“What’s the secret?”
That's the question, as if there is a specific, concrete, one-size-fits-all answer to address our success of being happily married for forty-seven years. We are asked that question a lot, most recently during our anniversary celebration on March 23 at Montaluce Winery and Restaurant in Dahlonega, GA. In fact, we were asked 3 different times by three different employees. They all made a big deal about it, as if they had discovered dinosaur bones, and were telling everyone about their ancient discovery! Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed it, and we love to answer that question because we do have a few “secrets!”
Neither of us had parents with a particularly happy marriage, so we didn’t see great examples of happy love, and sadly, the vow of “till death do us part” died long before they did. We have had our share of difficulty as well, but getting through the difficulty is what makes a marriage a great one. I know, you are still waiting for the secrets. I am going to give you several to choose from, but likely it is all of them together and then some! Blend them together to create your own secret sauce of marital success. But first, here’s a little back story.
All love stories are beautiful, but I love ours the best.
We were a hot mess in the early years of our marriage. We didn’t do things the traditional way. We all know the famous nursery rhyme we used to sing as school children: “Jack and Stephanie sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g! First comes love then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.” A song meant to tease a child that may show signs of interest in someone else. It is the traditional order of starting a family, but it wasn’t the order of our story. Oh, there was a lot of kissing, but the baby carriage came earlier. (Jack and I have been married 47 years and our first-born is 47 years old, so there you have it.) Now for those “secrets.”
1. Celebrate the difference!
This is more than a saying in our marriage, and that philosophy has gotten us through a lot of conflict. We are not the same. We are different. Jack is adventurous; I am not. I am organized; Jack is not. Jack is spontaneous; I am not. I am a planner; Jack is not. Jack talks to people in the elevator, tries new things, and isn’t afraid of anything, including traveling anywhere in the world. I do not talk to strangers, let him try new things to see if I might like it, and if it wasn’t for him, I would never have left Indiana! He leaves it open; I shut it. He takes it out; I put it away. I don’t resent it, because we are a team! I am team Jack and he is team Stephanie. Are you a team, or rivals? Are you trying to get your partner to change, or do you celebrate the difference?!
2. Get THROUGH things! Whatever it takes.
Marriage is hard. Single life is hard. Choose your hard! You only fall off a bicycle when you stop pedaling. Like the wells of the past, there is plenty of wonderful, refreshing water down below, but you had to “prime” the pump—which required a great deal of tiring pumping with seemingly no results! However, if you keep pumping, the water begins to pour out, and requires only a steady, easy pressure on the handle to keep the fresh water flowing. Are you working through something? Keep working until you get through it. Keep a grip on the handle and experience the flow that may be deeper below the surface.
3. Own your mistakes!
In fact, own a few of theirs if you have to! What difference does it make? You do not have to be wrong for them to be right. Say I’m sorry. If you broke it, then fix it. If your mate broke it, forgive them and help fix it. Either way, fix it.
4. Keep the main thing the main thing.
Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. Learn from your mistakes and focus on being present.
5. Wherever you are, be there!
Time spent together is time well spent! Make eye contact. Pay attention. Listen intently. Multi-tasking is not a superpower. Care about what they care about. You need each other, so be there for each other. When was the last time you put down your phone, your computer, your book, and gave them your complete attention?
6. Communicate well.
Be honest, forthright, and seasoned. Share your fears, doubts, hopes, and dreams. Speak kindly. Be patient. Be generous. Sow seeds of love and grace so that your harvest of the same is plentiful. Don’t walk away. Don’t expect the other to read your mind, because they can’t. End of story. So...where could you be more generous to your partner?
7. Keep the love alive.
Don’t let love grow cold! Keep it fresh, fun, and festive. Flirt, date, tease, kiss, touch, compliment, dress up, laugh, and enjoy one another! Did you lose that lovin’ feeling? You can find it again! Ask not what your mate can do for you, ask what you can do for your mate! Go see; go do! How can you resuscitate, reactivate, or rejuvenate your love? Make plans today.
8. Meet their needs!
What do they need right now? Keep your focus on meeting your mate’s needs, not getting your own needs met, and you will be a very blessed, fulfilled, and happily married individual, and folks will be stopping to ask you for the secret! Selfishness is for the playground, not for a healthy long-lasting and fulfilling marriage.
Jack Wolfe and I met in high school, fell in lust, got pregnant, got married, then fell in love, and we keep falling in love over and over and over again. Our goal is to be the longest living married couple in America one day. We just celebrated 47 years so we will just keep falling in love until we break the record! We need to live to be 97 and 99, so we take good care of each other! Try it and before long folks will start asking you for “the secret” too!
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– Stephanie Wolfe, NBC-HWC
Health Advisor | Email Stephanie