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Recently, a fellow blogger reached out to me about guest posting on her website Agapephelia. Lisamarie, a life coach, had seen an Instagram post in which I announced my thirty-first wedding anniversary. She asked if I would be willing to share some insight into some of the factors that contributed to my long-term marriage. Naturally, I accepted, and writing that post led me into a deep dive into identifying many ways to nurture a midlife marriage.
In my post for Agapephilia, (which I will of course link to as soon as it’s published!) I focused on the need for honesty and listening skills, friendships outside of the marriage, and the need to accept that everything your partner does doesn’t necessarily reflect back on you – good or bad. I talked of the need to QTIP – Quit Taking It Personally.
Of course, I feel like I barely scraped the surface of the factors that contribute to an effective relationship, so I wanted to add a few more thoughts here on my own blog today.
Please note: I am not even going to pretend, in that post or this one, that I have all the answers! Why not? Because despite being married for thirty one years, here’s the harsh truth:
I can’t tell you for sure what makes a marriage work.
But I can share some ways to nurture a marriage, that will help to strengthen the bond between two people and possibly make it more likely for the relationship to last. Hopefully, I can offer a nugget or two of wisdom that you will want to apply in your own life.
The Truth About Marriage
Here is one thing I know to be true: Marriage is hard. And it’s hard because it always involves two human beings. Two personalities, two backgrounds, two histories, two ways of thinking and doing and acting and living. And as long as there are two reasonably complete, individual souls involved, there will be conflict. There will be confusion. There will be disagreements.
“A long marriage is two people trying to dance a duet and two solos at the same time.”
Anne Taylor Fleming
Any relationship worth having will have huge, soaring, blissful, idyllic times.
But it will also spend plenty of time crawling through the mud, strangled, sore, bruised, and broken.
Yes, my marriage has lasted a long time, but it’s not perfect, never has been, never will be. And it shouldn’t be, because it incorporates two complete but separate individuals. Like every relationship, it is its own special blend of behaviors, emotions, situations, histories, wants, and needs. As no two people are like myself and my husband, no other relationship is like ours.
4 Ways to Nurture Your Midlife Marriage
1. Understand Your Communication Styles
Honesty, of course, is key to building trust in a marriage. Listening skills are vital as well – listening to understand, not just respond, to what your partner is expressing.
But what about your style of communicating? Are you a match, or do you approach communication differently? My husband and I are very different. He goes wide – he has a broad knowledge base, and can talk about almost any topic with anyone at any time. I, on the other hand, prefer to go deep. I am far more introspective than he is, and prefer substantive conversations with someone I know over small talk with strangers. When mulling a problem, he likes to think it through on his own. I like to talk things out.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of these communication styles – as long as we have an understanding of the other person’s ways. If he expected me to subsist on light conversation, or if I always wanted him to get deep and philosophical, there would certainly be conflict. But when we recognize and respect each other’s communication styles, we do fine. Together, we create a balance.
2. Speak Each Other’s Love Language
The concept of love languages was developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, who has written a multitude of books on the subject. I highly recommend them!
According to Dr. Chapman’s theory, there are five general ways that romantic partners express and experience love, which Chapman calls “love languages”. For each person, one love language predominates. In order to best express our love for our partner, we need to know each other’s prefered love language, understand it, and speak to each other in the ways that matter the most to them. The five love languages include Words of Affirmation; Physical Touch; Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Acts of Service.
If you are unfamiliar with Dr. Chapman and the love languages, I highly recommend his books. They will open your eyes to so much you’ve never thought of before.
3. Be Each Other’s Strong Shoulder
As I’ve mentioned, every long lasting relationship goes through plenty of difficult times as the years pass. Balancing careers, raising children, inevitable clashes over housework and finances, illness and disease. And then the children grow up and suddenly you are an “empty nester”, your parents grow ill or pass on, your friends move away. A new stressor, be it internal in the marriage or external, is around every corner.
It’s so, so important that we support our spouses at these times. We need to be able to offer a strong shoulder for the other to lean on when times get tough, and both spouses must do their fair share of leaning on, and being leaned on. This is a positive form of mutual dependency.
I am not suggesting brutal self-sacrifice here. It’s vital that you care for yourself, as well. But if one partner is experiencing the greater hardship, it helps if the other can be calm and supportive until the first has a chance to move forward into a place of healing.
4. Realize That Marriage is a Choice to be Made Every Day
It’s not hard to get married. It’s not hard to get divorced. Millions of couples do each every year. I make a conscious, daily choice to be with the person I am married to.
There are alternatives out there. There’s plenty of temptation, fear of missing out, shiny object syndrome, and other distractions to take you away from your commitment.
But, if you want to be married, you must make it a choice – every single day. Don’t assume it will survive on its own. Think of your marriage as an infant. Nurture it. Help it. Love it. Recognize that you have power to craft a lasting relationship, and own that power.
“BEING IN A LONG MARRIAGE IS A LITTLE BIT LIKE THAT NICE CUP OF COFFEE EVERY MORNING – I MIGHT HAVE IT EVERY DAY, BUT I STILL ENJOY IT.”STEPHEN GAINES
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Final Thoughts on 4 Ways to Nurture Your Midlife Marriage
I encourage you to try out these ways of nurturing your midlife marriage, if only to see how they work for your relationship. Again, I encourage you to:
- Understand Each Other’s Communication Styles
- Speak Each Other’s Love Language
- Be Each Other’s Strong Shoulder
- Realize that Marriage is a Choice to be Made Every Day
Hopefully, I’ve given you some food for thought, some new ways to look at your marriage. Do I have all the answers? Certainly not! Marriage is made up of a lot of big things, and a hundred million little things. And a big dose of luck, honestly, because there are never any guarantees.