The Marriage Advice Project is devoted to collecting and sharing elder wisdom about marriage. We hope you enjoy these lessons from our readers! If you’d like to share your own lessons, use the form on our homepage and we’ll post them here.
Carol, age 72:
Take joy in the moment. Marriage means acceptance and taking the time to be truly interested in the cares, interests, and complaints of one’s spouse. I cannot change anyone but myself BUT I can nudge. There are times in all relationships where you look at your partner(or they look at you) and think the other is a total idiot. Use these moments to build on mistakes as well as the successful moments. Make time for yourself. This contributes directly to your personal growth and gives you something new to share with your spouse. Children take a lot of time and energy but they leave… you two are the most important.
Martina, age 65:
We both came from similar backgrounds and religion. We both had similar goals in life. I think this makes getting off the ground easier. We both shared the same values when we raised our children and still do. Patience is a BIG virtue and having a sense of humor is very important too. Also, make sure there is plenty of passion for each other initially, because although it does wane over time it’s still there after 41 years. We don’t always enjoy the same foods, or movies (he hates going to the theater) but maybe we just have a mutual respect for each other and bow to each others wishes on occasion. It doesn’t really matter. If you fight don’t sleep on it. Listen to the other person, resolve it and let it go. Don’t let anger or issues build up. And do things separate from each other and together – friends, projects, hobbies, etc. and then share what you’ve done. Laugh a lot!
Wendy, age 30:
I am writing on behalf of my grandparents, 99 and 97 respectively, married 73 years and still living in their beautiful home. I asked my grandmother her secret many years ago, she said, “You have to give more than you receive – and you can’t expect anything back, you just have to give.” You have to see how they live to understand how she exemplifies this advice; my grandfather has been ailing for over two years and she has kept him at home with her and kept him alive against all odds! He is living for her and she for him. It’s amazing to see her at 97 doing occupational therapy and wound-care for him. Of note, she would not write in on the computer as she doesn’t use one; Grandpa, however, took to ebay about 10 years ago to trade his antique farm machinery catalogs; she would yell from the kitchen, “That thing is going to cause a divorce!” -more sage advice :)!
Mike, age 67:
My wife and I have been married for about 46 years now, and it’s been a good marriage. Each year it gets better. Yet, I see all around me nieces and nephews, friends, and others I care about just throwing in the towel, getting divorced, and the couples never really finding anything better than what they started with. “Marriage”, in our day, meant something. It was about love, about loving each other, caring for each other, sharing with each other – until death do us part. It was about standing up in front of everybody (and in front of God) and promising to love and cherish for the rest of our lives. It meant a promise, and it had meaning.
OK, some advice:
- Forgiveness. No revenge. No pay-backs. No getting even. Never think of yourself as more important or better than your spouse. (When we were first married, we played chess a lot, but I always won. It put her down and made her feel less than an equal. So, we haven’t played chess in 44 years. The pain it caused me to see her defeated was not worth the little joy I got out of winning). Never think of yourself, or your career, or ANYTHING else as more important than your spouse.
- Don’t try to change each other into something they are not, or don’t want to be.
- LEAVE YOUR PARENTS OUT OF IT! You are starting something new, not doing a remake of an old film.
- A spouse is your BEST friend, companion, confidant. Don’t be afraid to make yourself vulnerable; that’s what happens when you give yourself to someone.
- Avoid situations where you might be tempted to break trust: infidelity, sharing things that should not be shared with anyone else other than your spouse.
- COMMUNICATE lovingly and kindly. But don’t be a syrupy martyr. When storms come, make sure that you’re in the same life boat, even if you’re on opposite ends of it.
- CHANGE is inevitable. You need to change and grow together. (So often I hear, “He’s not the man I married”. Of course he isn’t, everybody changes if they are alive.) Don’t let changes push you apart. Don’t be an albatross or a dead weight around your spouse’s neck. Encourage her/him to fly.
- Sex is what seals a marriage. Sex is sacred, personal, private, something only you as a couple share. Each couple is different and each couple might prefer different things, but don’t force your partner to do what they do not want to do. The man gives his body to the woman; the woman gives her body to the man, but only to the point that you both agree upon it. A fulfilling sex life and learning what pleases each other takes time. Be patient. Sexual desires change. Be prepared to change with each other. The absolute best pleasure in sex comes from giving pleasure, not receiving it, or taking it. Adapt. Love each other.
That’s enough for tonight…..
Alice, age 84:
What is the most important advice to give someone when at 82, you still hold hands with your 85 year old husband? How quickly the 62 years have gone by. We have five children and we always told them the reason for our long and happy marriage – whoever left first had to take all five children with them!!! They toasted us with this saying at our 60th anniversary celebration! Humor can be the best resource in marriage. To have a sense of humor really takes the edges off of a tense situation – this is a nice way of saying “fight.” Do not tell my husband and me that you do not fuss or disagree – we will not believe you. For you are human and have differences of opinion and isn’t it wonderful – that way you have a choice!!! From the start, we recognized that we were definately individuals who had definite “likes” and we appreciated and respected that in each other. We lead separate lives together. I traveled, he hunted and fished – I did handwork and sewed – he played music. I loved romping with the children – he liked silence. We both love football. Together we made it by respecting each other. We look forward to many more anniversaries with our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren!