Around ten years ago I was texting with my dad about Christmas present ideas he had in mind for my mom. Eventually the conversation led to him saying, “She drives me nuts but I don’t know what I would do without her.”
Fast-forward a decade and I’m standing in the hospital watching my mom learn how to remove the inner cannula from my dad’s brand new tracheostomy, clean it, and then put it back in. My dad winces but not because he’s scared of someone with absolute zero medical training practically shoving a piece of plastic into his freshly-cut throat. He winces because he’s simply sore. But his eyes are closed and his shoulders are relaxed because he trusts her.
My mom is wincing too because she is scared. She’s frightened that she will do something wrong. She’s scared that she’ll hurt him and that doesn’t physically hurt her but you could see the pain in her eyes that day.
They’ve been married for 40 years. How does one build a marriage this strong? Is there a science to it? Is it just the right mixture of luck and good faith? Or are there secrets to a long-lasting love that so many of us yearn to learn about?
Well, they may not actually be secrets but there are plenty of beautiful stories, tips, advice, why’s and how’s of staying in a committed, loving relationship that lasts a lifetime. Here’s what I found to be the most important and most popular pieces to the puzzle:
The Secrets To Long-Lasting Love
When building a home, one of the main goals is to be sure that the foundation is solid, strong, and without cracks. It needs to be a sturdy enough structure to weather the storms and to fall back on when the outside gets a little too tough to bear. That same sentiment can be used when talking about relationships. The more stable the foundation, the longer that relationship will continue to flourish. And a romantic relationship founded in friendship is one of the strongest.
The same kind of support that we’re all used to handing out to our best friends – being their biggest cheerleaders and “hype” people – is exactly what’s needed in a long-term, committed relationship.
“We rarely criticize our friends or put them down in public, and we often take our time to listen to them and understand their perspective, even if we think they’re wrong.
It would make sense, then, that the person for whom you already do all of these things would make the best relationship partner,” says Elite Daily.
What works for us is being best friends. We’re incredibly weird together, have polar opposite personalities, communicate and laugh a whole lot, and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. We’ve done a lot of things backwards and have grown up together. We’ve always said our marriage is not a one-way street. I don’t fall for that old school crap about “THE MAN” being the breadwinner and the wife being the quiet housewife that does all of the cooking and cleaning. When I was in nursing school and working, Ryan did EVERYTHING. He cooked, cleaned, worked with Jack on his homework, and never once did he complain, all while working 50+ hours a week. We both work and share the responsibilities at home. – Lauren & Ryan Allers, 11 years
What’s one of the main things that we all do with our dearest of friends? We laugh, of course. And that should also be the case with our romantic partners. Laughter is a beautiful form of natural medicine. It connects us, it builds memories, and it amps of the likeability factor between spouses as well.
Laughter, it’s all about the laughter for us. We have some really tough things in our lives. We have a child with severe classic autism, and another with health issues. We laugh our way through it. We are always cracking jokes. We have a huge list of inside jokes. Ellis has made it his life goal to make me smile and vice versa. – Megan & Ellis Hardy, 15 years
Marriage is a commitment and should always be treated as such. There’s no “get out of jail free card” when things get rough. If partners treat this promise as the long-term commitment it is, they’ll be reminded to work through the ebbs and flows without ditching.
Even if those hardships lasts years, statistically, couples who have worked through it come out happier on the other side. And even admit to feeling better and stronger, and also grateful that they stuck with the relationship.
In fact, according to Daily Mail, “Researchers found that valuing your friendship with your partner helps create relationships with more commitment, more love and greater sexual satisfaction.”
Understand that sometimes being in a relationship is easy because there are really good times. Sometimes it’s difficult because there are also going to be not so good times. Choose to love each other even when it’s hard. – Rachel & Doug Smith, 10 years
Continuous communication throughout the entirety of your relationship is vital. And this is especially important to do before the vows are exchanged. Talk about how you’ll raise your kids, what your expectations in each other are, what your values include, your ideas on how you’ll be dealing with finances, and more. Be completely honest about all of these important details so nothing is surprising once the promise to spend your lives together has taken place.
I do think we would both tell you the biggest issue we have seen/had is “unmet expectations”. Justin and I are POLAR opposites. Like crazy different people, but our communication has always been amazing and I truly think by telling each other our expectations it has helped us work through the tough shit. – Kacie & Justin Gregory, 12 years
We spoke with Barry Yeiser, a licensed clinical social worker, who has his own counseling services based just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. And one of the first bullet points of advice he offered us was, “Marriages change every few years, if you stop studying your spouse it is a lost opportunity to connect.”
Once you are married, keep the conversation going. When you’re happy, unhappy, when you’re turned off or you need help, speak up and get your partner’s attention. Keeping the lines of communication open, comfortable, and healthy will make the lows so much easier to get through and the highs even more of a highlight.
Simply be nice to each other. And if you do argue, it’s ok to take a few minutes apart to cool off. Talk it out and then move on. Don’t keep bringing up past mistakes. – Ashley & Angie Jones, 14 years
Sometimes the right kind of communication doesn’t even have to do with words said aloud though. Sometimes, it’s what has been unsaid.
My first Christmas down in Alabama, I was missing Kansas so bad. I missed my family and I missed the snow. I couldn’t get to my family and I couldn’t make it snow. So Ellis bought me instant snow. He activated it and put it all over a gingerbread house. It was the simplest gift, and the sweetest. The thing is I hadn’t said anything to him. He just knew. I have had family members pull me aside and tell me, you know how much he loves you right? It really shows. I think love is about paying attention to both the words said and unsaid. Building on that, and developing communication that goes beyond the spoken word. – Megan & Ellis Hardy, 15 years
That importance of communication can go back to that foundation in friendship we mentioned previously. The fact is, we’re nice to our friends, and that kindness should always trickle over to our partners. Holding grudges, steamrolling, or stonewalling won’t help your communication or relationship continue to remain strong and grow.
And in this day and age, issues with trust and communication encompasses our technology too. Mr. Yeiser makes it clear that an important part of relationships now includes transparency with that technology.
He explains, “If your phone makes a noise, you shouldn’t have an issue with your spouse checking on it for you. There should be nothing to hide!”
The Little Things
Be conscious in the decision to pay attention to your partner’s needs and wants. After knowing and being with someone for so long, you become very attune to their satisfaction or whether they’re unhappy. If you can sense that something is wrong, a bit off, or could be better, then step up and make it happen. Those little things that make your spouse’s life easier and happier are a big part of the glue that keeps marriages going.
We just had our anniversary last week. Jeff presented me with a huge shadow box displaying my dried bouquet from our wedding. Months ago, he must have overheard me talking to my mom about the problem of whether or not to throw away the bouquet. I did not want to, but then again I had no place for it and didn’t know what to do with it and it was just sitting on a shelf in the garage. He had heard that and thought he had the perfect solution. And he did as he always does.
So, being a good listener has proven to be the cornerstone of our relationship. We take what each other says to heart, but also it doesn’t always have to be the grand gestures and the spending of a lot of money to make someone feel important special and heard. – Lauren & Jeff Fleming, 10 years
Whether you’re hungry, tired, annoyed from a bad day, or have kids dangling from every arm and leg, make sure you continue to put your partner first and be considerate. Continue to carve out time for your husband or wife and remember that they are the number one priority, and not just your career or the children. Maintaining an intimate relationship will only strengthen you two as a couple so make sure that this foundation stays intact.
Mr. Yeiser advises, “Be sure if you are looking at the month there is specified times for family as well as specified times as a couple. Having things in short and long term to look forward to and discuss are important. This will balance out the conversations that typically revolve around schedules and responsibilities.”
I guess all I can say is that we truly like each other. After the newness of a relationship wears off, you have to actually like each other. I have always respected him and he has certainly respected me. I also think during hard times we never even considered hurting one another. There has always been a certain respect and consideration of each other’s feelings – Cindy & Louis Norris, 33 years
The Keys To A Strong Marriage: An Overview
- Cultivate a strong foundation for your relationship to stand on.
- Be able to laugh with your partner.
- Stay committed.
- Continue to communicate.
- Be as kind to your spouse as you would be to your best friend.
- Give attention to the other’s needs and wants.
- Work at being considerate.