One Simple Piece of Relationship Advice

I met my husband 36 years ago this week, and we've been married for nearly 35 years.

Sometimes people meet couples our age and wonder, "How do you do it?"  I guess they believe we've been perfectly fulfilled and blissful for all of that time.

Here's the marriage is perfectly fulfilling and blissful all of the time.  Every marriage has rough patches, and some of those patches are pretty big.

In fact, for the last few years, my husband and I have had a pretty intense "no go" area in the middle of our relationship.  This is an important issue we just haven't been able to resolve.  The best we've been able to do is to call a truce and accept our strongly held differences.  I believe that our commitment to each other is strong enough to allow this basic dissonance to persist.

In spite of that, Jon remains the most important person in my life.  I adore my children, but I couldn't imagine life without their father.  He is my rock, and I hope he feels the same about me.  We know each other and trust each other more than anyone else.

photo courtesy of D. Wilson

Here's what makes a difference.

When I make the effort to treat Jon the way I did when we were first in love, he quickly responds by treating me with more love and thoughtfulness.

Sometimes we expect so much from our partners that they can never please us.  I'm guilty of that.  But I don't have those expectations of other people!  I know that no one is perfect, and I usually have patience with that.  But I admit that my good humor doesn't always extend to my significant other.

Why is it that we so often show more kindness and forbearance with people outside of our marriage (for example:  being patient when your boss is being wordy, or readily forgiving the person who makes a mistake and says "sorry" rather than holding a grudge)?  Is it because we take the love of our spouse for granted, and realize that we have to earn the respect and esteem of others?

It's true that we should be able to relax with our loved ones, confident that they care for us.  But when we take that for granted, we belittle them and act as if their presence in our life has no value.

Yes, both partners in a relationship have an equal responsibility to make that relationship work.  In a perfect world, there would be a balance of give and take, and we would all feel that our needs were being met all of the time.

But this is the real world!  And keeping score will always make us feel slighted.  Then we pout or fuss or otherwise withhold love.  This insures that no one is happy.

It's not what you think.

Marriage is not a 50-50 proposition.  It's a 100% proposition for both people.

Each person must give his or her best.  It's so easy to say, "Why should I bother?  He's just going to do that same thing to annoy me again!"  It's so easy to feel self righteous and say "He's not doing his part; why should I do mine?"

I know I've felt that way.

It comes down to the Golden Rule, and it's just sad that we might apply that more consistently to other people than we do to our spouses.

So maybe my complaining has become his background noise.  How can I really get his attention?  I can blow his socks off by showing a cheerful, loving attitude with no hint of a whine.  Even if I don't particularly feel like it, I can act as if I'm happy and blessed to be with him.  And guess what?  His positive response is going to reinforce my good attitude, making it stronger and more genuine.

A better marriage starts with you.

Isn't that empowering?  You hold the answer, and it starts with your attitude.  If you allow stress, anger, and self-pity to build up, you're not taking good care of yourself.  So do this for you.  When you set an example of love, he will notice, and it will set the tone for your entire relationship.


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