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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.

 

Are you expressing love and appreciation to the people that matter most to you?

Last Friday was Valentine’s Day. I love Valentine’s Day because it’s all about expressing love, appreciation and gratitude to the important people in my life. After spending a great evening with my wife and kids, in which we all had the chance to express our love, appreciation and gratitude to each other, I thought to myself ‘how much more happy and empowered we all would be if we practiced this level of expression regularly’.

We run so fast, our lives are so hectic and driven, that without meaning to we often take for granted how others feel about us and what they do for us. We just don’t stop and say “Thank you” enough.

We wouldn’t dream of driving our cars with no oil in the engine. Friction would build up, the pistons would seize, and the car would grind to a halt. Expressing love, appreciation and gratitude is the oil of relationships. When we express our love, appreciation and gratitude we touch others and this motivates them to give even more. People can endure, even thrive, during extensive difficult times when they feel appreciated and loved.

I travel a lot in my line of work, and in the past it often took my wife and I some time to reconnect when I would return home. It’s not that we don’t love each other. In fact, we are madly in love. But, when I was away and my wife was at home, we had different routines. And it often took some conscious effort to reconnect and realign our routines when I came back. There always seemed to be a period of heightened sensitivity when we came back together. If I would criticize my wife, even for small and insignificant things like ‘the kitchen is not clean’ or ‘the kids are not in bed on time,’ it would often turn into an argument beyond proportion.

So, a few years ago we started a new practice – we agreed that in the first hours of my return home we would only express positive, supportive, and appreciative things to each other. There are always things to criticize each other for, and some of these seem more pronounced when you’ve been a part for a few days. Even though we’ve been practicing this routine for a few years now, I still find, even today, that it takes a conscious effort to avoid the negative comments and only focus on things to appreciate and recognize in my wife and kids. It’s not always easy, but it works and it is very rewarding for all of us.

People seem to be lazy and even stingy about expressing love, appreciation and gratitude. The lazy say, “well they already know how I feel. I thanked them last week or last month.” They don’t understand that expressing love, appreciation and gratitude is not about the information. The stingy say, “they could have done it better, it wasn’t that great.” They focus on what’s not good enough instead of generously highlighting others’ efforts and care. Both are letting the oil run out of the engine.

Wouldn’t it be great if we lived every day like it was Valentine’s day?