My husband and I will have been married 27 years this year. We’ve only ever been married to each other and only have kids between us. Some would say that’s wonderful, others, weird and fringy! We’re frequently asked for our secret to longevity. To answer, I write our Relationship Glue Recipes. Communication is at the core.
Listen and Talk
I know it sounds trite to say communicate. We’ve heard and read, till we’re blue in the face, how important it is to talk to each other. But notice the order I put the two elements: listen THEN talk. And listening should be active. Respond to what she said–after she’s finished. Don’t interrupt. Ask on-topic, open-ended, non-leading questions to clarify what you don’t understand. Drop the mind games or agenda. Don’t grill him. Don’t try to “interpret” –that reads as second guessing. Listen lovingly–with an open mind–prepared to accept and validate, not reject and negate. This is your partner and ally you’re talking with, not your mortal enemy. Use words, statements and questions as tools to build your relationship, not weapons to destroy it.
Trial and Error
Most of what hubs and I have learned about relationships comes from trial and error (emphasis on “error.”) I always say we’ve made every mistake in the book and wrote in a few of our own. But (this is crucial) we learn from them. We may repeat them a few times before we get it right. But we don’t stop trying. If one or both of us starts down a negative path, we auto-correct and redirect as soon as we recognize we’re going astray.
Get it Out Cleanly
They say trouble shared is trouble halved. And that’s true. If something bad happens at work, ask your partner if you can process it. Mind I said ask. Don’t just spray toxicity. Venting is a privilege, not a right. Respect your spouse. He can’t fix it and you shouldn’t expect him to. Appreciate him for trying to help. Don’t dictate how she must respond. She’s not a vending machine providing what you demand. She gets to feel anger, stress too. Your suffering hurts him as much as it does you, in a loving relationship.
Breach Painful Subjects
Sharing outside problems is one thing. If one of you caused it, that’s another. I recently did something stupid that hurt my husband. I’m embarrassed just thinking of it. I didn’t intend to, but I didn’t avoid it either. He was upset and kept bringing it up. I pooh-poohed it (my conscience was kicking me). I made excuses, accused him of doing the same thing (he didn’t–I just wanted to make myself feel better about my screw-up). It took a minor blow-up for me to take the blinders off and accept how much I’d hurt him. I realize I’ve done this before. It was horrible for both of us. But afterwards, when he forgave me, I understood how important it was to get this out. It’s like that festering boil–lancing hurts like crazy, but it’s the only way to heal. And it was affirming to see that I could foul up and still be loved.
So keep those communication lines open, for healthiest relationships.