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Together Forever
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My wife and I will be married 30 years this May. That is not all that long, though. My parents are still going strong after 55 years. My in-laws reached 52 years before the death of my mother-in-law closed that partnership.

So what’s the secret?

It is not so much a secret as six principals that my wife and I learned them from our parents’ example. In many ways they are applied common sense.

Marry a friend. Lust passes, but friendship is forever. You spend more time with your spouse than anyone else.  You have to like someone to do that – romantic love is not enough by itself. Sharing only a physical attraction makes for a brittle marriage, because over years that comes and goes.

That “one flesh” bit? It is real. Marriage makes you part of a larger whole. You no longer come first. Your spouse no longer comes first. Your marriage comes first. What you make together. View decisions you make through the lens of “what is best for both of us?” That is hard in a society as narcissistic as today’s.

Put your kids first. Your kids are the future – and also part of both of you. This may mean you cannot “have it all,” especially since your kids need your time more than they need “things.” You have to sacrifice – material comfort and career opportunities. It is worth it – especially when your children grow into adults you are proud of. Living for something other than yourself makes you grow in ways you need to grow to make a marriage last.

Share interests, but also make time for yourself. Find common interests that you can both pursue, but at the same time allow yourself and your spouse to follow individual interests. You need time together, but you also need time apart. My wife and I are both fond of board games – but she quilts, while I make model ships.

It’s not always sweetness and light. Every marriage has rough patches. Do not let them get you down and do not quit. Some problems are pathological and incurable. A physically abusive spouse, one addicted to drugs or alcoholism, or adultery puts you in physical danger. Ending your marriage because the “new” wears off, the thrill is gone, or “because you need to grow” is foolish (and selfish). Work together – or simply hang on – until the thrill returns. Growth comes from sharing – not isolation.

Play fair and don’t cheat. I am not talking adultery when I say don’t cheat. Point two covers marriage vows. I mean play fair with your spouse whenever you have conflicts. Healthy marriages have conflicts. Conflict helps resolve issues. Keep your conflicts a boxing match, not a brawl. No one knows a person’s vulnerabilities as well as their spouse. Exploiting those vulnerabilities just to win costs you more in trust than it gains in getting your way. Fight fair. Be nice.

And if you are wondering -- my wife approved this message.
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Written by Mark N. Lardas, copyright 2006, Mark N. Lardas, all rights reserved.  Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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