How do you stay married? One way is to be sensitive to each other’s needs and to compromise every now and then. That means taking turns getting one’s way, or finding a third way that suits you both.

I bought tickets to a concert months ago; I bought them because I’m the one who wanted to go, and my husband acquiesced because he is a good sport, better than I am. But when the time came to go (actually, the night before), I saw he wasn’t feeling that great and the concert promised to be a brawl anyway so I suggested we stay home. He agreed immediately because he thought I was tired, he said, even though we must have both known he felt lousy too and never really wanted to go in the first place. He told me he was skipping the concert for my sake. He’s done this before, where he indicates he’s doing something for me but it’s really for him. Occasionally I point that out, but this time I didn’t. And he was right; I was tired. This spring has been a rough time in many ways for us both, and I’m not talking about the weather.

I had bought the tickets looking forward to us having a good time together, but now I didn’t think it would be fun with him punky and me tired, although I felt disappointed. I knew someone who would probably like to go to the concert, so I gave her the tickets and got to be generous twice with one gesture. It all added up: two tickets minus two people who didn’t want to go plus two other people who did want to go equals four happy campers. My math may not be that good, but you get the idea.

Relationships are not logical like math. The numbers don’t always add up; they are about the space between people, the back-and-forth flow, feeling the whole being of the other. That takes time, determination, an open heart, and a sensitive touch.

Oh, and by the way, on the day of the concert I was very busy and tired and glad to have an early evening. When work was over, my husband and I met at a local restaurant, had a lovely dinner together, and went home feeling happy and connected. We had found the third way, a low-key evening that pleased us both.

Eighteen qualities that help make a marriage last:

  1. Trust. Our marriage space is sacred and private.
  2. Restraint. We resist temptation and remain true to each other.
  3. Intimacy. We are open with each other.
  4. Priorities. We both put our marriage first.
  5. Difference. We respect each other’s differences, and know that difference lends interest.
  6. Sameness. We share basic values, some interests, and tastes.
  7. Communication. We speak up and communicate our needs, likes, dislikes, agreements, and disagreements.
  8. Fairness. We play fair.
  9. Respect. We demonstrate it.
  10. Emotion. We get mad at each other sometimes; we are human.
  11. Reconnection. We get un-mad. If it takes a day or so, we live with it and work on letting the anger go.
  12. Humor. Having a sense of humor helps.
  13. Gratitude. We are so glad to be together, and we say so.
  14. Truthfulness. If we have to say something that might be hard for one of us to hear, we tell the truth, and we try to say it gently and clearly so that the other person can hear it.
  15. Sensitivity. We know where the buttons are and are careful not to push them.
  16. Persistence. Staying married takes time, determination, and hard work.
  17. Forgiveness. For your partner and for yourself, too.
  18. Teamwork. We help each other grow.

I’m sure there are many other qualities that you can think of that help a marriage stay healthy and alive, and I’d love to hear from you. What things do you and your partner consider important? How long have you been together? We first met in 1980 and have been together ever since.


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