[Originally published on Feb. 12/13 as a guest post at "My Girly Parts" blog]
This is written from personal experience, as a woman who will be celebrating her 40th wedding anniversary in a few days. Although I’m no expert, the knowledge gained over so many years may be helpful to some.
I met future hubby in March 1971, during my last year of high school. He had moved here, directly from Italy, a few months earlier and barely spoke English. We took an instant dislike to one another, which made for an awkward situation, as we shared many of the same friends. Slowly, we became platonic friends, but our relationship took a more romantic turn when he asked me out on a date, that October. One night and we were both completely besotted!
Life was wonderful until the following spring, when my mother informed me that she and I would be going to Germany that summer, to visit her parents. Imagine my devastation! (We lived in Canada.) Crying and pleading didn’t work, so off we flew, as soon as school was over. Misery and longing overwhelmed me. My boyfriend wrote letters, but the contents were disturbing to say the least. His relatives, (old-world Italians), were trying to turn him against me and fill his head with wrong ideas. Fortunately, he trusted me and did not believe for one minute that I was “partying, getting drunk and screwing around”, per their accusations.
So, this would be Lesson # 1. Trust your mate and give them the benefit of the doubt; don’t be jealous or possessive.
When trust leaves a relationship, a big part of it dies.
We wanted to stay together, so I informed my parents that I wouldn’t be following their plan for college. (Yes, a big fight ensued but it was my life, after all.) I found a job to earn my keep. Nothing glamorous; cashier at a bakery, but it gave me some independence. A few months later, my sweetie and I rented an apartment. What fun to set up housekeeping together! Most beneficial; we saw each other in the “real world”, i.e. sans makeup, teeth not brushed, hair not combed, tired, cranky, etc., as opposed to just the “dating world”, where everyone looks and acts their best. We decided to get married in the summer and picked the first weekend of August, almost two years after that famous first date.
This brings us to Lesson # 2. Get to know each other as well as possible, before making a serious commitment.
Take your time and don’t rush it. Make sure to discuss major lifestyle choices; children, work, housing, etc., otherwise there could be some unpleasant surprises later.
We had to pay for the wedding ourselves, because of family opposition. Hubby wanted the traditional Italian reception; multi-course meal, band, etc. I loved the idea, but, being young and foolish, didn’t realize the expense involved. Neither did he, so we borrowed the money, thinking the wedding gifts, (Italians offered cash instead of material items), would cover expenses. Sadly, they didn’t and we started our married life together in debt.
Lesson # 3: Unless you or your family can afford it, don’t spend the money for a lavish wedding reception.
It’s only one day out of your life and there are more important things you’ll need. Most especially, don’t go into debt for it! Not good to begin your lives together running a deficit, like we did.
The years passed quickly and our marriage had many ups and downs, as we were both stubborn, “Alpha” type personalities. We even came to the brink of divorce a couple of times, but were determined to salvage the relationship. Ultimately, we worked everything out and are now happier than ever.
This brings us to Lesson # 4. Don’t walk away at the first sign of trouble.
If you really love your mate, then it’s worth the effort to try to save the relationship. Open and honest communication is the key to successful partnerships, along with compromise and cooperation. Pick your battles and don’t obsess over trivialities.
In my opinion this is one of the most important lessons of all, along with:
Lesson #5: Don’t be controlling.
There’s an old saying that fits well, here. To paraphrase: “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, then it never was”. Both of you should have some interests and activities apart from the other. Too much togetherness can be a relationship killer. Refer back to Lesson # 1, as well. Your partnership should be a “leash-free zone”. Of course, if there’s not enough togetherness, that’s a whole other issue and needs to be addressed. Back to communication again.
Just a couple of other things I’d like to add.
- Always make time for your mate, no matter what else is going on. A “date night” once a week perhaps, or some weekend “afternoon delight”. The important thing is to remove all other distractions and just relax together and enjoy each other’s company.
- Accept your partners for who they are and don’t try to change their personalities. This never works and will only lead to resentments. If there is a serious behavioural issue, then a frank discussion would be in order. Always communicate!
So, there you have it; my formula for a successful relationship. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, but, after 40 years, we’ve finally got it figured out.
On the flip side, things don’t always work out. If you’re stuck in a dysfunctional relationship and see no hope for improvement, despite your best efforts, then maybe it’s time to let it go. Life is short and everyone deserves a chance at happiness.
So, what do you think? What does it take to keep your love alive?
Looking forward to your comments!