Being married 34 years, I have a lot to say on this subject.
Why now? Because I am willing to say the unsayable when it helps someone get ahead – no longer giving a rat’s asterisk about playing it safe. If you’re reading my writing you are choosing to do so. You can click away. If you’re in a conference, you can step away – altho my clients will tell you in Keynoting their conferences I take great care to understand why I was hired to speak and I respect that responsibility and bring what it takes to thoughtfully inspire your new success! And to my knowledge, over many years, no one has ever walked out of my keynote.
1. In this, my 34th year being married to David, I know for a fact that the time comes again when you are/can be as passionately crazy in love as when you first met.
2. In order to love your life together, you have to first love yourself, your own life. No one hands this to you. You claim it. Own it. Cherish it as your own vow to yourself. Did I mention you first need to HAVE a life as you?
3. The whole of your marriage is going to be as strong as your two pillars, each representing each of you. Marriages of one pillar, with one counting on the other to be your life, risk either tipping over or losing your grip, sinking in unexpected quicksand.
4. You won’t find happiness in marriage if you can’t find happiness in yourself. Be aware when grass looks greener. Sure, we all make mistakes in our careers, landing work that is not really a right fit, eventually that gets straightened out. Having been fired, I’m pretty sure it’s easier to leave or be fired from not-right-fit work than it is to chase greener grass in marriage and deal with the realities of hurting someone you so deeply loved.
5. There will be days you can’t stand each other. Just as there are days you can’t stand yourself.
6. There will be times you are freaked out in fear of *this is my life*? Is this all there is?! Do an honest gut check: are you blaming someone else for your happiness? Owning your part in it? Hmmm. Thought so. How do I know? I’ve been there too.
7. Keep friends of both sexes. You didn’t come into marriage with your husband/wife as your only friend – why would you stop being friends with others now? I have never enjoyed working with, and being friends with, all women as much as I enjoy working with, and being friends with, both men and women.
8. If you choose to have kids you will no doubt wake up one day and realize your life has become *kids*. Don’t let it be a surprise when all you talk about any more is kids, their lives, their schedules, their needs, their futures, your friends’ kids… This is all part of your rich tapestry of married life you create together when you choose to have kids. At times, your kids will need to be your utmost top priority. And they deserve to be, and need you to be there for them. Our world needs parents to be there for growing kids, and to do so, our workplaces need to honor and help make work work for young and changing families(!) (We can all help by bringing new solutions, another topic for another day.) Trust this stage is not forever. Altho sometimes we all wish these cherished times could be.
9. For Moms, remember being scared in the delivery room and then remembering your own Mom and your girlfriends who somehow made it through labor?? You too made it through. And together you’ll make it thru things that seem much tougher than this.
10. For Dads, remember standing at that recently-assembled crib, now holding your real-life baby, scared to death if you will be able to afford college, much less day care?? You’ll have more financial concerns ahead. Talk it through. You’re not in this alone.
11. For Couples, remember the first time you saw your husband/wife and what that felt like… and then fast forward to never expecting – never ever expecting a day when the bottom might fall out – for whatever b’gillion reasons bottoms fall out given the realities of everyday life (sheeshta, it’s amazing any of us make it thru!) when it just might suddenly hit you that you are no longer in love?
TWO WORDS OF BOLD ADVICE FOR YOU ON THIS ONE… DON’T STOP THERE. TRUST YOUR RELATIONSHIP IS BUILT ON MORE THAN THIS ONE DAY, THIS ONE FEELING, THIS ONE SITUATION, THIS ONE FRUSTRATION, THIS ONE REALITY OF LIFE… TALK IT THROUGH. IF NOT NOW THEN SOON. COMMUNICATE TOGETHER. GO FOR A WALK. BREATHE. AND BY ALL MEANS: …KEEP GOING!
Life changes and life keeps changing. Stages come and stages go. I believe in leading, living and loving Life, including Married Life, in Sequenced Stages.
The Sequenced Stages in Married Life look something like this:
Engagement. / Wedding. / Dating Each Other, Married. / Careers. / Kids. Kids. Kids. / Empty Nest – which I prefer to refer to not as empty or nest – as tho life must be only about kids – rather as: / Dating Each Other Again, Married. / Grandparenting (I have not experienced this stage, and tho I know it is claimed to be magical, I am in no hurry to leave this current stage of Dating Each Other Again, Married as our two recently-married kids enjoy their current exciting stage of Dating Each Other, Married).
THE BOLD! FACTOR®: YOUR EXCLAMATION POINT *!* MARRIED LIFE
! Know who YOU are.
! Continue to grow as an INDIVIDUAL as you TOGETHER keep growing as a couple.
! Keep something in your life you are PASSIONATE about. My Mom used to say there needs to be one thing in your life that is only yours. It does not involve your spouse or your work or your family or your friends. What could that be for you, that is only YOURS?
! Encourage and Allow each other to TAKE TIME OFF, alone. You can’t work without breaks and vacations, why should married life be any different? Whether minutes or hours or days or weekends or – as mine has now grown to (in this 50-something stage of life) time claimed to get away and reflect, re-energize, learn something, create something, or do absolutely nothing – work or life. Claim it early on, so together you can find a way that this can work, based on realities of this stage of life, for both of you.
! TRUST each other. Expect trust and grant trust. Trust is possibly the underlying KEY SECRET to a happy, lasting marriage. There are others, but this is huge. You’ve earned and granted trust in choosing each other. It’s up to you to keep it.
! Allow your head to go to that at-times unthinkable place. GO AHEAD: Make your grandiose exit plan – at some time or another most of us have! And then stop and look at what you really have in each other. And then self-check whether you are blaming someone else for your own happiness?
Whether exciting, exhilarating, or inexplicably frustrating… this stage too shall pass! And if there is any one message I used all these words to inspire you with, here it is:
Get To The NEXT Stage Together. And Then The NEXT. It’s Definitely NOT Easy. It IS Absolutely Worth It.
Do One BOLD Thing. Own It Like You Own It.
(You & Both Of You, Together.)
Choosing To Stay Happily Married?
It’s Up To YOU!
© 1993-2017 Ann Ulrich THE BOLD! FACTOR® AnnUlrich.com
Photos: 1) An evening glimpse of lake at our cabin… one of the places I love to come for reflection and rejuvenation. Mindful that it doesn’t take any special PLACE to do so, it simply takes an attitude and commitment to create the life we want, right where we’re at… which is up to ME. 2) This is what 34 years of marriage looks like. Some days anyway! And our red eyes? Not blaming the camera. We’re owning ’em as earned in happy tears shared on this special day of our son’s wedding ;) 3) My ever-passionate BOLD red *!* logo. 4) Minneapolis Aquatennial Fireworks exploding over the river in front of our condo.