We don’t get to see what comes next.
We don’t see how they cope with the realities of life. We don’t see how they adjust to living together or what happens after the wedding and the honeymoon. Most of all, we don’t see how couples stay together, year after year, through raising kids, job losses, ill health, in-laws and all the other daily things that make up a life.
My first marriage lasted nine years and I ended up with three gorgeous boys. That first marriage taught me a lot, mostly what I didn’t want in a relationship. Then I was incredibly lucky to meet my current husband and we have been together happily defying the statistics for the past 23 years.
Second marriages often fail. Part of that is what Oprah calls “showing up wearing another pair of pants”. You haven’t worked through all your issues so you attract the same kind of person over and over until you finally get the lesson. The other part of that is the strain of blending two families together — it doesn’t always look like “The Brady Bunch.”
Our family kind of did look a bit like that as I had three sons and my partner had four daughters but that was where the similarity ended. It wasn’t all smiling faces and there was no “Alice, the housekeeper,” although I could have really used one of those!
What I learned was this — staying together takes work and commitment, which doesn’t sound very sexy but it’s the truth. What that looked like for us were these simple steps:
1. Be committed.
When the going gets tough (and it will get tough at times) be there for each other. It is easy to fall into blaming or pitching a fit but the best thing you can do is to talk it out.
I wasn’t good at this in the beginning. I figured that I had walked out on one marriage and I could do it again, I would survive (Cue Gloria Gaynor’s song “I will Survive” as the theme song for my life.) I slowly figured out that hanging on together was a much better option and talking things through made everyone feel happier.
2. Take time as a couple.
Making time to reconnect with each other every day, without the kids is the number one priority. Taking just half an hour to share what’s going on for each of you at the end of the day is a key strategy to a lasting relationship. The kids will take up all available time if you let them.
When we had five of them living with us, it would have been easy to focus just on them and we did give them all lots of attention. We also made it a point to spend time as a couple, especially at the end of the day and it is something we still do now that all the kids have left home.
3. Touch base during the day
Now that we all have cell phones this is easier than ever. A simple text to let the other person know you are thinking of them goes a long way to making them feel appreciated. A flirty text also helps keep the sexual tension between the two of you turned up to high.
4. Learn each other’s love language.
If you haven’t already read Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages,” do your marriage a favor and read it now. Learning what to do so the other person feels loved is relationship gold. Once you understand that we all have different love languages and that what your partner needs is not necessarily what you have been giving them (and vice versa), you can change. This one small thing can make a huge difference.
I need words of affirmation,whereas my partner had been doing acts of service — emptying the rubbish, checking the oil in my car — to show he loved me. While I thought all of that was great, it didn’t translate into me feeling loved. Now he understands that I need him to say, “I love you. I’m proud of you” and I’ve learned that I need to do more acts of service for him — making him cups of tea, cooking his favorite meals, etc.
And finally — 5. Communication.
Talk and talk and talk some more. Talk about your dreams, hopes and visions for the future. Talk about the old days when you first got together. Talk about how you have grown together and what you still look forward to. Talk about the kids and how they are doing. Talk about your problems — even the ones that are hard to talk about. Talk about your fears.
The more you talk with each other, the more you will discover about this amazing person you have chosen to spend your life with and the more you will fall in love with them every day.
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