What do the experts say about:
How do you know s/he is the right one?
1. Listen to your heart - are you in love or is there a gnawing feeling in your gut that something is not quite right
2. Listen to your head - is this person a "good" person or totally self-absorbed, is able to hold a job, financially responsible or deep in unnecessary debt, thinks about the future and has goals
3. Have the same core values - so you are headed in the same general direction
4. Can you get along with the in-laws - when you marry a person, you marry into the family as well
5. Same sense of humour
6. Able to communicate honestly
Three warning signs that you better run:
1. None of your friends or family like your partner
2. Explosive or disproportionate anger
3. Lacks control with alcohol or drugs
Test your potential life partner:
1. Make a list of what you would like in a partner and what are the deal breakers - how does your current love interest score?
2. Watch how the person plays a game - how does s/he handle stress, success and failure
3. Do something together that is challenging to see how you get along - ex. 8 hours in the car together, camping or anything out of each others comfort zone
How do you keep the marriage alive, vigorous and interesting?
COMMUNICATION is the key. Without it there is no true intimacy in a relationship.
Going into my 36th year of marriage, I can definitely agree with the above statements. A couple needs to talk rationally, respectfully, constructively and freely when important issues or decisions need to be made. Just taking the time to talk to each other every day is so important.
1. No one is a mind reader so express how you feel - get the other person to repeat back to you what they heard so there is no misunderstanding
2. Mind your manners - be polite when you talk to the person you love - words spoken in anger can't be taken back
3. Find a good time to talk - free from distractions, when both are in a calmer, more rational space and no one is hungry
4. Have code word or system that signals to the other person that you need to put off the discussion to a later time because emotions are getting in the way
5. Try to see your partner's side of the argument so that you can have a more objective view of the situation and can better decide the level of importance of the disagreement - will it be important when you are both 80 years old?
6. Really listen to your partner and don't try to fix things- just listen
I like to remember the "WIN" formula for communication.
When this happens - I feel - I need .....
ex. When I get dressed up, I feel unappreciated when you don't compliment me and I need you to notice and say something nice.
Avoid the accusing "you" - ex. You don't appreciate me when I try to look good for you. Your partner is much more apt to go on the defensive when there is fingering pointing.
Also remember that your partner may not verbally state that s/he loves you as often as you would like, but rather s/he shows it through his or her actions. Again ask for what you need in the relationship.
Getting through the difficult times?
1. Put your relationship before the kids- make time for each other on a regular basis - nothing elaborate- take some time to re-connect
2. Don't bring the stress of work home - don't let the bad mood carry over to your family life
3. Put your spouse first and then your parents
4. Share chores and assign according to strengths - ex. there are no strictly male and female household chores - what are you good at?
5. Work as a team- have each others back- what is good for the unit?
6. Avoid unnecessary debt and the urge to keep up with the "Jones"
7. Schedule monthly family meetings to manage stressful issues
8. Honest, respectful communication - worth repeating
9. Hopefully your relationship started out as friends because youthful good looks does not last forever
10. Associate with couples that are good mentors
11. No one is perfect so focus on your partner's good points
12. Don't hold grudges - agree to talk things out at a good time so you don't go to bed angry and wake up feeling worse
13. Get professional help before ever considering divorce - a neutral party's perspective may be all that you need to re-charge and re-new your relationship
How do you keep the spark alive?
1. Little unexpected surprises aside from the usual holiday ritual
2. Give compliments to each other
3. Do the other person's chore on occasion
4. Have fun, laugh and spend time together
6. Volunteer together for a community cause
7. Keep up your health and appearance to the best of your ability
8. Share an interest of your partner's as well as pursing your own
9. Communicate regularly - builds a strong and effective team
Finally, the question that every young couple wants to know and yet doesn't want to think about it - is there sex after 40? The experts say that sexuality does continue throughout your whole life. If your mind is intact and your body willing it is still an important component to the intimacy of a marriage. Maybe not at the same level of youthful intensity and vigour but nevertheless it has its place in the latter years of life. Experiencing life together, overcoming struggles and celebrating life's magic moments together has the potential to deepen love and re-define the sexual appetite. The definition of sex tends to expand as does the definition of love. Cuddling, hugging, a tender touch, kissing and holding hands can become just as intimate and potent as the sexual act itself.
Again continued communication, respect and appreciation for each other, taking time for each other, having some fun, and not stressing about the small stuff (will it matter 50 years from now) are the emotional ingredients to help keep the physical aspects of marriage kicking.
Marriage or any committed relationship allows you the opportunity to share life experiences together, to discover the real person that you are and to love and be loved in the process. Marriage is a process and it is forever changing - you and your partner determine how it unfolds on a day to day basis. It is worth the effort and you have to put in the effort.
I feel that a good relationship is not based on the quantity of years but the quality of the partnership - although you hope to work towards both. Whatever the outcome, the experience is a success if personal growth is realized, life lessons learned, an open heart is maintained and love is still the ultimate goal.
For more details and anecdotal dialogue from "The Experts", check out Karl Pillemer's book.