My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year. Amazing. I asked them to tell me their secrets to a happy marriage over family dinner the other night. Here is what they said!
My folks are pretty darned sweet together. In fact, I would venture to say that they are more in love now than they ever have been. Total goals. Their relationship isn’t perfect (that doesn’t exist in my opinion), but it’s really one of the best relationships I have seen. I feel fortunate that they are my role models now that I have a family of my own.
Marriage Isn’t Always Easy
Before I go any further, I think it’s important to acknowledge that marriage isn’t easy. At least that’s been my experience (and I know my parents have had their moments too)! I’m not trying to sound negative, but hey, it takes WORK. I subscribed to the Cinderella fairytale when I was younger, and that “happily ever after” only (kinda) exists if both parties are willing to put in the effort – and it’s far messier than those stinking fairy tales make it look for the record.
Charles and I have a really great marriage, but it hasn’t been without hard times. There have been tears with the laughter, nights where I’m lying in bed pouting and crying (while he snores like a freight train with ear plugs in for the record… like, how?), squabbles over parenting and more than a couple sessions with a counsellor. I wish people talked more openly about marriage counselling, it’s such a healthy thing to do but carries such a stigma!
While marriage isn’t easy, we love each other and are deeply committed to our family and US. Having kids has been the most rewarding, but also the most challenging, thing we have done (and probably ever will do) together. I think my parents would agree with that for their own marriage. Even without kids, relationships are damned hard work.
Keys to a Happy Marriage
My parents remind me of the couple from the move The Notebook. I love that movie. And since my dad has Alzheimer’s disease (read about his story here), it really makes it even more emotional and relevant for me. The point is, they are 50 years in to this marriage thing after having two kids, one failed business, years of working together (hard on its own) to build another successful business and weathering life’s other random hurdles including drifting apart at one point. I asked them what has kept them together and so in love after all of these years. They really are so cute together, it’s so inspiring. Here is their advice:
Pick Your Battles
“Yes Dear” was my dad’s advice (he’s always joking, such a funny guy), but actually, this has some merit to it when I started thinking about it. In a nutshell, my dad picks his battles and understands what is important to him and worth fighting for. The small stuff just doesn’t matter to him, and he knows how happy it makes my mom (ie: a paint colour), so he lets those things go. Oh gee, I could use a lesson from him come to think of it! Note to self.
Don’t Give Up Easily
Spoiler Alert: you’re probably going to go through a hard time in marriage. Even if your marriage is awesome, life will throw you curve balls that will inevitably test your relationship. While walking away may be an option (especially if it isn’t a healthy relationship), if there’s love still there, fight for it. My parents went through a hard time when us kids were younger and I’m so happy they worked through that rough patch.
Remember What Attracted you to the Other Person in the First Place
Do you remember those early days of love? I do. What a rush! While I wish that puppy love never went away, I also know that I would be living in a tent by now because I would get NOTHING done! But actually, I think this piece of advice is my mom’s favourite. And I love it, because what brought you together in the first place is likely what will keep you together in the long run.
Assume the Other Person’s Intentions are Good
This one didn’t come from my parents, but I heard it the other day and it stuck with me. I’ll admit that I get my back up against the wall on some things, and am a bit too quick to jump to conclusions or get a bit defensive. When I observe my parents, I can see that they have this quiet and gentle understanding between them that they have each others’ best interests at heart. There’s such a grace to their relationship. They are constantly building each other up and I know that each independently feels, and acts, like they’ve won the lottery by having each other in their lives. They each tell me this when I am with them all the time.
Family is the Most Important Thing
My dad got a bit sentimental the other night, echoing how important family is to him. It’s nothing new, but in this crazy world we live in, remembering that family is the most important thing is paramount. I know that when I look back on my life I’m not going to wish I worked more. On that note, I’m off to go cuddle my boys while they will still let me. Time, you can slow down please and thank you!
As a total aside, I was scrolling through the web and stumbled on this podcast by Tim Ferriss interviewing Brené Brown. BIG love for that lady (so much brilliance in one human being). This excerpt really moved me, so I thought I would share it with you:
“We chase extraordinary moments instead of being grateful for ordinary moments until hard shit happens. And then in the face of really hard stuff — illness, death, loss — the only thing we’re begging for is a normal moment.”
Thank you Stephanie Lucile Photography (my cousin!) for capturing such precious images of my parents!