Today, exactly 6 years ago, I was dancing around a small town hall, with my closest friends and family, celebrating my marriage. It was a remarkable day (save for the rain and yes, I know that is meant to be a sign of good luck) and a day I will always look back on and cherish. But today, 6 years later, I have had time to reflect on just what it means to me to be married and what I think keeps my marriage going.
I work in the world of relationships but more often with people coming out of marriages than those going into them. I am often asked- ‘Why, with the work that you do, did you get married?’ The thing is, working as a divorce lawyer for me has had the opposite effect than most seem to think- I value my marriage so much and perhaps more than I might have if I had chosen another career path.
So today, being 6 years into my marriage, I thought I might share my 6 tips to a lasting relationship. Now I am certainly no expert but here are a few things that I think we can do to keep our relationships, whether they be marriages, partnerships or friendships, moving forward-
- Relationships, like the weather, have seasons- Just like our years are divided into four beautiful seasons, each with their own highlights and lowlights, our relationships too will pass through seasons. The summer and spring of relationships are those times when things feel so easy, probably best marked by holidays and perhaps not day to day life! Then there is autumn- not my most favourite season but nice none the less. The autumn of our relationships are those periods where things are just moving along, no real ups or downs, just life’s existence. So that of course leaves winter. Now where I live, winter is actually quite warm and beautiful and not particularly dark or cold, so when I think of the winter of relationships, I am envisioning my time living overseas where winter was oh so cold, so very dark and I wished endlessly for it to end! Winter for me marks those periods in our relationships where things are not easy, where we face challenges and wish for a different season to be upon us as soon as possible. But just like the seasons in each year, our ‘relationship seasons’ will come and go if we let them. The trick of course is to remember this and ensure we remind ourselves that there is something so beautiful about rugging up on a cold winter’s morning to walk outside and enjoy the crisp, clean air.
- Mind your expectations- Every day we are bombarded with messages that tell us just what ‘love’ is all about! From a young age we see Disney Princesses swept off their feet in mere moments by dashing Princes. Television and movies are constantly reminding us of just what a ‘thrill’ love is! And while all this might be true, there is so much more to a long lasting love- the type of love that makes for a long lasting marriage. It is so easy to get caught up very quickly in wishing for more and overlooking just what a gem you already have. Check your own expectations from time to time as in my experience, those who really manage long lasting loves tend to understand that marriage is not necessarily a Mills and Boon romance novel (well not all the time anyway!)
- Be prepared for the good and the bad- Marriage is for ‘good times and bad, in sickness and in health’ or some variation of this depending on your choice of vows. The point, as I understand it, is that we should expect to have the great times, but also some ‘bad’ times. I prefer to think of these as these as the ‘winter’ months and I call them ‘down times’! These are the times that will challenge us. The beauty of a challenge is that through challenge can come great success, if only you keep on pushing and a challenge in a marriage is no different. You cannot expect to head off into the sunset with anyone for 50 years or more and not find the odd challenge here or there. If you expect it then it won’t come as a shock and you can tackle it together.
- Be the keeper of your own happiness- Don’t expect any one else to be able to make you happy. We are in charge of our own happiness. A partner or friend is there to compliment us and no doubt they should, more often than not, add a great deal of happiness to our lives, but at the end of the day, we control our own happiness.
- Always look for the silver linings- If you can see the world with some optimism, a glass half full sort of attitude, life does seem to be simpler. It is no different with a marriage. It is always easier to see all that is wrong in a situation and instead we should be focusing on what is ‘right’. If you can accentuate the positive rather than the negative, chances are you will find yourself and your partner surviving a good few more ‘seasons’ together than most.
- Live in the moment- No matter where you are in your marriage, see your partner in the ‘now’ not the ‘then’ or the ‘maybe when’. Change is inevitable in life and yet we are all programmed to somehow be challenged by change. If you can see change as one of those silver linings- an adventure- or as I like to think of life, a choose your own adventure novel, it is easier to always be looking for the next adventure while still living out the current one. Live your adventure as it happens each day and try not to look too far into the past or even the future. We never know what is around the next bend but that is all part of the fun!
Relationships are beautiful, challenging and at times heartbreaking but that does not mean we should not have them! Marriages, like so many parts of life are an adventure- one that I have thoroughly enjoyed and one that I am turning the next few pages on as we speak.