Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What it Really Takes to Stay Married

I just read this today and wanted to share this article and my thoughts on it as well.

1. Know That Happily-Ever-After Is A Myth:

Lower your expectations; it's dangerous fantasy to think marriage really means you get to be happy forever. Expecting perfection in a marriage or a mate is a fast ticket to divorce. Listen to the longtime wives on this point: The happiest women have a clear sense of purpose and passion outside of their relationships. We realize that a marriage that runs on multiple tracks makes for a more satisfied spouse who gets to have it both ways -- a committed marriage and personal adventures in uncharted territory. Marital bliss is possible if each partner is blissful without the other.

From a very young age, most girls are spoon fed the "prince charming" fantasy and so there is this unrealistic expectation of what marriage will really mean. Isn't it interesting that all the Fairy Tales end with the kiss or the wedding and everyone lives "happily ever after ..." Yet, we are never privy to exactly how their "happily ever after" unfolds. Instead of raising our girls to find men, we should be raising our girls to find themselves.
A strong confident woman who knows who she is and knows what she wants for her life, is far more likely to find a healthy partner with whom to create a lasting relationship; a relationship that will include mutual respect and an equal partnership. Let's also teach our children that love is not based on emotion; love is a commitment to give of yourself to someone even when times are tough and you're just not feeling it!

2. Don't compare your marriage to anyone else's:
It's your relationship, not your sister's, not your mother's, and there is no gold standard marriage. Everyone has issues, problems, and most importantly, their own secrets. Your girlfriend who is always calling her husband "sweetie" and sits with her legs twined with his may be flinging dishes at him when no one is around. So don't worry that your marriage isn't measuring up. Because no one knows what's really going on in a marriage except the two people in it. That gives each of us the freedom to write our own rules.

I love that! "Write your own rules." Its the same advice I was given and still  give to new parents, "Do what works for you!" This is your life, your marriage, your family - remember when you were little and you couldn't wait to grow up so you could do things the way you wanted to? Well, here you are, grown up, time to do it the way you've always wanted to. Talk to each other about what's working and whats not, be willing to make changes, and stop listening to what everyone else is saying, especially family. 

3. Hang out with outrageous girlfriends and boyfriends -- with boundaries:
The wives with the highest marital satisfaction have a tight circle of wild women friends with whom to drink, travel and vent. Close friendships provide the escape hatch from the inevitable storms that come with living with somebody year-to-year in the grind of ordinary life. Women who love the company of men shouldn't have to eliminate men friends from their lives. These extra-marital males who always think we're beautiful and smart (because they don't live with us :)) definitely make for a perkier wife. So marry someone who is confident and flexible, a man who knows that the more people, male and female, who bolster your self-esteem means there's less work for him!

Jeremy and I have always been open to the other having friendship with same and opposite sex friends. We both have them and we're both okay with that because we TRUST each other. We openly joke about our "list," you know the infamous list from "Friends?" I know he loves Natalie Portman and he knows I was totally in love with Keith Urban for a while but lately I am more into Bradley Cooper ... :) We also chat about the real day to day people we find attractive as well. Be Real! Just because you're married doesn't mean you will never be attracted to someone else, but be open and honest about it. On another note we each need time apart with friends, to be ourselves not Mr. & Mrs.,  not Mom & Dad, just Leah & Jeremy.

4. Take Separate Vacations:
You like to camp and your husband likes to golf? Spend a month of the summer in the Adirondacks while he goes with his buddies to Scottsdale or better yet, Scotland. Obviously this works better once empty nest hits. After some weeks apart from each other, removed from clashing over bills and in-laws, marriage seems way hotter than the tepid state in which you left each other. Make sure you have the fundamental quality of trust going into a marriage. Trust allows couples to liberate each other to explore their own passions independently. And partners who keep growing as individuals during each phase of a marriage are the ones with the best chance of growing together and staying together.

We're not quite here yet, but it sounds wonderful! We are still trying to find the time for a night away together or the funds for a family vacation ... although I have been away on a girls weekend and hope to again soon. Guess I owe him one ... :)

5. Remember to talk to each other, and to have sex:
In between wifely gallivants and self-exploration, remember to love the guy you're with -- kiss him hello and goodbye, and make time for conversation, no matter how crammed your two-career schedules are. Don't forget to have sex -- sex is really relaxing and fun and can make all your woes go away, at least for eleven minutes or so! Express gratitude to this guy who is giving you something huge: This is the person who can help you build a safe harbor in a world of chaos and uncertainly. He can give you children. After years of having to Spanx every body part in order to impress your dates, your husband is the prince who gave you the freedom to soften at the belly, and to finally relax. The biggest surprise secret I found is how many wives are still enjoying sex after 75 with their mates of 50-plus years!

This seemed SO easy before we had a baby and then our carefree world was wonderfully, crazily, tipped upside down by our beautiful, lovebug. Now we have to actually plan time for ourselves and to be completely honest, we had a very deep, heart to heart about this recently - I won't speak for Jeremy, but I will say that I realized that I was making time for everything else in my life but for him. I had put him on the bottom of my list of priorities. I think in some way, I felt safe to do this because I like to think he'd never actually leave and somehow I felt justified as well, because I needed time for myself especially now that I am a mom. True as that may be, why did I decide I couldn't make time for love? I mean isn't that why I got married in the first place, isn't that why I decided I wanted to have a baby? Because of love?  I want my family to thrive, but it can only thrive on love, and that has to start from the top and work its way down. No he's not always perfect, but neither am I and so enough excuses! Our relationship is a priority.

6. Don't try to win every fight:
Surrender once in a while instead of always having to be right. Couples who stomp off with unresolved conflicts end up holding onto vintage rage, and antique blame that forms toxic wedges over time. Even if you can't forgive and forget, at least let go and move on when snarly brawls and/or plate-throwing erupts behind your own closed doors. Say "I'm sorry", even if you're not sorry one bit. Showing compassion definitely makes spouses behave better. And the ability to bounce back from strife is the real secret that makes marriages last forever.

My mom always told me I didn't know when to shut my mouth and boy was she right! When we were first married, oh my, we fought and fought and fought. Then one day it dawned on me, why did I always have to add fuel to the fire? Why did I have to turn a small argument into a raging fight? Some things don't need to be said, EVER, even when you really want to! Other things need to be said, but maybe not right away. Now I can't say I have perfected this or that I am always quick to watch what I say, I mean especially after a baby and dealing with sleep deprivation, but I have determined to be more mindful of what I say. My newest goal for myself has been to cut down on the negativity and begin to speak more positively into my surroundings, into my family, into my friends, and into anyone I come in contact with. I want peace in all aspects of my life and that includes my marriage. Being right isn't always worth it.

These points are inspired by a book entitled, "The Secret Lives Wives:Women Share What it Really Takes to Stay Married " and were taken from an article entitled "6 Secrets to Staying Married Forever," both of which were written by Iris Krasnow, an assistant professor in the School of Communication at American University

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