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How to Stay Married for At Least 25 Years

» Introduction
Learn key tips on how to stay married at least 25 years from Life Balance Coach/author Barbara Schiffman who has been married nearly 30 years to husband Glenn.
» Step 1
"A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short," according to French essayist and author Andrew Maurois in his 1942 memoir. But this is still true even though most 21st century relationships seem like brief emails rather than long conversations.

August 2008 marks 30 years since I met my husband Glenn. So our long conversation is still a work in progress. We met when I took a job for an LA music manager whose office. Glenn was using to finish writing a novel inspired by his years as a rock and roll roadie. I'd just ended a brief but intense romance and sworn off relationships when I took this new job. Ironically, I found love anyway as our paths suddenly crossed.

Glenn had just returned to LA getting divorced from a 10 year marriage. He spent most of those years on the road touring with superstar bands like The Stones and Elton John. He knew that marriage was doomed from the start, but it didn't sour him on long-term relationships.

Our long conversation began during my first week on the job as we discovered significant things in common: we're both writers and were seeking long-term attachments rather than just romantic playmates. When Glenn moved in with me a week later, it felt easy and comfortable. After nearly 30 years, it still does.

When we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, I asked my friends who also had long-term relationships what keeps them together to see if what's worked for us also what worked for them. Here's what I discovered:

1) KEEP EACH OTHER LAUGHING -- Glenn's boyish sense of humor keeps me laughing even when he doesn't intend to. When he tries to make me laugh on purpose, it's usually to lighten me up when I'm upset or think he should do something "my way." So telling bad jokes works in a pinch but good jokes work even better.

» Step 2
2) CREATE TRADITIONS TOGETHER -- Glenn and I got married on Chinese New Year's in 1979, so we celebrate our anniversary during the week of Chinese New Year's which changes each year. We got married at a Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills with a dozen friends in attendance. So our anniversary tradition is to eat at a different Asian restaurant every year.

For our first anniversary we got Chinese take-out as our daughter Risa had just been born. On our 10th and 20th anniversaries we invited friends to bring their favorite Chinese take-out and had amazing feasts. On our 25th anniversary when a dozen friends joined us at our favorite neighborhood Chinese place, it felt like our wedding although all our friends had changed. This family tradition makes our anniversaries special and is lots of fun. Finding your own family traditions that go beyond the usual holiday events gives you something special to look forward to each year and creates happy memories.
» Step 3
3) IDENTIFY YOUR "DEAL BREAKERS" -- In every relationship, there are differences of opinion. But not every difference is a "deal breaker" -- i.e. something you absolutely can't live with. Since marriage is actually a business deal of sorts, knowing what your "deal breakers" are can save lots of frustration as they're the things you won't compromise to save the "deal" no matter what.

Deal breakers are different for each person and each relationship. Infidelity can be a deal breaker in some but it may not be a deal breaker in others, for example, depending on the circumstances. By identifying your deal breakers, you can relax and keep from making mountains out of molehills as well as sense when it's time to change or leave the "deal."
» Step 4
4) PUT UP WITH SMALL ANNOYANCES (or guilt your partner into changing them) -- Glenn and I both hate washing dishes but he's much better at it than I am. His mother taught him and his brothers how to help around the house while mine never made me do too many chores. So I avoid washing dishes when I see the sink is full. This of course aggravates him. When he finally complains about it, I feel so guilty I wash my dishes as soon as I use them, at least for awhile.

In turn, it drives me nuts when Glenn leaves his shoes in the middle of the living room and I trip over them in the dark. But instead of complaining I usually just move them. When he does this frequently, however, I put his shoes on his side of the bed. This works as he stops leaving them in the middle of the floor, at least for awhile. So we've learned to cope with the small annoyances, as well as how to gently alert each other when "enough is enough."
» Step 5
5) BE MORE CONSIDERATE OF YOUR PARTNER THAN YOUR FRIENDS -- I don't do this as much as I should but my friend Judy -- who's lived with her boyfriend Bill for over 30 years on a farm without electricity or running water -- says it's the key to their relationship. She wonders why people treat the ones they love with less consideration than people they barely know.

This is logical but most of us don't seem to treat people we love with as much respect as people we want to impress. When I treat Glenn badly, Judy's advice quickly comes to mind, reminding me to apologize and change my responses since he's one of the two most import people in my life.
» Step 6
6) STAY INDEPENDENT WHILE BEING TOGETHER -- The true key to our marriage I believe is that Glenn and I give each other a lot of freedom while also having many things in common. For example, we've kept our finances separate except for one joint savings account. So we're not overly concerned about what the other spends or earns as long as we each stay responsible for our part of the family's finances. We also help each other out whenever one has a cash flow crunch.

In addition, we have friends and activities which are separate from the other. But we don't feel left out or jealous since we appreciate the time we can spend together, which is rarely enough. Most of our together-time is spent traveling, and we look forward to doing even more of that in coming years. Maintaining our individual freedoms actually keeps us together as we don't have to split up to do things we find fun or involving that the other doesn't enjoy.
» Step 7
7) KEEP EVOLVING IN BODY, MIND & SPIRIT -- While we don't always grow at the same rate, Glenn and I each continue to evolve over the decades. We read a lot, take and teach classes, and remain committed to living interesting lives. So as we've continued to grow, we've haven't grown apart. Experiencing new things separately also keeps us interesting to each other and helps our relationship stay fresh and surprising even after 30 years.

» Step 8
8) BE THERE FOR EACH OTHER IN TOUGH TIMES -- When our parents became ill a few years ago, we were there for each other through many crises, both practical and emotional. Knowing we could rely on each other as we put our parents into nursing homes made all the difference when Glenn's dad got cancer and my parents both had strokes. When our fathers each passed away, we realized we would be there for each other in our final years together. After nearly 30 years, that means more than almost anything else in our relationship, and is indeed priceless.

As Andre Maurois also said, "A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day." The glue between the bricks of this edifice can be forged by doing some of the things noted above. If you keep laughing and growing together, your long conversation will definitely feel too short if it ever ends.

(c) Barbara Schiffman 2008
Life Balance Coach/Author
Internet Radio Show Host "LIVING IN BALANCE"

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