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Reflecting on 25 Years of Marriage

An hourglass

Earlier this year, I reached quite a significant milestone in my life: my 25th wedding anniversary.

When my wife and I tied the knot in 1991, there were more than a couple of people who predicted it wouldn’t last. Like all couples, we’ve had some good and not-so-good times, some highs and lows. But it’s been great to prove the nay-sayers wrong.

To be honest, I’m still trying to figure this marriage thing out. I’ll probably be trying for the rest of my life. Having said that, I’d like to share some advice for a strong relationship that I’ve gleaned from spending two and a half decades with the same person.

Understand and Accept That You’re Two Different People

Expect that. In fact, embrace it.

No matter how compatible you are, there are differences between you and the person you’re with. Differences in opinion, taste, likes and dislikes.

You don’t have to like everything that the person you’re involved with likes. There are a lot of movies, books, and music, for example, that my wife likes that I’m not interested in. The same goes for her. Sometimes our choices really annoy each other.

On the other hand, you might find something new to enjoy from your spouse’s interests. You just need to be willing to try, even if it doesn’t work out.

Expect Arguments and Friction

Because you’re two different people, you’re going to disagree sometimes. Maybe, more than sometimes. Those disagreements could generate friction. Those disagreements can erupt into arguments.

There’s nothing wrong with that. An argument can be a release valve that lets loose pent-up tension in a relationship. An argument can be a tool to clear the air. An argument can be healthy.

It becomes a problem if the same argument persists. Or if you’re arguing regularly about … well, anything. If that’s happening, you both probably need to step back, find the root of the problem, and deal with it.

Don’t Feel Bad About Taking Time For Yourself

And a love like this makes us strong
We laugh it off if things go wrong
It's not you, forgive me if I find I need more space
'Cause trust means we don't have to be together every day

— Steven Wilson, Hand Cannot Erase

Being in a relationship, especially a long-term one, can feel like you’re living in each other’s hip pockets. As much as you love the person you’re with, as much as you enjoy being with them, sometimes you just need some time and space for yourself.

Just don’t take too much time too frequently. For example, I usually take my personal time when my wife is watching something I don’t want to on Netflix or when she’s reading a book. That might be only an hour or so a couple of times a week, but it’s good for me, it’s good for her, and it’s good for our relationship.

Be Fair About Taking That Time For Yourself

Sometimes, I feel guilty about some of the time I take away. Specifically, when I travel to conferences or events. I used to do that two or three times a year, but now only do it once every 12 months or so.

Still, the guilt is there. Why? During that time, my wife is the sole caregiver for our autistic daughter. Something that’s stressful enough when there are two of us on duty. Since moving to New Zealand, we can’t rely on family for help — my wife’s nearest relatives are a couple of hours away by plane. It’s not as easy as it once was dropping out daughter off with her grandparents for a day or for the weekend …

Whether or not you have kids, you should try to balance out the time you spend on your own or time you spend away. I try to encourage my wife to take off for a few hours on the weekend, even if it’s just to sit in a cafe, read a book, and enjoy a flat white and her favourite pastry.

Even When the Other Person’s Wrong, They’re Right

I only mean that in partial jest. Sometimes, though, for the sake of your relationship’s harmony you need to take it on the chin and cave in. Doing that allows you to quickly move on.

Just don’t make a habit of caving in. Remember that a relationship is a partnership, and that partnership needs to be equal. At least, as equal as it can be. There needs to be give and take. You don’t always want to be the one giving. You don’t always want to be the pushover in your relationship. You need to strive for balance.

What I’ve shared in the last several hundred words has worked for me and my marriage. It might not work for you, though. All you can do is give it a try. What have you got to lose?

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