Two hands with wedding rings

Lessons from 24 years of marriage (and counting)

This isn’t a relationship advice blog. But my wife and I are approaching our 24th wedding anniversary next month and we’re still talking to each other. So, in the spirit of being intentional in all aspects of my life, I’ve spent some time reflecting on what I’ve learned about marriage and relationships.

Firstly, a marriage is a process that requires ongoing attention. It’s not just a case of get the certificate and you’re all set. A marriage, like any relationship, needs to be nurtured if it is to thrive. Neglect it and it’ll wither and die. Just because you’re in a relationship, doesn’t mean you can stop working on the relationship.

Secondly, even when you’re married, you’re still you. You can still have your own ideas and opinions. Indeed, it’s important that you do. You’re married to the person you’re married to because they like you. Don’t muck it up by starting to be someone else. Or, worse, by disappearing into the relationship without trace.

One of the things that’s guaranteed to wind up my wife is if she asks me what I want to eat for dinner, do at the weekend, watch on TV or something and I reply along the lines of “I don’t know. What would you like to eat/do/watch/whatever?” I think I’m being thoughtful and accommodating, but apparently I’m not.

Thirdly, I’ve learned (slightly more recently that I’d like to admit) that when my wife comes home and tells me about one or more problems she’s experienced over the course of her day, this is not an invitation for me to propose a solution. She is simply getting things off her chest. My role is to listen supportively.

(Seriously, this realisation has made a massive difference to our relationship. I really can’t believe it’s not in the national curriculum.)

Fourthly, having an agreed way to make a collective choice from a number of options saves time and aggravation. It doesn’t matter what approach you use, as long as you have one. Otherwise, you’ll find yourselves reinventing the wheel each time. And that’ll end up being a problem.

Let’s say my wife and I are trying to decide what DVD we want to watch. Our approach is that my wife will choose five. I’ll then whittle it down to three, thus veto-ing two that I really don’t want to watch. She then selects from among the final three. Or we do it the other way around. This approach also works when choosing holiday destinations, restaurants and, indeed, pretty much anything.

Finally (and this is really important), whenever we come up against a problem, it’s not her against me. It’s both of us against the problem. Whatever that problem may be and regardless how it has arisen. Because we’re a team. We work together. And we both have each other’s backs. Without reservation. That’s what marriage – and, indeed, any relationship – is all about.

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