What is the secret sauce to a long and happy marriage? I recently had my own personal physician ask me this. She said she asks every patient this. I have to assume she meant every long-time married patient!
Something I’ve noticed with younger couples is their (naturally) large emphasis on having the perfect wedding day. What I long to tell them is this is just the first day of “getting married.” You will continue to get married your entire lives together. What do I mean by that? Learning each other’s needs is a big part of this journey.
Learning Each Other’s Needs
There are many areas of our lives that must join successfully to create a satisfying relationship. That does not mean they always have to agree, but it does mean at the very minimum acceptance or a negotiated compromise will take place. Do you want children? If yes, how will you parent? How will you allocate your financial resources? Who will actually pay what bills? How do you define financial security? Will religion play a part in your relationship? How will you manage holidays between parents? What does gift giving mean for you? What level of cleanliness is acceptable to you?
These are just a few of the topics I hope you have explored before you make it legal. But that still does not answer the question “What is the secret sauce to a long and happy marriage?”
A Simple Example
Let me try to answer this with a simple example. My husband hates to shop for gifts. He never feels he can satisfy the receiver. And he simply does not like shopping in general. I like the occasional gift, and used to attach much more meaning to the lack of them. I have since learned to accept his consistent generosity in the acts of service he does for me. Like making breakfast for me every morning. Or always taking out the trash. Or, LOL, letting me control the thermostat. And I simply purchase whatever I want in the meantime. I long ago decided it was silly to go to a store, pick out something, and ask him to go buy it for me as a gift.
What this amounts to is me stretching my comfort zone, changing my expectations, and accommodating his shopping aversion to eliminate this stressor for him. I help him with shopping for others, too.
So What Is The Secret Sauce To A Long And Happy Marriage?
What would you call this notion? To me it is genuine giving, giving to the other what they need, not what I need. The concept of genuine giving is simple, but it is not necessarily easy to do. It requires that you adopt your partner’s point of view. Again, not always the easiest stance to take. But if you ask me what the single most important ingredient to a successful relationship is, the secret sauce, it is this genuine giving because you care about their feelings, especially when you have learned they have a trait or preference that remains true over time.
Remember, this is you stretching beyond your comfort zone.
And please don’t complain about it. That’s not genuine. Remember, this is you stretching beyond your comfort zone. If you continue to feel resentment, then you need to return to the negotiation table with your partner. Find out what meaning you attach to the issue. What is the story you are telling yourself? You then have a starting place from which to experiment with ways to compromise.
If your relationship is not where you want it to be, get help before it is too late. Before you start living parallel lives. Most couples wait too long to seek help. Don’t be like them. Contact me here if genuinely want to do the work to improve your relationship. And if you want to do some research to understand more about what your, and your partner’s love language, might be, I suggest taking Gary Chapman’s quiz at www.5lovelanguages.com.