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8 Ways to Give Your Marriage Nine Lives 

What I've learned after interviewing hundreds of women.

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image of wedding ring with illustration of cat over it, marriage
Matt Chase
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It’s tough to listen to your mom’s advice stemming from her own love life when you are in a committed relationship she may not approve of. But now that I am in my 34th year of marriage, I embrace the wisdom of my elders who have managed to stay partnered for a decade or three longer than me. 

These savvy and resilient wives in your family and friend circles can help you navigate one of the toughest journeys of all — living with one partner, under one roof, until death do you part. 

Here is a distillation of the secrets and strategies I have learned from my elders, and from the hundreds of women I have interviewed for my marriage books, about what it really takes to make a relationship go, from the honeymoon through the golden years: 

1. It’s okay, even healthy, to have secrets.  

It’s your relationship, not anyone else’s, and there is no gold-standard marriage. Everyone has issues, problems, and, most important, their own secrets, so don’t worry that your marriage isn’t measuring up. No one knows what’s really going on in a marriage except the two people in it. That gives each of us the freedom to write our own rules and keep our own secrets. 

2. You don’t get it all in one place.  

Staying married takes bold creativity, and a variety of sideline activities that fulfill YOU. If you depend on one person in one house to sustain you until death do you part, that’s a ticket to divorce. A marriage that runs on multiple tracks makes for a happier wife who gets to have it both ways — a committed marriage and adventures in uncharted territory. 

3. Resurrect childhood passions.  

Those hobbies and sports you loved to do, and excelled at, as a child bring raw primal energy and invigorated self-esteem. Take up surfing again, become a potter, get back on a horse, return to school. Too often those childhood hobbies got left behind as we sat on benches and watched our children race around playing fields and star in plays. Getting back out there yourself and re-engaging with the best of the old brings on a re-birth of youthful optimism and vigor. 

4. Hang out with outrageous girlfriends. 

The wives with the highest marital satisfaction have a tight circle of wild and warm women friends with whom to dish, travel and vent. With women in their early 90s comprising the fastest-growing segment of the aging population, and with many marriages lasting more than 50 years, we’re going to need all the laughs and support we can get! Our girlfriends, ever- forgiving and empathetic, provide the escape hatch from the inevitable storms and stand-offs that come with long marriages.  

5. Take separate vacations — or summers. 

You like to camp and your partner likes to golf? Spend a month in the Adirondacks while they go with buddies to the splendid courses in Scottsdale or, better yet, Scotland. After some weeks apart from each other, removed from the grind of ordinary life, marriage seems way hotter than the tepid state in which you left your relationship behind. Couples who allow each other to grow separately are the ones with the best chance of growing together and staying together. The old adage is true: Absence does make the heart grow fonder. 

6. Lower your expectations.  

It’s a dangerous fantasy to think marriage really means happily-ever-after. Expecting perfection in a marriage or a mate is a sure-fire path to anger and frustration. We cannot fundamentally change our imperfect partners; what we can change is our attitudes about what we are willing to adapt to — and tolerate. Of course, some marriages in which there is abuse or abandonment do need to end. But I too often hear during interviews that a spouse wants to leave a marriage because “I am bored.” Boredom is not a reason to split. Boredom means you need to find new purpose and passion in your own life so you are not boring to yourself. Marital bliss is possible if each partner has blissful outlets apart from the other. 

7. Be grateful. 

Remember to thank the confident and flexible spouse who allows you to have an independent and fulfilling life beyond your marriage. Don’t try to win every fight; give in, surrender and say “I’m sorry” (even if you’re not sorry one bit). Holding onto snarly anger forms toxic wedges over time. Demonstrating ongoing vulnerability and compassion definitely makes spouses behave better. And, the ability to bounce back from strife and arguments is the real secret that turns a dark day into a new day in marriage — one that can turn into decades. 

8. Remember to talk and touch.  

Your sex life is your own business, though here is what long-marrieds often tell me about sustaining intimacy: In between wifely gallivants and self-exploration, remember to love the spouse you are with — kiss him or her hello and goodbye, and make time for cuddles and hugs and conversation, no matter how crammed your schedules are. Couples who aren’t touching often aren’t talking, and that can make for a very lonely and fragile partnership. So, remember to show ongoing affection for these people who are your loyal history holders, for better and for worse., and often the co-creators of your children. Yes, though the roaring bonfire of early romance does not last, there is real power and comfort in the pilot light of a lengthy union — that never goes out. 

For more on how older women can enjoy satisfying sex lives, go here.

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