And the secret to a happy marriage is…
My parents have just celebrated their golden wedding anniversary – 50 years of happy marriage. That’s pretty bloody amazing, so how do / did they make it work?
If you ask them what the secret was to a long and happy marriage, they would probably shrug their shoulders or make a joke about it, so I’m going to answer for them, based on what I have witnessed over the last 43 years (or the bits I was old enough to remember!).
What counts is connection, not material goods.
As a child I remember my parents having a proper goodbye and hello kiss every day.
Every morning when my dad went to work they would kiss each other goodbye, and every evening when he came home from work they would kiss each other hello.
Much to our disgust as kids. They would do it in front of us. In front of our friends even. Gross! I didn’t know anyone else’s parents who did this and I would roll my eyes when they did it.
But now I realise this is one small reason they kept their happy marriage, and their love, going over all these years. Because they connected with each other. No matter how crazy or hectic life was. And it was, with 5 kids born over a 10 year age gap.
Not putting the kids first
Whilst as kids we knew that if we NEEDED our parents they were totally there for us – whether for bleeding knees, help with homework, a shoulder to cry on after a relationship breakdown or anything else, they were, and still are, there for us.
BUT they didn’t helicopter parent us. They didn’t fuss around us. They certainly didn’t entertain us. That was our job.
My dad was at work, and my mum was a stay at home mum (or housewife as it was known in the 70s and 80s) until I was 13, and my youngest sibling was 8. But before going back to work my mum was busy with voluntary work, she went to a book club (or lit’ group, short for literature group, as it was known back then), spent time with friends at coffee mornings and went to the sports centre to swim, play badminton, squash and do yoga.
There was no guilt involved and us kids knew that our parents were not there to provide us with entertainment.
We had bikes, we had (indoor and outdoor) games, we had books, we had toys, we had freedom from a young age to go out with friends and explore the surrounding area.
By the age of 8 I was out and about on my bike, calling at my friends’ houses, going to the local park, and trying to remember to get home in time for lunch / dinner. There were no mobile phones and things weren’t any safer or more dangerous than they are now. People just worried less and got on with things.
Because my parents didn’t spend their time hovering over us they actually had time and energy for themselves and each other, without feeling / being made to feel guilty about it. Something that most parents today struggle to do I find.
Expectations weren’t high
Growing up we didn’t have high expectations. We went on our first family holiday abroad when I was 8 years old. To France, because my dad’s company had a caravan on a campsite in Fréjus and so it was a “reasonably-priced” holiday for a family of five.
The first time I travelled on a plane was when I was 18 and I paid for that holiday with my own hard-earned money (I worked 3 jobs to pay for it between school and university).
The only time I recall going out to dinner was after one of us finished big school exams like O levels / GCSEs and A levels.
My parents rarely went out socialising – the big treat was the parent disco at our primary school, and my dad’s summer and Christmas work dos.
We almost never had takeaways. Christmas and birthdays were not big, crazy affairs, with expensive food, drink, parties and presents.
But none of it was a problem or an issue as this was the expectation.
There was no resentment because we didn’t expect anything more or bigger.
What can you take away from 50 years of a long and happy marriage?
Here is what I take away from all this, bearing in mind all that I see that is going wrong in relationships and marriages with the women I work with in Life Reboot Camp:
- Connect with your partner / spouse every day. Even if it’s just a 5 second kiss or a 2 minute “how was your day?” chat. That also means putting your phone down / away more and more often.
- Put your relationship above the kids. They will be fine. And they’ll be far better off the better your relationship / marriage is doing. Stop stressing about them. Stop micro-managing them. Let them be.
- Lower your expectations. There will be far less disappointment and resentment if you don’t expect the sun, moon and stars. Have simple expectations and you will be so much happier. Every day.
How long have you been married / in your relationship? Do you have a happy marriage? Why not share your tips in the comments below?
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The secret to a long and happy marriage?
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