Is there really a secret to a Happy Marriage? On purpose, I did not try to clear up what signs the man and woman are holding in the picture above. Why? Because in my mind there is no one particular answer or even two. It is a multitude of answers. Take it from me, it took me three times to get it right. Plus, it took the same for Steve. Yet we both have friends who are celebrating 40 plus years with the same person. Sometimes it is the only person that they ever went out on dates with in high school and then married right out of high school - still together! One of Steve's British jokes is that when he hears of this long marriage to the same person, he will say, "DJ and I have been married that long, just not to the same person."
Both of us married way too young the first time. Let's say a year of marriage? Of course, we were both of the age that we knew so much more than our parents. Then a few years later, we both met someone for the second time. Feeling a bit wiser (not) we at least were married for longer than a year. Both of us had ups and downs, as most marriages have. The good news out of these two marriages was the fact that we each had a son and a daughter out of this marriage. Sadly, as the years moved forward we seemed to have grown further and further apart and divorce was inevitable.
After this second attempt I had no intention of trying a third time. All I can say is to never say never. At about the same time that I decided to move from Texas back to Memphis, Steve decided to take a deal with Fed Ex in the UK and was sent to World Headquarters in Memphis. We did not know each other and each dated a little while definitely not getting serious about any one in particular. We did eventually meet up through a friend and really did seem to have a chemistry. We both played it slowly. I think looking for red flags.
We had one date before the Christmas holidays where he was going off to England to pick up his son and go to Disney World in Paris and I was planning a vacation across country to Colorado for a ski trip. That one date was magical. I took things seriously, and met him at the restaurant, talked of our upcoming holidays with our children and simply said, "See you when we get back." Then out in the parking lot there was the goodnight kiss. And what a kiss it was. I could hear Faith Hill singing, This Kiss. I held my to go box in between us. Truly, it was just a simple kiss yet was one that had a huge impact on me. Steve shared with me much later that it did on him too.
My crew had a wonderful time skiing in the Rockies but we barely made it back in time for New Year's Eve due to a snow storm on our drive back across the country. Steve ended up getting a very bad case of pneumonia and having to stay in England until he recuperated. We stayed in touch through e mails.
Once he did finally arrive back in Memphis we met up again to talk about our travels. I brought pictures to show and we both had lots to share with each other. We both knew that we loved each other's company and enjoyed a lot of the same things. One thing that I had written about in my daily journal was that it may sound like a cliche yet it really is a good thing to marry your best friend. And more importantly, is to treat it like that. You are honest in a kind way and you accept each other for who they are and don't try to change them. (Thinking of the play, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change) You may have disagreements with friends but you never can stay mad for long because they are too precious. I have never shouted at any best friend and can proudly say that of my husband.
We also spent a lot of time alone together but when we did go out with others it was with positive people, other loving couples. It just makes for:
Prioritize a night to do something special each week. For the two of us, we were involved in quite a few activities from season tickets to the Triple A ball club, to joining in with friends for season NBA tickets, also the Symphony and Live at the Garden seats where we were fortunate enough to see stars such as Seal, Cosby, Nash and Young, Duran, Duran, and so many more that the list is way to long to name.
The romantic side of Steve would always surprise me such as when he told me that he was taking me somewhere that was a secret. All he would say was how I should dress. He dropped clues but I did not catch on. It was the musical that was in town - Chicago. Then quite an amusing surprise is that he got unbelievable tickets to see Phantom of the Opera. I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I had done the same thing. Finally, I broke the news to him that we had seats to see it again in a few days. Only thing was that the seats that I could afford were way up in the Balcony. Not even the Mezzanine. He went on to tell me how wonderful it would be to see it in a different perspective. (That is true love.)
Communication is so very important in staying happy together. It is ok to be individuals even though you need each other. One of the worse things to do in a partnership is to sacrifice your identity for the sake of your partner. There must be honesty and you both must be open with each other and trust each other. Having a sense of humor is a good thing too. We laugh at our different language. We both speak English, just so very different. Some good advice is to remain yourself. I am always going to say ya'll and I am fixin' to cook dinner and he will always say to please add loo rolls to the shopping list or will I check the boot of the car.
Another little secret that the two of us have learned is that what works for some may not for others. This is just how is. Happy couples do argue. I really can only remember one argument that we ever had. We just had to agree to disagree. Focus on each other's strengths and never expect your partner to complete you. Celebrate the small and good moments.
Don't sweat the small stuff? Let's rephrase that and say don't stress over the small stuff. However, the small stuff adds up to the bigger picture. If you marry someone with a good heart it will show wherever you go. How a person treats others is a big eye opener. Watch how others respond to your partner. Listening to interactions with others is as important as interaction with each other. Remember, you are on the same team and should always have each other's backs.
Keep the romance alive. Surprise gifts. They all do not need to be expensive - just something that says, "I love you." Perhaps a bouquet? A car wash? Never, ever stop saying the words, "I love you."
Thinking of the song by The Turtles called, Happy Together. The only one for me is you, and you for me. You know when you got it right! It took a while but so worth it. We will be celebrating our 20th anniversary on Valentine's Day. Marriage is not a give and take kind of thing. It is a give and don't expect anything in return set up. Be there for each other. Everyone walks down the aisle dreaming of their happily ever after. Maintaining that happy ever after becomes quite easy and not at all hard work if BOTH partners are vested in each other. Once you are a team, it is all for one and one for all - Happy Together!