I started a marriage series a while back, and I thought it was high time to get back to it. Maybe it’s because my husband and I are going on our first weekend away (alone) in what seems like forever. You heard that right. Two nights away from the kids, to celebrate our 15th anniversary. Do you want to know what is at the forefront of my mind? SLEEP! Uninterrupted, no little bodies in the bed, alarm-clock-free, blissful sleep… and morning lie-ins as an added bonus :)
OK, time to fess up… this all happened a month ago, I just haven’t had the time to get this post out! #reallife got in the way. But it was all that I had hoped it would be, and when I think back on it, it’s like I can go there again and be present in that moment; so forgive a girl for dreaming a little.
Anyway, I was reminded of our 15th anniversary weekend of sleep when we took our kids out to lunch today and seated at the table next to us was a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. 50!!! In today’s day and age, that is just amazing and it got me thinking, what is their secret?
Here are my thoughts on what it takes to become the kind of spouse worth living with for 50 years!
The purpose of communication in a relationship is to uplift not destroy. We are not all natural communicators. Sometimes we have to put effort into learning the art. This takes practice and time. For me, communication within a marriage is key to having a successful marriage. When my husband and I got engaged we did a marriage prep course. We had a few “tests” to take. These tests revealed the weaknesses and strengths of our relationship. To our surprise, our strongest connection was conflict resolution. It turns out that according to the tests we did, we were able to effectively argue our viewpoints, deal with them and then forget about it.
On the flip side, a number of years ago a good friend made the comment that my husband and I had a very “conflicting” relationship. This stayed with me for a few years. You see, my husband and I are not afraid to speak our minds. Whether in private or public, what you see is what you get. We are individuals with our own viewpoints and yes, sometimes these viewpoints clash. That’s not a bad thing. And I learned to embrace it.
Communication between partners needs to flow easily and steadily – like a wide river slowly, but strongly, flowing across the landscape. It cannot be unstable or closed off. This may lead to living alongside our partners instead of with them. Once the communication withers away, a loss of passion may follow and along with it love.
So what does good communication within a relationship look like? Good communication is when couples are able to safely share their deepest and most intimate thoughts and feelings freely and without fear of judgment. When they listen to each other with respect and honour each other’s unique perspective on issues. When they are able to have robust conversations about problems or difficulties that arise without undermining the other and allowing the discussion to devolve into a blame-game… Conflict can be positive and edifying!
In light of all this, I think the key to good communication is vulnerability… And this brings me to my next point.
Vulnerability is crucial for good communication specifically, but also for a healthy marriage more generally. The ability to become vulnerable is essential to a meaningful and happy relationship. It is when we are willing to expose ourselves emotionally that we are ready to let our loved one into the deepest part of our being. The risk of being vulnerable opens us up to speak the truth, bearing our souls in what we believe to be (and what should be) a safe environment.
In our relationships, we need to always be authentic, be ourselves, not afraid of letting the other know who we truly are. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in turn allows us to experience true love and joy. We do this by sharing honestly about all that we are feeling and experiencing. Without judgment or shame.
On the flip side, when our partner chooses to be vulnerable with us, we need to show true acceptance and understanding. Speaking and showing love, even if we are unsure. we need to always be respectful and kind. To give our emotions time to settle and then deal with the vulnerability that we have so bravely been shown.
When we are able to meet each other at our point of deepest need it is then that true acceptance and love is revealed.
Moving on from vulnerability, the willingness and ability to be adventurous in a relationship offers a vibrancy of life that little else can. Taking on new opportunities and experiences creates an environment where we are willing to step out of our comfort zones and embrace exploration with each other. Using our newfound courage to be vulnerable, and communicating honestly and respectfully with each other, we can take the courage to discover new things about our partners, our lives, and the world that surrounds us – knowing that we do so with someone who loves us.
We need to open ourselves up to experiences that we might not have even thought of before or considered taboo.
Because when we try new things as a couple it creates an environment that encourages conversation, builds excitement and creates room for laughter. We feel refreshed, challenged and satisfied. It throws boredom out the window, boredom that can lead to feeling unsatisfied in our marriages, and flings wide the door to embracing the new, alive to the possibility of countless exciting new places that are waiting to be discovered.
Adventure in a marriage leads to a sense of achievement and togetherness.
Now, intimacy can be looked at in two ways.
Emotional Intimacy –
In my opinion, emotional intimacy is just as important as physical intimacy!
Emotional intimacy is the enjoyment and exercise of that unique bond (of unfettered communication, courageous vulnerability, and a brave sense of adventure) that you share with your partner on an emotional level. It creates an authentic relationship where you are able to share everything with each other. It allows for a deeper respect for each other, where you value each other’s opinions and thoughts.
When we engage in genuine emotional intimacy with our partners we find ourselves become more realistic in our expectations of each other; because we become more deeply aware of each other’s limitations and conscious of our need to support the other.
Physical Intimacy –
I believe that mutually satisfying (not to mention mind-blowingly good) physical intimacy goes hand-in-hand with emotional intimacy. Not in the sense that one leads to the other, but in the sense that they go together… you cannot truly have one without the other.
Physical intimacy requires just as much attention and intention as emotional intimacy. For two reasons (at least): firstly, healthy and satisfying physical intimacy has a positive effect on every other aspect of your relationship. Secondly, it is one of the few aspects of your marriage relationship that is unique to it – in other words, it is one of the few things that you enjoy with no one else except your spouse.
It is an expression of love. The thrill, and chemistry that you experience builds a stronger and more meaningful relationship when tied with all the other points that I have discussed. The stronger and more satisfying your physical intimacy is “in the bedroom” (so to speak), the stronger your relationship will be “outside the bedroom”. Showing affection and laughing together will become a more natural and regular occurrence.
Friendship makes you think of honesty, companionship, intimacy, and respect. People tend to laugh at me when I declare that my husband is my best friend. But, I don’t know how else to say it. He seriously is my best friend. We laugh together, act like idiots together and let me tell you, we can fight like best friends too :)
Just like any relationship, a friendship needs to be nurtured as well. We cannot allow our busy lives to push our marriages into “work” relationships. Nothing beats coming home to your best friend and sharing the details of your day. Your hurts and fears, successes and joys.
Couples that are friends, genuinely like each other and look forward to spending time with each other.
It’s my belief that by incorporating all these aspects into our marriages we can become the kind of spouses for our partners that they would want to be with for 50 years (and more)… enjoying many, many anniversary weekends of uninterrupted sleep (or at least the kind of sleep where you get to decide what interrupts it … It’s an exciting journey, why not enjoy the ride!