games people play
Get a game system. Hear me out on this one! Kevin loves playing video games. He can spend hours playing Madden Football or NBA Live. He’s in his element – it’s how he relaxes. Nothing about a video game interests me, but it’s his thing so I encourage it. We both win because I also get some serious “me” time in this situation. When he’s relaxed and ready to hang with me before I’m relaxed, though, sometimes I do get annoyed. I’m like, “Dude! Play another game and get even more relaxed!”
Who are you?
Accept who your partner is, not who you wish they’d become “if they’d just…” Your partner “as is” is who you fell in love with, right? If you enjoy parties and your partner is a homebody, go to the party solo. If you love shopping and your partner would rather hammer nails into his eyeballs, leave him at home and hit the mall alone. Don’t try to change what, apparently, worked for you when you walked down the aisle.
Why am I still here?
Remember why your partner is the one. It’s important to remember why you fell in love with your partner, especially during the rough times. Believe me, rough times will come, no matter how happy you are. Remember the laugh that captivated you from across a crowded room, the smile that still gives you goosebumps, and the kindness that restores your faith in people. Those memories and feelings will help you get through the moments when your partner is intentionally annoying, extra aggravating, and jumping on your last nerve like it’s a trampoline.
Every marriage is different because every couple is different. The ties that bind a couple together will be different, too.
I’m looking forward to the next 20 years with Kevin. We’ve already nailed the golden rule of marriage (marry your best friend), so everything else is just living and choosing each other every day.
What advice would you give couples for a lasting relationship?