I read an article not long ago titled "The Seven Secrets of Lasting Love" in which "experts reveal the keys to a long, happy, healthy marriage" and found it interesting, if not enlightening. Here are the seven secrets as they listed them:
1. Have realistic expectations
2. Sweat the small stuff
3. Consider yourselves a team
4. Accentuate the positive
5. Remember the little things
6. Have friendships with both sexes
7. Spend time apart
I'm not sure these are actually secrets, but they may be unremembered when the bad times roll around.
I certainly agree that you need to have realistic expectations, in marriage but also in life. I have expectations for myself, most of them much higher than Darling has for me (thank goodness). I try to meet these personal goals, but quite often I am only moderately successful. Still, I try. I guess the current MBA term for these would be stretch goals.
I learned long ago not to set goals for other people, not to put expectations on them. Unless I am the team lead or the boss then I am not responsible for other people setting and meeting goals. I am certainly not responsible for other people setting their own personal goals.
I also agree that you need to sweat the small stuff, to some degree. Marriages do not dissolve from differences in political ideologies but because someone squeezes the toothpaste tube from the middle instead of the bottom. If something about your partner irritates you then you need to say something. I know very few mind readers, and most of those are not consistent. Do not expect your partner to read your mind, or read your body language, or just know that something is bothering you. Talk. That's why you have a mouth. Be nice, but point out when something bothers you.
On the other hand, if your partner really has a problem with something you do, pay attention. Try to change, or at least come up with a compromise.
You are still an individual, but as a married couple you are a team. The needs of the team must always be considered, even before your own needs.
Whoops! That hit some people right between the eyes, didn't it?
C'mon, you work together - as a team - to define the actions that will take you - as a team - to where you want to be. That is a good thing for both of you, and enhances you as an individual. When you put your own needs ahead of the team needs then things get out of whack and you get the added disadvantage of hurting your partner. After all, they have needs too. When they feel that they are putting all their own needs on hold for the benefit of the team, and you are not, then feelings get hurt.
This is your partner, somebody you loved enough to date and marry. Why would you want to hurt their feelings?
This is a key point, so pay attention. When you look for the bad, you can certainly find it. You didn't do that when you were dating, so why are you doing it now?
Not only should you look for the positive in your partner, you need to keep an eye on the positive in your own life. An easy avenue leading to deep depression is to look at all your faults and failings and then live up to them.
When you are helping each other emphasize the positive aspects in your lives, then the positive aspects of being together naturally come to the forefront.
You bought her chocolates when you were dating her, right? And remember the little notes she left on your car? Those are still important.
I wouldn't have said to remember the little things, but I would have said to keep working on your relationship, keep making the other person feel special. Everyone needs to feel special and if you aren't making your partner feel special they will look for someone else to make them feel special.
Keep saying please and thank you. Politeness is so underrated in today's society that it makes me cringe. I even hear friends say mean things to each other. They say it is all in good fun, but some part of each of us hears the words, not the intent. I knew a couple where the husband spoke badly to his wife almost constantly, insulting her and calling her names. She just smiled and said it was his nature, but that's really no excuse. Bad manners are bad, and they aren't funny.
They say that this is a good way to refresh your mental state, to feel special without a physical relationship.
I disagree with this one to a great degree, but I'm sure my personal history colors my opinion. I was not the best husband, so my first wives were susceptible to the charming flattering of male friends. In the first case it worked out okay for her and they are still married.
I think that you can have friends of both sexes, but they should certainly be shared friends, and the relationships should always be stronger with the person of the same sex. If you start getting too close to a friend of the other sex, it's time to back off and evaluate what you're doing.
This isn't a bad idea, but I don't agree with the extent they carry the advice. Their examples include taking separate vacations. I can't go that far. My first wife took a vacation without me, with some friends of ours. There are some stories of that trip, but let's just say she had a marvelous time. That vacation did not do anything to bring us together.
If one of you likes to take a nap by the pool and the other wants to zip-line over forested canyons, find some compromise. Find the time to do both. It lets the napping one have something cool to dream about and lets the adventurous one rest from exertion.
I'm not saying that you need to be joined at the hip. Time by yourself or with friends while your partner stays home or takes a nap or goes to dinner with a friend is not a bad thing. I'm gone long enough each day without Darling so that coming home is still a treat to me. (Hopefully it is for her too!)
So spending time apart isn't a bad idea, but not a week of vacation without your partner. It is more important in your life to spend time together! Find something you like to do together, and do it.
So those were the seven secrets, and they aren't really secrets at all. I'm not even sure there are seven that I agree with. They are worth thinking about.