In 2010, some 73,000 couples celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. So don’t let the divorce statistics bog you down. Instead, take some marriage advice from these couples in the Netherlands, 770 thousand of whom have been married for over 40 years.
As the life expectancy goes up, it has been found that the number of couples celebrating 40, 50, 60, and 70-year anniversaries has gone up. Sooner or later in life, all marriages have difficulties. But how you work through those difficulties is what makes it so special.
According to Todd Migliaccio, an associate professor of sociology at California State University, the core elements of a strong marriage are communication, respect and shared interests. He goes on to tell his students, “Successful marriages, long-term marriages, don’t just happen. They take work, they take effort, they take focus.”
Marriage Advice: Truth vs. Myth
John and Teri Bosio, authors of Happy Together, have been married 42 years. They claim that “ultimately what you believe about marriage influences whether you are happy or miserable in your relationship and whether you stay married or not.”
The myth is that marriage is simply a contract that one can just get out of without consequences. Contrarily, children whose parents end a safe and well-adjusted marriage, have very negative consequences. The other myth is that people who get married live happily ever after.
Author of the Seven Myths of Marriage, Christopher Kaczor says in his book, “All couples — happy couples, miserable couples, and divorced couples — have irreconcilable differences.” In an interview with the National Review he says, many couples have irreconcilable differences about money, children, sex, religion, and the future.
“When they find themselves in this common situation, people think they should simply divorce their spouse and marry someone with whom they can agree on whatever the issues are. But a new spouse will simply bring new (and possibly also some of the old) irreconcilable differences. The solution is not to keep switching spouses. The difference between happily married couples and miserable couples who divorce is not having irreconcilable differences, it is how they deal with their irreconcilable differences.”
So here are a few common pieces of marriage advice strung together from the world’s best philosophers, sociologists, scientists, and married couples themselves.
Keep Dating and Never Stop Falling in Love
In his New York Time Bestseller, The Course on Love, acclaimed author Alan de Botton says, “We seem to know far too much about how love starts, and recklessly little about how it might continue.” Dating is the reason you fell in love in the first place, as you discovered your compatibility and things you like to do together.
An important piece of marriage advice is to use date nights to recreate those moments of discovery and intimacy you first felt when you dated. This doesn’t mean going out once a month and talking about the kids. Take an active interest in planning date nights. Use this as a model for your children on how to treat a potential spouse as well.
Dwell on the Best in Each Other
If you are looking for marriage advice, these words of wisdom are essential: You must understand that no one’s perfect.
Marriage is all about helping imperfect people to become perfect versions of themselves, a lifelong endeavor. Be slow to judge the other person, because judging is easy. Respecting, loving, and dwelling on the best aspects of your spouse are hard.
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, who sold a million copies of Love and Respect, talks about a woman’s need to be loved and a man’s need to be respected, all the while aware that no two people are perfect. They help bring out the best or the worst in each other if they choose to do so.
Additionally, couples must realize their spouses are not projects. You can’t fix them. Stop trying to change them, change your own attitude. Using Dr. Dan Siegel’s COAL attitude can help. It represents having a Curious, Open, Accepting, and Loving attitude towards yourself before you have it with your spouse.
There are many benefits of eating together as a family. When women ate with their families and spouses, their stress levels reduced. A study of women workers at IBM found that workers were less anxious when they had mealtimes with their families.
Children who eat with their families also are emotionally stronger and happier. One of the most important pieces of marriage advice is sharing meals together. You can even take this a step further and cook together. According to a survey of 1,000 adults, researchers found that 87 percent of couples believed cooking was a great way to foster communication and strengthen their relationship.
There’s evidence to suggest that couples build intimacy through hundreds of mundane daily communications. Communication skills build the emotional connection as well. It also has been proven as the key to handling conflicts. Anyone giving marriage advice will tell you that not only can communicative couples fight, but they can fight well.
Couple must educate themselves about communication skills in their relationship toolbox. This marriage advice means these skills must be practiced, refined, and developed over time. The thing is, men and women, communicate differently. You can start small, by texting each other throughout the day or calling up randomly just to tell your spouse they’re on your mind.
The average office worker spends more time with their coworkers than with their family. Be transparent with your spouse and don’t keep secrets. Communicate how you feel and what you want. Voice your concerns and work on sorting them out.
Don’t project things on your partner or expect them to read your mind. When you slam a door or punch a pillow, they have no clue why you feel that way. Also, while talking to men, it’s always good to talk to them side by side instead of face to face, that’s how men talk to each other. So, take a long drive or sit beside him and talk.
Guard Your Heart
Many people consider fidelity a cornerstone of marriage. Dr. Louis Primavera, after 25 years in private practice as a marriage counselor, says solving marital problems can be difficult. In his book on marriage advice, Making Marriage Work: Avoiding the Pitfalls and Achieving Success, he says everyone knows cheating is wrong and it leaves a deep sense of guilt. He says always choose your marriage because an affair for whatever reason will only end up making you feel worse, not better.
Own up to Mistakes and Avoid the Blame Game
Mistakes are normal. Everyone makes mistakes. Thomas Carlyle says, “The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.” Acknowledge your own mistakes and learn from them. Stop assigning blame and focus on the solution. It’s like dancing. When you dance, both of you will make mistakes, but you keep dancing and avoid repeating the same mistakes.
It may feel great for your ego to say, "I told you so, or look whose fault it was.” Although it is tempting, don’t rub it in and gloat. When your spouse makes a mistake and realizes it, you should support them and help them get over it. Dr. Neil Farber in his book, The Blame Game, says we need to take responsibility for our actions. In doing so, we can wrestle back control of our life, money, careers, and relationships.
Shared interests and compatibility bring couples together in the first place. Even after you’re married, continue going dancing or to a matinee. What’s stopping you from pursuing a trek or taking an art class? If you have common ground, find ways to foster your common interests. Pursue them regularly. It’s the thread that provides you with conversation and activity.
If you find interest waning, discuss new interests that both of you share. They may be simple things such as long drives, taking a cupcake class, going fishing, or visiting a relative. Trying new things does tend to make couples happier according to marriage advice from psychologists.
Give Each Other Space to Be Different
While you share interests, remember you and your spouse are not connected at the hip. They can’t be stuck with you all the time. Allow them to have friends, interests, and hobbies of their own. That allows them the freedom and independence to be who they want to be. Author Elayne Savage says you should have some breathing room to be a couple.
Find Ways to Laugh
The ability to laugh at our own flaws and mistakes and life, in general, is crucial to a marriage. Jeffrey Hall, from the University of Kansas, studied 15,000 participants over the last 30 years. In the study, he showed that partner-perceived and relational humor had a huge effect on the longevity of a relationship.
That means if you and your spouse can laugh at the same jokes or have a quirky sense of humor developed just between the two of you, your relationship can stand the test of time. His marriage advice is to find ways to laugh together.
Physical Intimacy and Sex Is Important
The National Opinion Research Center says American couples have sex 66 times a year. Sex is integral to marriage. Doug Brown chronicled his experiment of having 100 days of sex with his wife despite the job, children, and work-life pressures. He says in his book, Just Do It, that while abstinence makes the heart grow fonder, daily sex eased the stress, allowed them to touch more often, and helped them talk better about their lives.
Those who have frequent sex communicate a lot more according to a survey by the Wall Street Journal. So, make love in the afternoon, break out the candles, plan regular sex, romance your spouse, and begin making love to their minds before their bodies. Physical intimacy has its advantages in strengthening the marriage bond.
Pray Together Whatever Your Faith
Marriage is not about just connecting emotionally and physically, but spiritually as well. You can nourish each other’s souls through marriage. If you share the same faith, then that’s one less area for conflict. But if you don’t, you can always negotiate and share some spirituality irrespective of your faith. When you pray together, you and your spouse can hear each other’s heart and concerns before a higher power or God.
Three studies examined the relationship between prayer, unity, and trust between couples. Participants who prayed regularly had more unity and trust in their partner. The National Association of Marriage Enhancement, in Phoenix, Arizona also did a research project where they found that when couples prayed together on a daily basis, less than 1 percent ended up in divorce.
Be There for Each Other
Be present for each other. Listen to each other and the vulnerabilities your spouse is voicing. It may be a bad day at work or a problem dealing with the children. They may not need your advice, but your presence and support speak volumes. Being mindful in your relationship is key marriage advice.
Two leading experts, Robyn Walser, and Darrah Westrup talk about being a mindful couple in their book. They use the strategies of ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) and show couples how to bring awareness to their relationship. Don’t focus on being perfect, be present.
This is even more important when major life changes take place. Don’t give into this myth that divorces are common when a life-altering event strikes. At that time, more than ever, you need to be present for your spouse and hold onto them.
Examples of these could be the death of a parent, death of a child, loss of a job, disability, diseases or sickness, and family problems. In fact, you can use this to deepen your marital relationship. Sandy Fox who lost her own child and documented it in her book, “Have No Intention Of Saying Goodbye,” says you need to seek help. The drowning analogy can be used here. When one person is drowning, the other person rescues them.
Marriages and people don’t come with a handbook. Everyone is learning, and all of us learn continually throughout our lifetimes. Throughout your marriage, there will be many areas in which to grow (spiritually, emotionally, financially, academically and even physically) as we try to grow into the best version of ourselves. Focus on growing together with your partner. People either change over time, or they don’t. Either way, share what you learn in life with your spouse.
Take adventures together so that your learning plane is the same. Invest in learning together. If you want to grow in a particular area, discuss it with your spouse and find out the areas of growth they’re interested in. Plan to invest and help each other achieve this growth. If you don’t do that, you may find that the person you married to has suddenly changed or your relationship may stagnate.
Don't Let Money Get in the Way
Money doesn’t buy happiness, and there’s never going to be enough of it. If you're struggling with debt or having financial worries, then plan your finances. Financial advisor David Bach tells people in Smart Couples Finish Rich that you and your partner must work together as a team to create a financial future and increase your income.
Set financial goals together and build a framework for spending and debt reduction. Allow yourself small pleasures. Money won’t keep you warm at night or make love to you in the morning. It won’t nurse you when you’re sick or hold you when you’re hurting.
Forgive at Once
We’ve all heard the term, don’t go to bed angry or don’t let the sundown on your anger. Research now shows that the ability to forgive a partner may be the most important factor in maintaining a long healthy relationship.
Emotional regulation and conflict resolution are key to forgiveness. Yet, the data is clear. Forgiveness is key marriage advice for sustained marriages and longevity. Self-forgiveness is also important as the offending partner needs first to forgive themselves and then work on resolving the conflict.
Close the Day Together
More people are staying up late and watching TV instead of closing the day together. Most pursue their own interests before bedtime and end up going to bed separately. Closing the day together allows you to unwind together and connect deeply.
It gives couples a chance to say they love each other, and to unplug from the world and focus on one another. It gives them some private time where they can express how grateful they are for their spouse. It also keeps them tethered as they go to bed intimately as one.
Always Choose to Love
Marriage is a choice. As is staying married. You choose to sacrifice, to give, to take, to listen, to hurt, to forgive, to grow, to vent, to fight, to hold on, and to let go. It helps to talk about all the potential problems you will face and then have some sort of game plan for the future if that problem comes up.
But in the end, always choose to love. Remember, the grass isn’t greener on the other side, its greener where you water it. Ella Fitzgerald said, “what everyone wants more than anything else is to be loved.” So, choose to love.
Mentor and Model Your Marriage
Misery loves company, and while its great to continue being friends with people who have separated and divorced, their cynicism can rub off on you. Instead, model your own marriage on someone who’s been married for 60 years or more.
We learn through modeling. When we want to make more money we look to Warren Buffet, when we want to be successful in business we turn to Bill Gates but when we want to stay happily married, who are our role models? Whose marriage advice do we seek?
If your own parents have a successful marriage, then learn from them. If not, seek out people who’ve had long-lasting relationships. Absorb from them as much as you can about how to weather hardships. Surround yourself with family, friends, and a support system that also supports and practices long, healthy, and sustained marriages.
Treat Marriage as Sacred
“Just because things will get hard doesn’t mean they’ll be bad,” Professor Todd Migliaccio tells his class. Marriage is easier to get out of today, but the effects are rippling. If you and your spouse treat it as a sacred institution and allow yourself no outs, then the question won’t even come up as you allow yourself to work through hell or high water. The assumption of permanence was one of the key marriage advice pieces that came through an intense Australian study.
Marriage is anything but easy. Anyone who has ever been married can attest to this fact. However, it’s not impossible. With the above tools and marriage advice, you can succeed. Just ask the 770,000 couples and more celebrating over forty years of togetherness despite the odds.