As mentioned on my Valentine’s Day Instagram post, I spent the day skiing with my parents (in fact, three weeks skiing with them). Not ideal as a single, 29 year-old, but as a celebrant, my parents are my sounding board and go to for advice on marriage and love. This year, they will have been married for 35 years and whilst I’ve been observing them and their marriage my whole life, I’ve never stopped to ask them what is important to their relationship and what keeps the love alive.
So, for all you lovers out there who are considering, or about to get married, here is a little something from my family to yours.
- What is always important to remember from the beginning?
Respect – from the beginning, ensure that you have a good foundation of friendship.
Honesty – have no secrets. “Unless its shopping”, said Mum. “Ah, but even that’s a given if you know your wife’s habits”, said Dad.
Understanding and compromise – from the beginning, know that there will be different thought processes, two individuals won’t always agree.
Clear expectations – make sure you travel down the same road at the same time and pace otherwise resentment can build. Be committed to where you both are going and equally put into the relationship. Don’t expect it to be smooth sailing all the time and be prepared to not put yourself first all the time.
Listen – for males as a general rule – wives don’t always want solutions, sometimes it’s the act of listening that is more important than saying anything.
Trust – you have to trust each other, because without it there is no union or relationship. Don’t give your partner any cause to distrust you.
Enough common interests – you don’t have to do everything together but having shared experiences allows you to build a lifelong bond of memories and connection.
Life – remember that people change over time and you must change together otherwise you will grow apart.
Goals – it’s not about one achieving for the other, it’s about achieving together and most importantly, not at the expense of the other.
- Can you describe marriage?
Yes, marriage is a bit like playing poker, knowing when to hold and when to fold. Pick when it’s worth putting all your cards on the table and when a poker face is required.
- In a broad sense, what are the biggest challenges that you’ve overcome?
The biggest challenges we’ve had to face individually and as a couple were health issues, living overseas, having children, financial sacrifices and work.
When your health is on the line, you have re-evaluate your life and the relationships you have around you. Living overseas comes with its difficulties, both positive and negative. Having children is a juggling act as children impact on your relationship and the time that you can dedicate to just the two of you. The financial challenges are about making sacrifices for long-term goals but also it is about wanting the same things and agreeing on the same points to get there and know that you just can’t do everything.
Work is a huge challenge upon your relationship but within society work and its role in the home has changed. We now live in an “on demand” society as we are connected in every sense of the word. Our phones are glued to our hands and eyeballs so the challenge is now, how do you be present? How do you resist the urge to be on demand and balance your time?
- Has your view of marriage changed?
No. We had a solid friendship before the love came, which continues to this day. We also had parents who set examples for us to follow, both of our parents genuinely wanted to be there for one another, as do we for each other now.
- Is there a secret to a long and successful marriage?
No. No journey or road is perfect because humans are complex creatures.
- What do you do to keep the love alive?
Date nights, do lots of things together. (In the case of my parents, after 20 years Dad playing golf every Sunday, Mum decided to take it up to spend more time with Dad).
But if one is off doing an activity, the other should have a passion or hobby too and not sit at home building up resentment. Acceptance is also key here. It is important to accept that your partner may want the time and space to do their own thing or achieve an individual goal. You should support them in this decision but afterwards, ensure that you have time together and share your experiences with your partner.
When you’re free of children, and it’s just the two of you, understand and recognise the rituals within your marriage that build throughout time that you don’t even realise are there.
Final notes from Mum and Dad: Embrace the small moments and be in the present.
And there you have it, words of wisdom from two people who know a thing or two about love and marriage.