Avoid Baby Boomer Marriage Problems
During Your Golden Years
Although we often focus on the divorce rate and couples with marital problems, how much thought do you give to why some people manage to have long, happy marriages? Why do certain people manage to stay married 30, 40, 50 years or longer? How do they stay happy during all the different stages of their lives, including retirement? Are they just lucky, or do they have certain traits in common?
My personal marriage has lasted 43 years and is still going strong. There are many reasons for its success. The more I read about the characteristics of a lasting marriage, the more I realize that it isn't luck, but commitment, that has played an important role in our success.
For the past ten years, my husband and I have belonged to a monthly dinner club with eleven other couples, all of whom had been married at least 20 years when we joined the group. Part of our dinner club's monthly ritual is to have a discussion after dinner about some of the issues we all have experienced ... raising kids, helping our adult children, or arguments over petty problems. Often the couple hosting that month's dinner will even talk about how irritated and impatient they were that day, as they prepared to host the dinner! We have all been friends a long time, and we openly discuss the methods we use to handle our problems, and the discussion always sends us home feeling encouraged and inspired. At this stage of our lives, about half of our group is still working, and the other half are retired Baby Boomers, so we see life from both perspectives.
In addition to my personal experience, however, I have also studied how other couples work on maintaining their relationship. The Today Show recently had guests on their program who discussed their new book, "Project Everlasting." This book covers the authors' research on how to have a long and happy marriage. Much of what they had to say mirrors my own marriage. What I have learned from my own experience, and by watching interviews with experts, is that there are techniques you can use to have a marriage that will survive not only during your working and child rearing years, but will continue to be satisfying well into retirement. Here are some marriage tips to guide you.
Commitment to Marriage
People who are committed to the importance of having a happy, satisfying marriage are more likely to achieve that goal. On the other hand, if you are constantly telling yourself that divorce is an option, you are much more likely to end up experiencing serious marital problems that could eventually lead to divorce. Of course, your commitment to marriage must be rational and reasonable. If you are in a situation involving adultery, abuse or addiction, then your own personal health and safety are more important than the notion of staying married, no matter what happens. However, allowing for those exceptions, the people who have been married a long time feel that having a long marriage is a worthwhile goal.
Accept that there are no Perfect Marriages
One of the benefits of our dinner group is that we hear other couples discuss issues, irritations and problems that are very similar to the ones that my husband and I experience. Even though all of these couples have had long marriages, and they are all happy with their relationship, they freely admit that they sometimes get on each other's nerves. Don't expect that you will someday marry a perfect person who will have no bad habits and who will always agree with you in every way. It's not going to happen!
Communicate your Feelings
Find a way to keep the lines of communication open, even when it is difficult or upsets you. Carrying around resentments will eventually sink your relationship. Some people go to marriage retreats. My husband and I have found that very helpful, along with attending our couples' dinner group. Other people go to marriage counseling. However you do it, make sure that both of you have a chance to clear the air once in a while, in a comfortable and safe environment. No matter how many years you have been married, you still need to continue to work on your relationship. We all need to seek out marriage builders that work for us. Never assume that everything has been worked out, and there are no more issues to discuss.
There are still more things a good relationship needs, too.
Have Fun Together
Never stop dating! You need to find time to have fun together, whether it is an occasional dinner out, a walk in the park, or a weekend trip for just the two of you. Just because you have retired, and have a lot more time together, does not mean that you shouldn't continue to find some special time to go on a date. Keep the romance alive!
Find time to laugh. As your marriage gets longer, your bodies are not going to be quite as gorgeous as they were when you were both young. You may not be able to dance until the wee hours of the night. However, enjoy the changes. Laugh about the aging process ... and all the absurd things that go with it.
As you plan the fun things you want to do, be careful not to fall into a rut. Try new things. Go to concerts, plays and movies that are outside your comfort zone. Take a drive and impulsively stay in a new motel. Try new foods. If things don't turn out the way you expected, laugh at yourselves and your new experience. These are the kinds of memories that keep your marriage strong and happy.
To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, ask not what your partner can do for you, ask what you can do for your partner. Your spouse may not be perfect. However, if you occasionally give each other backrubs, take turns doing the laundry, the dishes and the cooking, and go out of your way to do nice things for each other, you'll be surprised at how much your marriage will benefit.
Enjoy Life Together and Apart
Enjoy the time you spend with each to its fullest. However, you also need to enjoy the time you spend apart. One of the best things you can do for each other is to encourage your separate interests and friends. By the time you have been married even a few years, you will both begin to realize that you cannot spend every waking moment with each other. After you have been married 40 years, you will realize that this is especially true. Maintain your own circle of friends, your own hobbies and interests, and encourage your spouse to do the same thing. You'll be more interesting, and you'll be more interested in your spouse. You both need time apart, whether you spend that time going to lunch with friends, volunteering at a favorite charity, taking an exercise class, shopping or whatever. This is especially true once you are retired. You both need to be careful not to smother one another!
Respect Each Other
I once read an article by a marriage therapist who said that he could quickly recognize marriage problems by how a couple spoke to each other, and about each other. He said that when couples speak unkindly about each other and to each other, their marriages were almost always doomed, unless they are able to break those habits.
Think about how you speak to your spouse and about your spouse. Do you complement them? Praise them? Do you tell your friends what a great man or woman you married? Do you speak to each other in a kind, respectful manner? If not, your retirement years are going to be very stressful ... if your marriage lasts that long. Start now to show your spouse how much you love them.
Here's a Great Relationship Guide
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