The secret to a long and happy marriage

I am a marriage expert.

Haha obviously I'm not, I do not have a degree in marriage, and I've only had one marriage, so that makes me far from an expert. I expect Henry VIII was much more of an expert than I am. However the other day A Novice Mum asked me about the secret to being married for a long time.

You'll remember that Mr TM proposed in a casual but cute way, and that I had a casual but cute wedding reception. And all of that was over 24 years ago. We have actually been a couple now for over 30 years. That's just ridiculous, I could have done 2 murders for that!

Which leads me nicely to the secret.

The secret to a long marriage (the happy bit we shall discuss separately in a minute) is "don't kill each other". No really, that's it. There will be times in a marriage that you disagree about something, it may be a small thing or a big thing.

Maybe you like to leave the washing up on the draining board to dry naturally and your significant other (SO) likes to dry everything with a tea towel and stack it away in the cupboards, or you like back bacon and your SO likes streaky. These small issues need compromise.
Compromise should be taught in school, in the 'me me me' culture we have nowadays, where young people talk about 'doing what makes you happy' and 'making time for you',  compromise can be so easily forgotten. It's unlikely (though possible) that you find a partner on which you totally agree 100%. Even if you think that now, you may find as time goes on, issues you had never thought of appear over the horizon and you disagree. Compromising can stop you killing each other. Buy both types of bacon, take it in turns to be in charge of the washing up...

Some issues though are either so huge or so diametric that there can not be a compromise in which you both win, only a decision in which one of you does.

With some things, there can be a decision to both do your own thing, or keep your own thoughts, for example where you have conflicting religions or political views. Or as in our case where I attend festivals and Mr TM stays at home in the land of warm rooms, beds and running water. And that separate time can be a marriage saver too, if you look at many marriage guides there are lots of tips and ideas on things to do together and of course that's important, but don't be afraid to do things apart too. Mr TM likes to practise playing the piano, I like to blog.

But some decisions are just a dichotomy, what about getting a dog? or having children? I hope that every couple discusses big issues before they marry. But maybe you forgot to mention you hate dogs while he assumed you'd get an Afghan hound. Here is an impasse, what to do? You cannot get half a dog. Maybe you could still compromise a bit, get a smaller dog, arrange for a cleaner, get a dog walker..but if not you need to be able to talk...without killing each other, and one of you needs to be brave enough to not get what you want. (if you didn't talk about having children before marriage...well that's a big conversation to have, but you still need to have it, and listen to each other's reasons for their thoughts too)

*an aside
When we married Mr TM made it clear he didn't want children. I did, but after some years of us being together I realised that I would rather be with him, without children, than without him but with children. Mr TM is 20 years my senior. We married. I mentioned getting a dog, Mr TM declared dogs too much of a tie and a responsibility. I pointed out that I had agreed to no children, could I not have a dog to mother instead? And so he relented, 3 years after getting a puppy he suggested we have a baby, maybe he saw how I was with the dog, maybe he saw other parents, who knows, but he changed his mind, once I was pregnant we bought a second dog to amuse the first so that he should not be annoyed by the baby. Now 17 years on those dogs are gone, but DD and I missed them, Mr TM enjoyed the clean house for a while...before agreeing we needed more mud and hair on the carpet....

Never fall into the trap of "but if you loved me you would ..." because your SO will surely just think "but if you loved ME you wouldn't..."

So there is the secret. The secret is in 3 parts.
  1. Talk
  2. Compromise
  3. Be prepared to not always get what you want
And the happy bit? Well I assume that the day you got married you were happy? Now you are together all the time (apart from the time you are not) you are talking, sharing, not bottling stuff up, compromising...what's not to be happy about!

I wonder if you read this far and thought "But my SO doesn't help around the house" or "but my SO is messy" or a million other annoying things your SO might do. If so, ask yourself, have you talked about it? Properly, not yelling or moaning or nagging. Have you both come to a compromise about it? Have you thought of a way to move on? If not, why not? go and do it now, make you SO a cup of tea/coffee/beverage of their choice and go and have a chat.
(Don't panic I asked Mr TM for his input on this blog post and he's cool with it. He said to tell you I'm the messiest wife in the world and he is not a neat freak, that's just his wife being rude, he is just averagely tidy, despite that, neither of us has killed the other...yet)

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