Here are a few things I gleaned over a ‘guy’s weekend’ from both conversation and observation when it comes to having a long and successful marriage – perhaps just slightly from a man’s point of view.
This past weekend was my annual get together with several high school buddies. In years past it was only a one day event where we’d play golf in the morning, go to a baseball game at night and then party our butts off until the wee hours of the morning.
This year, we added an extra day. We got together for a concert (rock bands from the 70’s and 80’s) and then hit the casino and some popular night spots until the early morn.
Needless to say, two nights of partying took twice as long to recover from but we had a very good time as usual.
The dynamics of our little group is pretty cool as we’ve been friends for long enough and have experienced a lot together, so even though we only see each other once a year, we can pretty much pick up things as if it were yesterday. There’s no getting re-acquainted, no awkwardness and certainly no political correctness. No subject is off limits. Consequently, we end up having some pretty interesting conversations that run the gamut from family, work, retirement, sex, marriage, sports, recreational drugs… you name it.
One thing that I sort of took for granted over the years was the fact that each of my buddies that attend this event have been married for several years (Accept for the one who has never been married). So they must be doing something right in their relationships.
Now, we wrote a blog post almost a year ago titled, “10 Elements of a Successful Marriage (How We Survived Two Weeks of Vacation Together)” that touched on some lessons we learned while on a two-week vacation out west. This post will add some things to that list while continuing to avoid the typical marriage guru suggestions like:
- Good Communication
- Practicing kindness and respect
- Having a shared purpose
- Managing conflict
- Effective communication
- Having patience with one another
These are certainly all vital elements to a successful long-term marriage, but I want to take a slightly different path – away from what you’d read if you just Googled “How to have a successful marriage” or some similar phrase.
That said, here are a few things I gleaned over the weekend from both conversation and observation when it comes to having a long and successful marriage – perhaps just slightly from a man’s point of view.
Elements of a Successful Marriage
Be best friends with your spouse. Yes, I’m guessing you’ve heard this one before. That’s because it’s an important element. Except for the hours that you’re at work, most of your time will probably be spent with your spouse. That being the case, you’d better like each other. You better be able to talk to each other openly and honestly and without being shy.
Michael Hyatt suggests you make a list of what you would want in a best-friend as if you were going to advertise on Craig’s List. What would the ad look like? Perhaps it might look like this:
Common interests and goals are great, but not necessary. Ever hear from one of your friends the following phrase?… “We don’t have anything in common anymore.” Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself. I think that this is a common issue among couples in long-lasting relationships.
Both Linda and I love the outdoors and love to camp, kayak, hike, etc. and love doing these activities together. But does she enjoy parking her butt on a bar stool for hours watching the NCAA basketball tourney like I sometimes do? Nope. Do I like to spend eight hours running to 27 different department stores looking for the perfect pair of shoes with Linda? Hell no.
Most people assume they must have things in common in order to be happy, but you really don’t. Author Alisa Bowman says…
You need very little common ground to make a relationship work. All you really need to have in common are two things:
- You both want your relationship to work.
- You are both willing to make changes to continually improve your relationship.
That’s it. You don’t need to do every single thing together in order to be happy. You don’t need shared hobbies. You just need a good relationship, one that is based on mutual respect. The “we have nothing in common” complaint is really not a complaint about having things in common. Rather it’s a complaint about the overall state of the relationship, which usually isn’t good. Couples who complain about not having things in common usually have other problems: they are not communicating, they are not having sex, they are not romancing each other, and so on.
When it’s all said and done, it’s not necessary to adopt each other’s interests – and maybe you really shouldn’t. After all, it’s important to have a strong personal identity. It’s not good to lose yourself in your partner, only to realize years later that you have no idea who you are.
Do things together. Now, don’t confuse what I just said about common interests with doing stuff together. It’s quite possible to not have a thing in common but still do things together and I feel it’s vitally important that you do so. Togetherness is important.
In the case where you don’t think you have anything in common, this might be where you sit down and talk a little about what you can do together and just do it. It could be taking a class, taking a dream vacation, hitting a happy hour after work or just lounging on the couch watching Netflix. I guess you could throw the popular “date night” in here as well.
When it comes down to it, in order to have a successful relationship, it’s important to spend time together and share each others’ thoughts and experiences. After all, nothing thrives on neglect. However, it’s also important to…
…Do things apart. Linda and I do a lot together. A lot. Therefore, do you think she was upset that I was leaving for two days to party with my friends? Uh, not in the least. Hell, she practically packed my bag. She was glad to see me go. That gave her an opportunity to do some things on her own – or with friends – that she wanted to do. Conversely, since I work from home I often can’t wait for Linda and my entire family to get the heck out of the house so that I can get some real work done.
The point is that you need to find a balance of being together and being apart. Obviously, a couple needs to look at the frequency that each is engaging in activities together and/or apart and come to a mutually satisfying agreement.
Have sex often and keep it interesting. Ah, one of my favorite subjects. Whenever I read a news article that says something like, “Study shows frequent sex is linked to women getting more shopping money from their husbands” or something like that, I jump at the chance to jokingly share it with Linda. Any reason I can think of to justify more sex, then I’m giving it a try.
All joking aside, it’s obvious that sex and sexual intimacy is very important in long-lasting relationships. I don’t think many would disagree with that statement. That said, a common problem in long term relationships is sexual monotony. Doing it the same old way, on the same night in the same place. Both men and women need to be responsible for contributing to the energy, excitement and “spicing up” of their sex life.
I have a friend who jokes that foreplay for him and his wife consists of him asking her, “Wanna f*#K?” But you know what? I don’t doubt that that statement is right on track with many couple’s version of romance and foreplay. Let’s face it, we get lazy at times.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy or super-kinky or anything that you would feel uncomfortable in doing. It could be experimenting with a new position or having nature sex or doing it during the daytime instead of at night.
One of my friends lives in a small town a few hours away and every time he goes on our annual trip he stops at the Hustler store along the highway and buys a new sex toy for him and his wife. Based on his description, it appears she is really happy to see him when he gets home! That didn’t take much effort.
Work hard and party hard. Two of the guys that are always on the trip demonstrate this element wonderfully. They are brothers. They have each been married for over 25 years. They are self-made millionaires. Both party their asses off when we get together, and I’m pretty sure they do the same at home on a regular basis.
I think that our reunions are an example of a major stress relief for both of them and I firmly believe they carry this mindset over to their marital lives as well. They don’t remain stressed out while constantly bringing work home with them. They separate the two and thus give their full attention to their relationships and the rest of their families.
Have fun and be funny. Having fun and having a sense of humor together is essential. While humor is important in many areas of life, I feel that it’s even more vital in a marriage. We have to be able to laugh at situations, each other and ourselves on a regular basis.
Linda and I laugh together a lot. It’s not like either one of us are stand-up comics and rattle off jokes all the time. In fact, both of us suck at joke telling. However, we can observe and communicate the humor in what and who’s around us. It also helps that we have a similar sense of humor.
Laughter bonds people. It shortens the emotional distance that can exist between two people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used humor at home, work and in social settings and the result was a release of tension, a building of rapport, making a new friend or a sudden rise in the happiness level.
I know my friends pretty well and all of them have great senses of humor and I know they use it in their daily lives at work, play and at home with their wives and family.
It’s also important to go out and have fun together regularly. Too often I see couples our age that don’t do anything together – much less any fun stuff. They seem to be caught up in life’s downers to get their ass out of the house and do something that makes them happy. Their job sucks. They have stuff to do around the house. They’re too tired, too depressed, too out of shape. If there is an excuse, they’ll use it.
Laughter and having fun, on a regular basis, is like taking a vitamin for your marriage. It helps to keep it healthy.
Be good parents. In our marriage, there seems to be this hard to explain force that always draws Linda and me closer. This force centers around our kids. Our kids make us proud, they make us laugh and they make us cry. And you know what, our kids actually like us! They enjoy coming home from college or from their out of town jobs. They don’t mind hanging out with us on a Friday night.
Many a marriage has disintegrated due in part to disagreements over childrearing. It’s not that uncommon to see clashes over how to raise kids send relationships over the edge. Thankfully, Linda and I have pretty much agreed on most everything when it came to raising our kids. And looking back, I think we did a damn good job.
Between the 8 guys that were a part of our weekend, we have 32 kids in total. All of my buddies and their wives have had similar experiences with raising their kids that Linda and I have had. They were good parents who have raised good kids and the parenting experience has drawn them closer together as couples.
Our kids help create a bond between us that can’t be broken. The fact that we are good parents who have always sacrificed for the betterment of our kids has created a sense of respect, commitment and love between the two of us that is hard to describe. Now that our kids are getting older, someday grandkids will be tossed into the mix. Perhaps they will propel us to another level of intimacy.
Well, that’s all I’ve got. I know I’m probably forgetting something from the weekend that would qualify as another element of a successful marriage, but there was much alcohol and little sleep, so you’ll have to forgive my memory loss.
Would love to hear some comments as well as any additional elements that you feel might be helpful for sustaining a long-term successful marriage.