This August, my husband and I will be celebrating 35 years of marriage. Yes, we even did it all wrong. I was truly a child bride.
What is real is that we are "happily enough" married. Still. The truth is, that we have all kinds of shit going down around us all the time. Not one thing. A ton of things. And a lot works about our marriage, and some things will always be problems because we have relationship patterns that suck sometimes. As a love, sexuality and relationship consultant, I know all about relationship patterns, and my husband and I definitely have them.
Our marriage is a blend of old world ideals and lots of stuff that we make up as we go along. Some of what makes our marriage work may not work for you but it works for us and that is key. Our relationships belong to us and nobody else.
Now, staying together for close to four decades of long-term relationship/marriage is kinda a big deal in a world where people celebrate weddings more than they actually stay together. I remember someone telling me that they didn't want what my husband and I have together, and I remember telling them that they didn't have a clue. Most people really don't. To have a happy, and fulfilling long term relationship you need to be able to do a few things besides not dying:
1. Suck it up and turn the other way. Door slamming and walking out doesn't ever work. Emotional explosions/tantrums are for 3-year-olds. They don't work in marriages/relationships. And you really don't have to talk everything out.
2. Be more than willing to let things go.
3. Acknowledge each other's humanness.
4. Be a fucking cheerleader.
5. Forget sexy date nights as the key to a long-term relationship. Instead, do the fucking dishes. Pour each other coffee in the morning. Put toothpaste on each other's toothbrush so you find it waiting for you. It's THAT stuff that will hold you together -- believe it or not -- the sex educator here will tell you that it is NOT 25 positions and the Karma Sultra.
6. Hold each other. Hold hands. Cuddle. Touch. Marriage needs to be a cuddle party that never ends.
7. Don't lie.
8. Don't tell each other everything. There is a big difference between privacy and secrecy. Everyone needs their own space -- even extroverts.
9. Share activities and adventures.
10. Have separate activities and adventures.
11. Share an erotic life.
12. Have a private erotic life.
13. Praise each other a lot.
14 Keep some of your life private. Protect each other.
15. Take an interest in each other's work.
16. Have your own money.
17. Share money.
18. Have your own friends.
19. Share friends.
20. Ask before you choose a movie on Netflix , or turn the channel if the other person wants to watch what you want to watch too.
21. Relationships that go the long haul are not about controlling your partner.
22. Keep your jealousy in check. It might wreck you and them.
24. If your partner says go away. You might want to for a little while, but checking in and reaching back is always a good idea. Even if it's to say: "You know, I love you. I want you in my life. We can work this out." Sometimes, when we push people away out of hurt and anger -- what we really want is for them is to come closer.
Yep. 35 years this summer. I might have learned something, and I am happy to share.
Pamela Madsen runs retreats around the country to help women re-connect to their bodies and sensuous nature and is author of the book; "Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner" (Rodale 2011).