Second marriages offer special challenges, but really, these tips apply to any long-term committed relationship.
On November 4, 2006 I took the “plunge,” I remarried, taking a second chance on love. I am not much of a risk taker, but after spending over 12 years married to a man whose priority was to him and him alone, I thought, maybe I would give this thing called “love and marriage” another shot! Eight years gone by, a beautiful home tucked away in the majestic woods of Maine, a blended family, now grown and gone, and five dogs later, I have NO regrets. In fact, not a day goes by that I don’t stop and thank God for providing me a second chance at love.
I was recently asked the secret to my “happy marriage.” My husband Jason and I have been married for a little over eight years, we are on Facebook, and are guilty of some “PDA,” (public displays of affection) on occasion. This has received positive and negative responses; the snarky comments surprise me every time, (but I will save my thoughts around this for another day). The initial question not only intrigued me, but it got me thinking more about our relationship, “What makes us so happy anyway?”
Our love story began as any typical one would I suppose; first the attraction, and for Jason and I it seemed to be of the yin and yang kind, both personalities quite different, yet complimentary to one another. And boy, are we different, opposites on more levels than we are alike, but strangely suited for one another in a myriad of ways. I have extreme introverted tendencies, and he is extroverted to the hilt! Where there is an opportunity to be the center of attention, you will be sure to find him there. And me, well, I’ll be sitting quietly in the crowd, blending, ever so carefully, in the back of the room, trying desperately not to bring ANY attention to myself.
Don’t get me wrong, although extroverted, my husband is quite humble. His gregarious “powers” are only used for good. (Well mostly, insert wink face here) They are what I consider to be his gifts. He is what I would describe as an intellectual, knowing many things, and as he puts it “I have a wealth of useless knowledge.” I however disagree. His knowledge base and personality traits align perfectly with his career path, retired Navy Chief, college professor, business networking director, and consultant. It was this personality type, his confident persuasion, that ultimately “sold” me on the prospect that two people could find true love, but better yet, they could actually hang onto it forever!
But our secrets to happiness aren’t in our differences, nor in the areas where we’re alike. They’re not even in the things we love about each other. After further thought and much reflection I have highlighted our personal secrets to maintaining our happiness in marriage:
#1 – Tell Him What’s Wrong
Marriage is a partnership, “it takes two” as they say! I know this may sound cliché’, and most women reading this might not like it, BUT, ladies, stop playing the “guessing game.” If your husband has done something to hurt and/or anger you, pull him aside, (respectfully) and let him know how you are feeling. If he asks you “what’s wrong?” Be honest. An abrupt “Nothing!” is RIDICULOUS.
Couples, it helps if you both use “I” messages. For example, “I am feeling angry, sad, hurt (you fill in the emotion) right now in response to what has happened.” Or, “I need a hug, someone to just listen and not try and fix me.” If you are too pissed, “I am too angry to discuss this right now, I need to take a walk.” Please remember this is not a reason to chase after your husband or wife and demand that they talk with you, nothing good ever comes of that. Give each other the time and space they need. Clearly stating your needs is very helpful. No one can read our minds! Even if you swear up and down that he or she should know, or they have been told before, last time I checked nobody’s perfect! Thank goodness, that’s way too much pressure.
#2 – Do NOT Let your Emotions Rule You
Logic maybe the best friend you ever make. It is in fact my favorite ego defense mechanism. Process the information slowly, and think before you react. Jason affectionately says that I think like a man. Translation, when something happens between Jason and I that is not to my liking; I will express my feelings, be heard, and move on. Are there times when I am more emotional than others? Yes. Those are the times that I state my needs. “I am a woman today dear,” gently reminding him that my ego defense mechanism is currently “in the shop,” and I will require a bit more TLC! And that’s OK!
#3 – Chivalry is Not Dead
Well, not in my marriage at least. Jason has opened doors for me since our first date. He is a gentleman, treating me with love and respect. We are a team, he makes dinner, I make dinner, he cleans the kitchen, I clean the kitchen. One good turn always deserves another!
#4 – Feeling Valued & Loved
We both work at not becoming complacent. Yes I said work. Relationships take effort, anything worth it does. We express our love for each other daily, both verbally, and by doing little things to remind each other. Some examples: In the past when I was in grad school Jason would prepare dinner, kindly delivering it to me. A hidden note in my lunch box, reminding me of how much he loves me, or even surprising me with my favorite chocolate treat after a hard day’s work. Selfless acts of love have been the glue, putting each other’s wants, and sometimes needs, aside for the other’s happiness. Selflessness, it’s a beautiful thing people!
#5 – Keep it REAL!
If you’re angry, have an argument. Yes argue! We are human, and we get angry. Anger is an emotion that must be felt and dealt with. Listen to one another, talk it out. As my husband so eloquently put it, “Debate the issue, do not attack the person.” Are you going to always agree? No. Compromise is key. Listening to each other’s feelings, and validating them is of importance, understanding that you may not “get it,” just letting it go may be necessary. Agreeing to disagree is a helpful skill. “Happy wife, happy life,” works just as well for fellas!
#6 – Take time to LAUGH: After a long hard week, we check in with one another and maybe rent a much-needed comedy. Or better yet, we just let ourselves be silly, and crack each other up. As they say, “Laughter is the best medicine!”
One thing is for certain, it has NOT always been easy, I mean what real love story is? (Especially one that includes blending a family, with children during their adolescent years) But, therein lies the so-called secret to our happy marriage; LOVE. In real life there will always be the ups and downs, and true to form, life keeps throwing its punches. But it’s the good stuff in between, that we find ourselves softly falling into at the end of the day, and in our case it has been each other’s arms, most times literally, sometimes figuratively. But no matter what, at the end of that long hard day called life, knowing we can count on each other no matter what — well now that’s a happy marriage!
Photo: Flickr/Giorgio Minguzzi