Why is life so tough? Studying is tough. Tests are tough. Friendships are tough. Work is tough. Heck, even apologizing is tough sometimes.
And then there’s marriage. It used to be that people fell in love, got married, had children and grew old together. Not quite that way anymore.
I’ve heard the statistics, roughly 50 % of marriages end in divorce. International marriages often have higher divorce rates due to cultural differences, parenting styles, food choices and the obvious, communication issues.
Yet here I am, happily married for 14 years to a wonderful Japanese lady. I didn’t think much of it till I was talking to a friend of mine from college and when I told him I’d been married for 14 years, he said, “Wow, that’s a success in and of itself.”
I guess it is, so I thought I’d share what has helped my wife and I have learned along the way in hopes that it helps others.
But before I do, you might be wondering why a time management expert and joint venture broker is talking about these issues. Let me explain.
A marriage is the ultimate joint venture deal and in order to help my clients be more productive I have to get inside their lives.
People spend eight hours at home and eight hours with our family, give or take. A bad day at the office often affects us at home. An argument with our children could affect our focus at work.
I have found that the most productive people kick butt in the office, but have a great family life as well. Here are 14 tips on how to succeed in an international marriage.
1.Patience – Let’s face it, any relationship has its ups and downs. Marriage is no different, just on a more intense level. What you don’t want to do is say something you’ll regret when you’re angry. While it’s not always possible, I think Thomas Jefferson said it best, “When angry, count to ten.”
2.Open Mindedness – Coming from two different cultures, there will inevitably be clashes. Take these as opportunities to learn and grow, not argue and complain. It’s amazing how much I learn from my wife even after all these years.
3.Language – You need to have one language that is your default setting. In my case, I helped my wife master English. Why? Because I knew inevitably there would be disagreements. You need to have one language to fall back upon to keep misunderstandings to a minimum.
4.Appreciation – There’s a great line I once heard, “Men marry women thinking they won’t change, but they do. Women marry men thinking they will change, but they don’t.” Don’t try and change one another. Instead focus on how much you appreciate their good points.
5.Freedom – Give your partner space. I love spending time with my wife, but from time to time we all need time to unwind. My wife has her “Girls Night Out” and I have a “Boy’s Night.” They work wonders.
6.Trust – I know those people who constantly check their spouses phone. Don’t. Not trusting your spouse is a surefire way to divorce. On the flipside, don’t do things that make your spouse mistrust you.
7.Hobbies – Share something in common. Maybe it’s movies. Maybe a sport. You need to have something you share as it helps keep people close.
8.Teamwork – As the old saying goes, it takes two. A marriage is two people. That means two people working together. For many years my mornings were quiet so I helped around the house. Willingness to do those little things says a lot about who you are and how committed you are to the relationship. Trust me when I say, the little things do not go unnoticed.
9.Taboos – Make it clear what is a no-no for you. My wife absolutely hates it when I forget to make rice (I live in Japan) or leave dishes in the sink before going to bed. Guess what I don’t do?
10.Creativeness – Like anything, over time things tend to become stale. It’s important to do new things from time to time to keep things fresh. Dullness can be a killer for many relationships.
11.Gratitude – Show your appreciation to your spouse. Roses may be her thing. My wife prefers a nice bottle of wine. Me, I love me some roast beef or Beef Wellington. As they say, “The secret to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” I couldn’t agree more.
12.Listen – This is a work in progress for me. I have a tendency (like most men) to share my thoughts after listening to my wife tell her story. Big mistake. When my wife is in trouble at work or has had an argument with her friend, she doesn’t want answers. She just wants me to listen to her. Here’s a key phrase I’ve been told works wonders, “That sucks.”
13.Anniversaries / Birthdays – Not much to say about these except, remember them and celebrate them.
14.Work at it – No relationship is easy. Friends fight. Brothers stop talking to one another over the most trivial things. If you value your partner, don’t give up so easy. Fight for your marriage.
If I had to narrow these down to one common element of any successful marriage, I’d say communication. Talk to your partner. It really does work.
There you have it. 14 tips for 14 years. Here’s hoping that I’ll be write 30 tips one day.
Photos by Bold Content and the author