32 CommentsLife, Relationships

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.

Holding Hands Young adult male groom and female bride holding hands on beach at sunset. WONG SZE FEI - Fotolia

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!

Jan. 27, 1973. Future Hubby and me
Future hubby and me, Jan. 1973

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.

The Happy Couple

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.

©D.D.B. 2013

red heart

So, what do you think? What does it take to keep your love alive?

Looking forward to your comments!

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Debbie D.
Canine Innkeeper in suburban Toronto, Canada, known as "The Doglady". Writer/website owner, photographer, animal lover, music fanatic, inveterate traveller. History, literature and cinema buff. Eternal "hippie/rockchick". Binational, German/Canadian and multilingual. Looking for the next adventure!
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  1. How did I miss this? Well, since the information here is timeless, it is as relevant today as when you posted, or even when the events all transpired… Great list.

  2. Excellent words of advice Debbie and glad you and your hubby are still happily married. 🙂 Kudos to both of you for hanging in there and trusting in and believing in each other. 🙂 <3

    1. Thanks, Elly! 🙂 Also for taking the time to read this. Not many people bother to click on links to previous posts. We’ve had quite a ride and it’s hard to believe that more than 4 decades have passed!

  3. I’m glad I was able to read this, Debbie. Your site was down when you published it. I love the wisdom of what you’ve shared – every word is so true!
    Yours is a lovely story of lasting friendship and love.

    1. Yes; the great North American hosting site crash! 😛 Glad it finally got fixed and thanks for persevering, Corinne. I really appreciate that you came back! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the article. We are among the lucky ones, for sure.

  4. Congratulations. When marriages “work”, they are a comfort and a joy. My husband, Steve, and I were “just friends” for over 8 years before we became a couple. We met as college fresh(men) both working at our college cafeteria work-study jobs. I was 17. First I married my college boyfriend, my first boyfriend. I didn’t have anything to compare that relationship to, but it was fairly tumultuous, a roller coaster of highs and lows. The marriage lasted less than 2 years. I was actually reluctant to risk my friendship with Steve by taking it to a different level, but he was persuasive. By the time we married (at ages 28 and 29), I was a lawyer and he was a physician. I think we knew ourselves and each other and the demands of our careers pretty well by then. Most lives have their gales, sunny days and hurricanes. Fortunately, our marriage has been a port in the storm. When it works (and it does take some work), marriage is the best.

    1. Sounds like you and your husband did it the right way, too! 🙂 Yes, it definitely does take work. If only more people understood this, the divorce rate may not be quite so high. Thanks for sharing your story and thoughts, Suzanne. Have a great week.

  5. Congratulations on 40 years Debbie! I’m half-way there and I hope one day I’ll be celebrating 40 years too :).

    I love the story of how you met…sounds like you two are soul mates :). Thank you for sharing that great advice. The problem we have (after all these years) is jealousy. You would think that would be a thing of the past, right?

    Thank you for the advice! I’m definitely going to keep it in mind :). Have a great weekend my friend!

    1. Thanks Corina. It was pretty funny in hindsight that we didn’t like each other at all in the beginning. 😀 I think the next stage, when we became platonic friends, was an important foundation to the romantic relationship that followed. Have never been the jealous type myself, but a little jealousy can be a good thing in a relationship. Keeps you on your toes! 😉 I appreciate your coming by and also sharing my article. You have a good weekend as well. 🙂

  6. Congratulations on 40 years of marriage! That is amazing! It will be 16 years this September 12 for my husband and me. You shared a lot of great advice here.

    1. Thanks Kathy. 🙂 We are just as amazed as everyone else! Congratulations on your upcoming 16th and best wishes for the future.

  7. Debbie, Congratulations! This is NO easy feat today. I like how you explained how you did and the advice you gave, it is REAL and easy to follow. Enjoy the celebration party.

    1. So glad you liked my article, Lisa. 🙂 It may not be such easy advice for some, seeing as how the divorce rate is so high. I think in many cases people expect too much and just aren’t willing to work out their differences. Either that, or they haven’t found the right person. I got lucky, there! 😀 Thanks for the good wishes; we are looking forward to the party. Have a great weekend yourself.

  8. Hi Debbie,

    Congratulations in advance for your wedding anniversary, and just like everyone else, when I read this post at Bren’s place and from one of your earlier comments on a marriage post at my blog, it amazed me too as to how you managed to carry it all so well for 40 years – commendable indeed 🙂

    Yes, we all go through ups and downs in our lives, and things aren’t really easy either – but that’s what life is all about too – isn’t it? Sticking on together and weathering the storms makes it all so worthwhile.

    Thanks for sharing more of you with us. Have a nice weekend 🙂

    1. You are so right Harleena! Weathering the storms makes everything worthwhile. 😀 I’m just amazed at how quickly time has passed. Doesn’t seem that long. Thanks for dropping by and you have a good weekend as well.

  9. Congratulation Debbie and Angelo – 40 years a long time – and you are still young.

    I met my husband also very early, not so early as you but we were 19 and 20 years old. We waited 13 years before we married. So see one rule we followed – be sure that marry the right. Of course there were also times when we had trouble and were not sure about our feelings but as you said, with the time you grow together, saying same things at the same time…. or just sit there and say nothing but in harmony… as we know we also can keep silent and agree.

    1. You certainly got to know your husband very well, before marriage, Bettina. 🙂 No relationship is perfect, but, I think the troubled times make you appreciate the good times so much more. Thanks for your comments and see you in Sept. Not far off, now. 😀

  10. All excellent advice, I think, Debbie–and congrats on 40 years! I’m glad you worked out the difficult times. Isn’t it something–how many people were against it in the beginning. And here you are, 40 years later. Wonderful <3

    1. Thanks Teresa. 😀 Many people would have cut and run, but we were pretty determined, because we knew, underneath it all, that we were meant to be together.

  11. Congratulations on being married 40 years, Debbie! Wow! That is wonderful! You share lots of great wisdom for young couples starting out and even older ones like me who have been married for nearly 24 years. Great post and good reminders that marriages are not always perfect and they require work and attention to keep them going but they’re well worth the effort.

  12. I just love this story so much Debbie! It’s amazing to me that you’ve been married 40 years! Wow! Very admirable! Thanks so much for sharing these tips. I’m happy to pass these along in hopes others can last as long!

    1. We can hardly believe it either, Bren and sometimes just look at each other in amazement. 😀
      Glad you liked the article. Thanks for hosting it on your blog earlier in the year and for sharing it now.

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