Monday, July 12, 2010

If You Had Only One Tip


Conversation around the dinner table got lively last night as our two grown-yet-single daughters (one each from our first marriages) were complaining about the lack of husband material. The girls expressed their disappointment that most guys in the 20-early 30 range were not interested in getting married, only in “getting,” if you catch my drift.

Their talk soon turned to concerns over recognizing the right guy when he came along, and from there to fears of divorce. They asked us what was the one thing we thought was most important in making a marriage work.

My husband immediately said, “Integrity.” By that he meant being faithful, being honest, and being open.

I said, “Respect and admiration. A wife has to feel respect for her husband and admire what he brings to the marriage, and vice versa. Opinions have to be acknowledged. Feelings can’t be dismissed. Dreams shouldn’t be ridiculed, but supported fully. That’s respect.”

Then we dug deeper and decided that the most important thing in a successful marriage was agreement on the fundamentals, such as money. If one spouse is a spendthrift, and the other is a penny pincher, and they can’t see the other’s viewpoint or refuse to compromise, that’s a fundamental difference that will cause a marriage to fail.

Another is on priorities. Does family come first for both spouses? Or does one let his extracurricular activities dominate, leaving the other feeling like a single parent? Agreeing on the basics has to come first. That’s what we decided was ultimately the key.

What would you say makes a successful marriage? What is the biggest reason marriages fail?

29 comments:

Tonya Kappes said...

Being on the same page about money definitely makes married life MUCH easier. My dh and I decided at the beginning NOT to go in dept and pay bills together, go to the grocery together etc...We have four kids so we can't just spend spend spend. With that said, we CAN get what we want b/c we aren't paying out min. payments on credit cards.

Heather Webber said...

Personally, I think compromise is the key to a successful marriage. Sometimes, you just have to give in. But that goes both ways!

Sheila Connolly said...

As a veteran of 30+ years of marriage (to the same person), I guess I'm qualified to comment.

The problem is knowing what you consider important--and will in the future--when you're in the throes of love. (There's a reason for all those hormones!)

The biggies? You've nailed them. Money. Activities (lots vs. few or none). Communication. And then there's trust, which is harder to define. Do you trust your partner to look out for you, to place your interests at least on a par with his own? Are you trying to build an "us" rather than a "you and me"?

For young people today, there's less pressure to get married, so they do have to think about what matters.

Andrea C. said...

That is a tough one and you mentioned several good ones Kate, but I think you hit the nail on the head with repect. If two people really respect each other then things like compromise and understanding fall into place.
I think a big reason for failing marriages is that one spouse changes a lot but the other does not - this seems to be the truth for couples who marry early in their 20's - ten years later we are looking at 2 very different people with different beliefs and values! I think the growing trend to get married later is a good thing - tell your daughters their mates are out there - part of the fun is finding him! :)

Babs said...

This is a good one Kate I agree respect and compromise is the biggest ones for me. I am on my 2nd marriage and last. My first one I was young 21 and married to the Army it was I felt like which was ok till I came home and found him with my so called best friend. I waited 7 years when I found TJ and glad I married him. We have been married for 13 years now and our biggest thing is we talk everything through and we compromise. He works out of town monday thru friday so I am a single parent so to speak. I do a lot of the work ie grass cutting and house work etc. When he comes home he does his own laundry and helps with the kids and cooks to give me a break. It works for us.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Well, I may have the longevity creditials on this one - 41 years and counting. I think an important factor is not thinking of "quitting" as an option. When problems arise - and they will - don't have that choice sitting on the table with compromise, argue, and just deal with it. That makes walking away too easy, and sometimes marriage isn't easy. Sure, sometimes that's the only choice that works but I think a lot of couples give up too soon.

Angeline Emery said...

It's true that most are only interested in "getting", as you put it. But that can also be a great tool to use to your favor. If you don't "give" it helps you sort them out very quickly! Then you can see who's interested in a real relationship, and who the "horn dogs" really are. Plus, you loose nothing but potential headaches and heartaches.

My husband and I have been married seven years, and we've found that it's best to hash things out when they first come up. If you don't deal with problems they only fester and cause animosity.

Dru said...

I'm not married but Respect and Communication would definitely be on the top of my list for a successful marriage.

Kate Collins said...

Great comments, ladies. Angeline, your point about dealing with things when they come up really hit home. I married early, while still in college(first marriage) and I avoided confrontation. I'd been told before I got married that there were too many fundamental differences between us, but I refused to see them. As Sheila said, "hormones" are very potent. As a result, my resentment kept building because we never dealt with the real problems. I'm not sure they could have been resolved. But it was a tough lesson to learn.
I hope young people aren't being scared off by the high divorce rates. Getting married at a later age, when other values besides "getting" is important, may be the best thing all around.
Agree?

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Great post, Kate. I'll have my 43rd anniversary in one month from today. I guess I'll have to add, being too stubborn to quit to the list.

The joke around our house is that the first forty years are the toughest.

MJ

Closet Confidential: a Charlotte Adams mystery

signlady217 said...

25 years coming up in December! IMO, R-E-S-P-E-C-T!!!!! (Aretha nailed it) Respect for each other's opinions, feelings, space, and "stuff". And be willing to work at it. Face it, being married is hard work! But it can be so worth it!

signlady217 said...

Hey, Mary Jane--I've seen a rubber stamp that said "The hardest years of marriage are the ones after the wedding!" (Ain't it the truth!) :)

Hart Johnson said...

I'm going to chime in with shared humor. If you can laugh with somebody, you can work through just about anything, and when all the hot, heavy hormone stuff fades away, who better for a life partner than somebody you just really enjoy?

Kate Collins said...

I so agree with the humor quotient.It helps to have the same sense of humor, too.
I'd add to make sure you're good friends with the guy/girl, too, because when the hot and heavy stuff fades -- and it will to some degree or another -- there had better be something left behind.
RE: the rubber stamp. Love it and want one!

Lover of Books said...

Respect is definitely there. But also being open with each other. Being able to stick with each through good times and bad, it's not easy but things can be worked out.

Krista

Annette said...

Love, respect and communication are the three most important factors that have kept my 18 year marriage alive.

Anonymous said...

To my mind, the key to a successful marriage is maturity. I think a lot of folks marry thinking they can change the other spouse. A mature person goes into a relationship weighing and measuring the pros and cons, realizing the key is to love and cherish their spouse for what they are.

Patti W said...

Where were you all when I decided to get married 15 years ago? My answer would be laughter. I cannot remember the last time my husband and I laughed together about anything. It's all stressful and for all the above reasons that you all mention.

Molly Swoboda said...

I always advise, "forget the numbers". One long marriage is actually a lot of little ones stuck together...three years here, five years there. Be ready to change and grow. Be okay with a little outrage. Know that when you're hot you're hot. And when you're not, you're not. All my little marriages to The Man will total 43 years on August 21st. Hmm? Perhaps I should add get married during your lunch hour on the hottest Monday of the year....

Gaye said...

Really good advice. I would only add that it helps a lot if you respect your husband as a man and don't try to get him to act or think the way you do (e.g., as a woman, but with more muscles!). Women and men are different (that seems very obvious, but we often act like it's not the case) and we should appreciate and celebrate the differences.

JanRose55 said...

Friendship, if you can't spend time together as friends,it won't work. Commonality - you must have the same ideals, and look forwrd to GROWING TOGETHER! You won't always want to do exactly the same things, my husband hates musical theatre - but my sister and I had season's tickets for years. It was girls night out. You must have differences or it would get a little boring. 26 1/2 years, and counting.

Lindy said...

Angeline mentioned dealing with things as they come up... we call that our "blank slate policy." We promised that we would not keep private lists of offenses that build and fester. All of the tips have been right on; it's great to hear from such awesome women.

Rural View said...

Dave and I have been married 35 years. We were friends first and through all the ups and downs we have remained best friends. We do respect each other and never take each other for granted because we both had a terrible marriage previously. We're total opposites in many ways; on the other hand we are the same when it comes to the big issues like ethics, morals, goals, who we like and don't like, etc. I must say we get more alike with each year though.

Deborah Sharp said...

This may sound glib, but I think one of the main reasons my hubby and I have made it 21 years (so far!) is we make each other laugh.

Kate Collins said...

I'm bowled over by all these outstanding words of wisdom. I love Molly's image of a lot of little marriages stuck together. Amazing. I'm going to make sure the two daughters read all these comments and soak up your collective advice. Awesome job, ladies.
Keep em coming.

Vickie said...

Successful marriage is when you marry your best friend who you love, but more importantly 'like'. I am uber in-like as much as I am in love with my husband and that will carry through everything. I do love him, but the like part is a big part of our relationship.

Failure would be trying to find something out there or trying to remake the person you are with. He/she is who he/she is. One can modify behaviour in the course of compromising, but that is up to that person.

I didn't try to find anyone for me. I was comfortable with being on my own. I was never lonely, only alone and I didn't mind. Being comfortable in one's skin is the best. When the right person comes along you really just know. It's not someone to mold into something else or 'better'. You like being with that person, comfortable in silence as well as talking, have plenty in common, but enough different to be interesting. And don't feel you have to be attached at the hip.

Maggie Sefton said...

That's an EXCELLENT post, Kate. I applaud you.

Kate Collins said...

Thanks, Maggie.
Vickie, beautifully said!
One of the daughters read all the comments last night and was as bowled over as I was. She said, "Wow. What great advice. I'm surprised there are so many long-lasting marriages."
Sad comment, isn't it? But your tips have given her lots of hope that she will indeed find her special someone and there is a good chance for a great relationship.

Ashley Ziemer said...

I would say communication and compromise. I think practicing both results in less arguing, more listening and understanding all the while fostering respect for the thoughts, views, and feelings of one another. On the flip side, I think the lack of communication and compromise can lead to lacking in respect for one another. This could be the beginning of a downward spiral in a marriage.