Yesterday I finished up teaching my last memoir writing class at an assisted living facility nearby. I think the seniors there enjoyed the class, but holy shizz did I learn a lot from them. We did a lot of writing and sharing what we wrote, but there were times when I had to stop the class to pose a question to the group just because I was so curious to see how they would respond. They came from such different backgrounds (and are from all over the country) so hearing their responses was really cool.
Last night I just had to pump them for information about relationships. One of the prompts they wrote about focused on marriage and relationships which sparked the conversation, and I found out that most of them had been married for 50+ years. Once I heard that, I figured that they’d have at least a thing or two to say about what makes a marriage work.
First of all, I asked them what they thought about these quickie celeb marriages and their reactions were hilarious. Needless to say they were not fans of the Kardashian-style wedding. But they also had some really useful insight about what makes a marriage work. Some of the advice they offered includes:
Be firm when something matters to you
One of my ladies explained that if you have something that’s really important to you, you have to be firm about it and carefully explain to your partner why it matters so much. Don’t just comprise or sacrifice, because you’ll end up being resentful. Stand up for what matters to you, and make it a point to show your partner why it’s so valuable to you.
Don’t throw in the towel too quickly
They explained that marriage is hard and things don’t always turn out the way you expected. Don’t let a fight or a struggle cause you to question your marriage. The situation you’ve found yourself in may suck, but this doesn’t mean that you’ve made the wrong choice and married the wrong person. Give it time and work through it.
Handle your disagreements the right way
Charlie, one of my favorites, explained that disagreements happen, but it’s important to handle them in the right way. He advised “talking quietly in a quiet place” in order to get through them instead of letting it get heated and exchanging insults. Good thinking, Charlie. I agree totally.
Make sure your basic values line up
The whole group agreed that you need to make sure you’re in agreement on a few core values before you tie the knot. You should respect each other’s family/relationship to family, views on religion, and perspective on money before you get married. Even if you don’t want to go to church, you should be okay if your partner does and vice versa. You may not love their family, but you should feel comfortable enough to spend time with them and allow them to spend time with them. You should be in agreement about how you save and spend money. Being supportive and in sync about these things is crucial if you want your marriage to work.
My parents have been married for 30+ years, and I’ve heard them echo a lot of this advice over the years. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of this stuff in the era of Tinder and Snapchat and whatnot, but hearing it from people who have done marriage so well is always insightful. Plus it gives me hope that maybe I won’t have to become a crazy dog lady (I hate cats too much to be a cat lady).