People tend to demur when asked what makes their long-term relationships work. Every relationship is a work in progress, and most of us are hyper-aware of our shortcomings.
When asked about her marriage, my friend Anna, married 13 years, wrote, “So we live in a 300 square foot studio which is packed with books and yarn (mostly books though). Did I mention it's a 3rd floor walk up? We have three dogs, all with extreme personalities, our combined salaries are half of what the average 26-year-old in our neighborhood earns and my mom asks us weekly ‘when going to move and start living like adults’. We are not ones to give advice on any subject ...”
A woman named Melissa didn't share about her own marriage, but instead told this anecdote about her grandparents, “My dad asked my grandfather how he and my grandma lasted over 70 years together. My grandfather said, ‘Marry a woman like your grandmother. Best woman ever.' My dad then asked my grandmother the same question. She said, ‘It wasn't easy.’”
The best piece of marriage advice I have found impossible to follow is: “Never yell at each other unless the house is on fire.”
The worst advice came from the Bible: “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”
In the early years, my husband and I spent a lot of angry nights awake trying to sort things out, a prescription for insomnia. As Mary says in #9 below, we should have just gone to sleep.
The surest formula is choosing well to begin with— choose a person willing to be intermittently unhappy for the sake of long-term happiness, no matter what.
As for what comes after that initial choice, read below for advice from 45 people with over 900 years of commitment among them:
1) Be nice to each other and keep flirting. — Suki, married 23 years.
2) Don’t give up. — Kelly, married 19 years.
3) Love is a commitment to stay rather than a fluctuating emotion. — Cynthia, married 15 years.
4) Don’t be overly sensitive. Don’t take things personally and escalate conflict. Pick your battles. — Bonnie, married 31 years.