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What I Have Learned in 40 Years of Marriage

We celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary in the summer of 2016. We were married at 18 and 20 years of age, so we had a lot of growing up to do. Not that we were aware of that at the time. Over the years we have had our share of struggles, but we have also found ways to keep falling in love over and over again.

I want to share a few of the things that I have learned about creating a lasting marriage.

Marriage creates a people growing crucible.

A crucible in this sense could be defined as a situation of severe trial in which different elements interact leading to the creation of something new. If we work at it, what we can create is a mature love. Or, as we grow up together, our relationship improves.

Prioritize the couple relationship.

Children are very important, but should not be more important than our partner. The greatest gift that we could give our children is parents who love and respect each other and who work together as a team. There is so much security for children in a family where parents have a healthy relationship.

Be generous, especially when we least feel like being generous.

The reality is that loving feelings follow loving thoughts and actions. If we want to stay in love, we need to keep acting in love. Love is a verb, not a feeling.

Make use of forgiveness.

This means taking responsibility for our own choices and behavior, not throwing blame at each other. If we confess our own sins, rather than our partner’s sins things will go better. Apologize quickly. Forgive when needed, and it is always needed, even if it is just to regain our peace of mind. Remember forgiveness does not mean that what happened is okay; it means that we let go of the resentment.

Be careful with anger.

When we think we are justified in our anger—we need to pause and think again. Anger is just a feeling and we need to pay attention to it, figure out where the anger is coming from and what our anger is trying to tell us. However, it is never okay to unload a dump truck full of venom and frustration on our partner. We must get a hold of our self first so that we can respectfully tell our partner how we are feeling.

Set healthy boundaries.

We teach our partner how to treat us, by what we put up with or what we accept. Being calm and firm when setting boundaries helps create boundaries that stick. When we have healthy boundaries, we focus on controlling what we can control—ourselves. And we respect that our partner has their own thoughts, feelings, opinions and behaviors. We are willing to respect each other’s differences, even when we don’t like the differences. Healthy boundaries include couple boundaries and we need to have each other’s back when it comes to extended family and friends.

Create relationship enhancing habits.

Most of what we do in life, we do by habit. By choosing relationship enhancing habits we strengthen our relationship. Some relationship enhancing habit are to talk and share; to touch and show affection; to plan and dream together; to work together; to play together; to SMILE and to express gratitude.

In relationships, the little things are the big things.

It is the little everyday choices that we make. How we greet each other. How we speak to each other. Moment by moment we make choices that either nurture or erode our relationship.

I am grateful for the last 40 years that we have had together and I am looking forward to the next 40.