As a child, my grandmother used to tell me, “You can be with anyone. You just have to choose who you want to put the effort into.”
She has a good point: While the happy ending in a movie might seem like the end, in real life, the relationship keeps going. My grandma and grandpa are an excellent example of this continual effort, having been married for 54 years.
Even though this might seem like a relationship only possible in the past, she gave me a few important points that can be helpful for any relationship.
According to the American Psychological Association, 90 percent of people marry by age 50 within most Western cultures, but unfortunately 40-50 percent of these marriages end in divorce.
But there are people who keep it together. “You need to retain your own identity as well as your identity as a spouse. It’s a real give and take [between both parties],” says my grandma.
This is especially important if you live together. Create some space for yourself separate from the shared space. But also spend time together. Exciting and new things can lead to greater bonding.
Step Back From the Heat of an Argument
Positive, honest communication makes a big difference. Couples who use negative communication techniques such as yelling, resorting to personal criticisms or withdrawing from the discussion, are usually the ones who end up breaking up.
It’s better to take the time to cool off and not say hurtful things. “It always feels better the next day. Things seem straightened out in your mind,” says my grandma. You are able to see things in a new light and then constructively communicate.
Trust is Key
After a first marriage, divorce rates for succeeding marriages dramatically increases. You have to be able to rely on each other but also give each other proper space. When you do lose trust, don’t give up immediately.
Trust takes continual work to maintain, but it also takes a long time to come back. “It can’t be done in a short period of time,” says my grandma. “It’s an ongoing thing.” But it is important to both forgive and forget.
Don’t highlight past mistakes that aren’t relevant. Decide to accept that it happened and move on. If you can’t, consider whether you should remain in the relationship or not.
To remain in a committed relationship, it’s important not only to love each other, but to like each other. Eventually the newness of your relationship wears off, and you get to know little things you don’t like about someone. You gain pet peeves when they do things like hog the remote control or refuse to take out the trash.
Respect is very important. You have to be kind to each other without romantic strings. Sometimes you have to be a friend, as well as a lover.
“The marriage should be a safe haven in which partners are able to express their differences, anger and conflict,” writes the APA.
Remaining patient allows for less conflict and anger, and when those do arise, patience can help to deter them. You may not realize it, but “the big days aren’t what’s important. It’s going through things together. The journey is the most important,” says my grandma.
Help each other through life struggles and grow together. It’s not always easy and requires effort every day. But the little things you do can pay off if you are patient, and before you know it, you’ll be celebrating your 54th anniversary too.