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30 years of blissful marriage

This week my wife and I are celebrating 30 years of extraordinary marriage, and 35 years of being together. We met on the day of my 20th birthday. It was love at first sight, and after 5 years of dating with a couple of short breakups, it was clear to both of us that we were meant for each other forever and we got married. We have been blissfully married and deeply in love ever since.

My wife’s version of how we met is that the minute she laid eyes on me (she was 15 at the time) she knew that we would be together forever. I have always found that hard to understand and believe, but people who were there confirmed that she told them that at the time.

I have been very fortunate and blessed in my marriage. In fact, I am more in love with my wife today then I was 35 years ago, and it was pretty amazing to begin with. People often ask us “what is your secret?” Even though I know how I feel and I know what we’ve done and been through to keep it blissful, I don’t have a concise, definitive and clear formula or answer. Making intimacy, love and unity thrive seems to be more of an art than science.

My wife’s answer to the question is typically very pragmatic: “Do not try to change your spouse. Respect, be kind, learn to compromise, forgive and forget, be patient, never go to sleep angry, and – have lots of sex!

Perhaps our fortune is simply a matter of luck, attraction and compatibility (and we had plenty of those, even though we are opposites in many ways). But, I really believe we had everything to do with making our marriage blissful. From the beginning we believed in our ability to do it. And we behaved and interacted that way for as long as we’ve been together. Every time we had to deal with challenges (and we had our share of these, too) our love and marriage centered and empowered us to overcome these. From the beginning we committed to a completely open, honest, authentic and courageous communication as one of our foundational values and rules. We haven’t been perfect, however, even with all my travel and physical absence, we have kept to it pretty rigorously. And, as our 3 children came along (today they are 25, 21 and 14) we made sure to not forget, neglect or lose“us” in the mix of it all.

With the rate of divorce in North America being 55%, I feel extremely fortunate. The statistics mean that 5 to 6 couples out of every 10 who said “I do” intending to stay together for life didn’t succeed. Why is that the case?

A recent article on msn.com listed the 8 most common reasons for divorce. The most common reason, cited in 73 percent of couples surveyed, was lack of commitment http://living.msn.com/love-relationships/the-8-most-common-reasons-for-divorce

So many couples describe the time they met as “love at first sight”, like us. They fell in love, married and then fast forward 5, 10, 15 years they “fell out of love”.

A close friend who is also celebrating his 30th year anniversary shared with me that he surprised his wife and took her to the same exotic resort in which they had met and fell in love 30 years ago, hoping this will rekindle their marriage. I asked him how it was and he replied sarcastically “not as great as the first time”.

I was not surprised by his answer. People often think the source of love is in the external setting, conditions and circumstances. So, we tend to go back to the same resort or restaurant or do the same things that made us happy in the beginning, hoping these will ‘do the trick again’. But they don’t because even though the places still exist, we have changed. And, kindling or rekindling our love comes from the inside, not from any circumstances.

Falling “in love” and “out of love” seems like things that happen to us. As if we don’t have a say about them. I recognize that it is not the same for everyone. Marriage requires deliberate focus and often a lot of work, and that it is a journey often filled with ups and downs. Plus, there is an element of luck, attraction and compatibility in the mix too.

However, WE have the biggest say… if we believe that and if we can stay in the game, enjoy it and prove it right.