My husband and I have been married for 35 years this summer (I got married when I was six; honestly, I did!), and my parents have been married for 62 years this fall. So there’s a reason I write about HEAs. I believe in them. I believe everyone has someone out there for them and relationships can last. My marriage grows richer by the year, and it has survived periods of poverty, layoffs, career changes, surgeries, my son’s diagnosis of autism … you name it, we’ve survived it.
If you want your relationship to last, you have to ignore some conventional wisdom:
1) Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Um, no, it doesn’t. Does it make you appreciate your partner more? Perhaps. But it can also erode a relationship if you’re not careful. A constantly absent partner is someone you can’t rely on for those difficult times when you need a lover and a friend. So you start looking elsewhere—to other friends, to your drug of choice … to the guy/gal who listens to your woes at the post office. That’s how relationships disintegrate.
If you and your partner have to be apart for your job, make sure you keep in touch in other ways. When one of us is out of town without the other, we talk every day. It may be only for a few minutes, but we at least touch base.
2) All’s fair in love and war. That one is true … if you want your relationship to be a war. Otherwise, relationships have rules: You don’t lie, cheat, or hit below the belt. That last one will destroy a relationship faster than you can say, “I do.” We all know the one thing we could say to hurt our partner deeply, and not saying it is how we show we’re grown-ups in a committed relationship.
3) Love is blind. Nope. It’s not deaf and dumb either. It does have moments of that—like when one partner asks, “Does this make me look fat?” and the other says, “You look beautiful” … and means it. But you can’t push it. Remember that you live with this person; hygiene does still matter, as do courtesy and all those things that mattered when you were dating. Can you let your hair down some? Of course. Should you take advantage of your spouse’s commitment to you to stop caring about how you look, what you do, and what you say? Certainly not.
4) He who laughs last, laughs best. We-e-e-ll, okay. I admit it’s always fun to win the argument. But being right won’t keep you cozy on a long winter’s night. Sometimes the best thing to do is stand down. Pick your battles. You’d be surprised how little it matters which way the dishwasher is loaded after you’ve been married for thirty-five years.
5) Actions speak louder than words. Sometimes. And sometimes you need the words. Sometimes you need the sappy card and the sweet goodbye and the corny memory recited in the dead of night when one of you is awakened by the baby … or a hot flash. So mix it up and do both.
6) You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Sure you can. When my husband found out he might die if he didn’t start eating right, he started eating right and exercising. Funny how that whole death-staring-you-in-the-face can motivate you. I learned more about myself—and things I’d been doing that put a strain on my marriage—after I’d been married twenty years. You’re never too old to learn; that cliché is absolutely true.
Here’s another old saw that’s equally true: “Treat others as you’d wish to be treated.” It covers a lot and should be engraved on every marriage license in the country.
Then maybe we’d have as many happily ever afters in real life as we do in books!
Featured image via cover art from Jeffries' novel "Project Duchess."
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