Garry and I have been married for over 32 years and we’re honestly happier than ever. Not that it’s always been easy; anything this valuable doesn’t come without a price. We’ve earned our marriage battle scars, but more importantly, when faced with the hardness of life, we’ve taken the path of joy and having a good laugh at out own expense more often than any other.
More than once in our married life, people have asked us our secret to staying happily married. Always makes me laugh. How about this for our secret: Stay together.
Key #1 : Stay together.
Easy to say. Just two small words. But, baby, some days those two words were about the hardest and largest things to do.
That’s right. We’ve had our moments when we both wanted to leave. I’M OUT! Last count, mine was twice. I was so mad, enraged, so white-hot-angry that I couldn’t see a way for us to stay together. Luckily, I always allowed myself the time to think, to cool my jets, to contemplate what a divorce would mean for me, for Boy and for Garry. At those moments, staying together didn’t feel like a secret to a happy marriage, but all these years later it turned out that it was key.
Over the years, our differences grew less and less. Parenting a baby turned into parenting a small child, which quickly turned into parenting a teen, which eventually led to an empty nest. Let me tell you this, if you only take one thing away from this post, let it be this: Stay active in your spouse’s life; go out of your way to spend time together, alone, while your children are still at home. When your last birdie flies, if you don’t have anything in common any more, if all you had were the kiddies…and now they’re gone building their nest…you will face a crisis in your marriage that may be too tough to overcome.
Key #2: Do stuff together.
Doesn’t matter what the stuff is, just do something, anything, together regularly.
Pick a day; have some fun. Garry and I each like having one weekend day with no outside plans, with or without the other. During the season, Garry loves to watch football all day long on Sundays. Me, not so much. I get stir crazy. Who am I to insist that he get out of the house and spend time with me when he lurvs him some football?! Easy solution: Saturday.
Come Saturday, we play. Lately we’ve been contemplating a new pup as a pal for Dex, so we head out to Pet’s Mart to check out the foster babies they bring in. Then, maybe a little shopping. Lunch. Throw in a late afternoon movie or a Netflix marathon and you’ve got a happy twosome.
The stuff we do changes with the seasons, but if we don’t get our time together (during the week is hard, yo) we both get cranky. Even the mundane is enough to fill our hearts.
Too tame for you? Fine. Do your wild thangs, baby. Just do.
Key #3: Sexy Intimacy
Whippersnappers can’t imagine anyone over the age of 40 having sex without that look on their face. Head’s up buttercups: Sex with someone you’ve known for years, with someone who adores you, with someone who not only loves you, but cares about you is a glorious gift of a happy marriage.
Bodies don’t have to be hard and taut. Bits and pieces don’t need to align with society’s ideal of beauty. You can simply be yourself, which leads to a strong sense of intimacy.
There is a sweet gratitude in watching the body of your mate change, just as yours does. Being allowed time in a relationship means adapting everyday to change. The bodies we bring into our marriages are not the bodies we take out, yet the tale each shift of our bodies documents is a comfort to us as we travel into aging together. If sex starts in the brain, I’ll go further and say if one is well-loved, then one loves well. The intimacy of love is more than the physical act of sex, yet the physical act of sex is, um, sexy when coupled with intimacy.
Key #4: Communication
Don’t know if y’all have picked up on this, but I’m a talker. I want to communicate ALL THE THINGS! Which you would think is good. Get it out, baby! Until you’re married to a more quiet kinda guy. When something is bothering me, out it comes. When something is bothering Garry, he gets even more quiet than normal. The key to us figuring out how much talking, how much solving, how many words are going to be used, is communicating.
He’ll tell me if he needs more time to think. I’ll tell him that I need to say just. one. more. thing. He’ll tell me to stop. I’ll tell him that I need to say just. one. more. thing. He’ll say that we should talk some more about it after we’ve had time to think. I’ll say okay, but I need to say just. one. more. thing. He’ll relent. We both get to sleep that night.
mostly, but not really kidding, we’ve been married long enough to know exactly where our lines in the sand are…and where we’ve hidden the swords. No one gets cut as long as they stay away from the swords!
IMPORTANT NOTE: While we have had our huge disagreements, it’s rare that we stab each other in the heart when we do, meaning we try like hell to not name-call or say things that will linger long after forgiveness has been begged. Throughout the years, we’ve been pretty good about just shooting daggers at the other while thinking horrible things about the other instead of saying them. I think this one thing has been a saving grace to our marriage as we both have fiery tempers at times. Touch the sun; GET BURNED!
Key #5: Humor
For me, humor may be the second most important key in our happy marriage. We laugh daily in our home. Many of those days we laugh hard, like tears coming down your face, hard. If life is the wound, humor is the salve. We gots it in spades.
After each and every one of our big, divorce-provoking, arguments, we have laughed, sometimes for years afterwards, about how stupid things got. We even do impersonations of the other, complete with voices. Remember how MAD you were stomping out the door? Oh-ho! Look at me…I’m MAD! Some might think the mocking is cruel, but we find it highly amusing because there is love and trust behind the fun. There is not much in this world that couldn’t be healed with a well-time and highly amusing impersonation of a person going off.
One fight even gave us a catch-phrase that we still use today: It’s more than just a cheeseburger. When one of us utters those words, I’m instantly taken back to that moment and have another laugh over the ridiculousness that was our fight.
Humor has an honored place in our lives. It has eased us through the pain of losing loved ones, through the hardship of 3 rounds of unemployment, through the bittersweet moment of sending Boy off on his own, through the unpredictability of cancer, through the terrifying aspects of serious health issues, through the ridiculous arguments that cemented us together in love and through the unmeasurable joy and blessing that has been our lives together.
There you have it. Our five keys may not be your five keys, but I’m willing to bet you have the majority of them if you’re in a happy marriage. The trick is to keep them over the years instead of throwing them in that weird Bermuda Triangle kitchen junk drawer. You may find them again, but you’ll have to test them on every door until you find out where they go.
Got a key not listed? I’d love to know what it is.