Twenty years ago this coming Wednesday, I walked down the aisle and exchanged vows with my husband. Wow. Twenty years. That’s like, older than a teenager! When I think about old married couples, I don’t think about us, because I don’t think we’re old. But then, after two decades of experience, I ought to have something to share with those who haven’t been as far down this road as we have.
Being a romance writer, I should be a hopeless romantic. And yes, I am, in some ways. But in other ways, I’m also a harsh realist. In these 20 years, I’ve seen couples who’ve made it, and some who haven’t. I’ve seen women (and men) sabotage what they have and walk right intothe same problems again. I’ve seen women who’ve gone from relationship to relationship, and things just “don’t seem to work out” for them.
I don’t claim to know everything, nor do my husband and I have a perfect relationship, but I’ve chosen 10 things to share about 20 years of marriage.
Like I said, I see women who continue to search for love. Whether they’re looking in the wrong places or not, I’m not sure. But they jump into relationships fast and heavy. When they’re with a man, all is bliss. I see notes and memes of affection posted on social media. And then, it fades and the anger surges for a while. Then, on to the next one. More professions of mush. It’s sad to see.
So, what should a woman do while she’s trying to decide if he’s “the one”:
1. Use your head, not just your heart, when deciding if this special person is the one for you. Romantic feelings are wonderful, dizzying, intoxicating. When you’re with that someone, the world is brighter, food tastes better. Without them, the world is darker and flatter. Just like a used car salesman, the dizzying hormones of attraction urge you to “act now” because this offer won’t come your way again. But use your head. Sometimes the heart deceives us into believing the feelings are enough to sustain a relationship.
2. Quirks and idiosyncracies are one thing, but major character flaws are another. So a guy picks his teeth with a knife and not a toothpick. That’s a bit odd if not dangerous, and weird to do in public. But does he drive angrily in traffic and cut people off, and exhibit true road rage? I’m not talking the road rage of getting cranky behind the wheel, but the kind where he really could put himself (and YOU) in danger? Which would you rather deal with?
3. If he does it now, he’ll keep doing it. If he doesn’t do it now, he probably won’t later.
Does he do his laundry and cook his food, and keep up (reasonably) with his house work? Does he kep up with his bills? Or is his apartment a few steps above an episode of Hoarders? Or does he keep getting calls from bill collectors? Tihs is also where #1 comes into play some more.
4. He is, how he is.
If he loves the Dallas Cowboys now, he will love them “after.” My husband is funny, quirky, hardworking, and laidback. He still is not a handyman. I only buy him the power tools he specifically requests, and I have not set about trying to convert him. If we need something done, we figure out how to do it—together—or we hire someone.
5. He’s not supposed to “make you happy.”
This amazing guy in your life? He’s not the source of your joy, your happiness, your well-being. That’s too much pressure for a man to live up to. Sure, he can bring you joy and do special things for you, and spoil you. You should be able to be yourself with him, more than with anyone else. But making you happy? That’s not his job or responsibility.
After you’re married:
1. Laugh. A lot. Find random things to laugh at. Especially when things are tough. Even if you’re crying and don’t feel it. Humor buoys the spirits and helps you take yourself much less seriously. Because quite a few of the things (I didn’t say all) that upset us aren’t really worth getting upset over, nor are some of them under our control. We’ve laughed in the hospital, at cancer, at funerals, and more. Not to run from any pain or fear or whatever the “serious” emotion is, but humor, laughter has helped meld us even closer.
2. Guard your time together. Life intrudes whether you know it or not, especially when you’re not looking. Whether it’s kids, careers, hobbies, church activities, you name it—they can all intrude. Be jealous, not of other people, but time slips away from us so quickly. When “they” say time flies—it truly does.
3. Forgive. Forgive some more. Forgive again. The person you said “I do” to at the altar is fallible, human, flawed, in spite of the tuxedo. And so are you, despite the pretty dress. Forgiveness is often much better than being right.
4. Don’t keep score. “You always” and “You never” may be tempting to say sometimes (I know, because I’ve had to bite my tongue more than once in that respect). It’s a way of keeping score, and it only serves to create a mountain that even the most perfect man would be discouraged from climbing.
5. See #5 above. He still isn’t supposed to “make you happy.” My husband has done things for me that have touched my heart, and made me happy, and I’m thankful for that. On the other hand, he’s not the source of my joy and happiness. I can’t imagine my life without him, nor do I want to.
Those of you who’ve been married a long, long time—any other tips I’ve not mentioned?
Andrea Cox says
That’s a beautiful list, and congratulations on your twentieth year of marriage.
I’m not yet married, but one tip I would add to your list is to purposely find ways to make the other person happy. It may not be our job to make the other person happy, but it can be our joy to do so. Plus, if we’re finding ways to bring happiness into the life of our spouse, then we’re not keeping score of the negative (our focus would be on the positive, happy things/moments).
Hi Andrea, That’s a great idea– those purposeful ways to make the one we love happy. It is ofen the little things that add up in a good way. :)
Britney Adams says
Happy upcoming 20th anniversary, Lynette!! I enjoyed your romance tips; thank you for sharing!
Thanks Britney! :)
Excellent words of wisdom. I will be 30 this year and haven’t found the right man yet, but almost every one of my friends that has been married is already divorced. I’d rather hold out for the right one.
He’s definitely worth holding out for. In our case, the right one for me was not who I expected! :) Praying you cross paths with the right one for you at the right time. :)
Trixi O. says
We just celebrated our 18th year on April 5th. I love your tips & agree with every one of them! I too have learned the same things over the years. I love my husband “as he is” because he was that way when I met him. It’s part of what attracted me to him….what I call his core character. Honest, respectful, humorous, treats everyone well, etc. Not that he doesn’t have his flaws (we all do), that’s what make him human. God gave him to me to pray for him in those areas, lifting him up to the Father . That would be one thing I would probably add (if anything) to the list. Pray daily for your spouse! They have the same struggles, feelings, thoughts as we do & they need God just as much as we do. I think it makes a marriage stronger!
Happy 20th anniversary to you and your husband! Keep on keeping on, laughing, crying, forgiving & loving one another :-)
That is awesome,, Trixi! Happy anniversary to you and your hubby, too! :)
Happy Anniversary to both of you! We’ve been married 25 years! Great tips and insight. A good tip is never stop dating, even if it’s just a walk together, or a picnic in the yard. It doesn’t have to be spectacular just something together. Not a tip but one thing my mom told me before I got married was to watch how he treats his mom. Does he respect her speak well to/of her? That’s a good sign of how he sees women and how he’ll treat you.
Muriel Hernando says
We have celebrated our 23rd anniversary on the 10th of April. I appreciate and agree with all the tips you share and I would have add the same as Kim (just above) : never stop dating, holding hands … our son is studiyng noiw and we are happy to be like newlyweds again even 23 years after getting marryed !