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Keeping the knot tied

Sun Advocate publisher

Long term marriages are hard work; ask anyone who has gone through them. There may be a lot of love between two people, but that doesn't mean there aren't differences, and that also doesn't mean there aren't hard times even for the best of marriages.

People often ask those that have been married many years how they have done it. Some give flippent answers, others reveal that it takes a lot of compromise. Still others admit that their marriage has not always been as solid as it looks to their children, grandchildren or outsiders at the 40th or 50th anniversary.

The way many people view marriage today is much different than it was 50 or even 100 years ago. It seems that many don't take it as seriously as they should, but on the other hand find the consequences of separation and divorce much more painful and life altering than they ever thought it would.

Superficially marriage is different than it was, because the times and society is different. But deep down it is the same; commitment, hard work and forgiveness are qualities that lie under the foundation of good marriages.

As with any structure, marriage needs a good foundation; it needs to be based on common principals thought through and shared by two people.

No one can be sure what the future will bring, but people who marry, particularly when they are younger than 30 need to be sure they know what they want out of life before they take their vows hopefully for the first and last time. Certainly no one can see what is in someone else's mind, but discussion, decision and cooperation are all important in a marriage.

Today 50 percent of all first marriages fail; second marriages, once the bulkhead of those who made wrong decisions the first time are now nearing that same divorce rate. Why? Because someone involved did not learn lessons from the first marriage and either they chose badly or they allowed or encouraged someone to chose them poorly.

Pitfalls in marriage are many. Everything from not separating ones self from their family to not being able to say no to temptation of things that can destroy a marriage can trip a couple up.

The Sun Advocate took the time to interview three couples that have long term marriages. One couple has been married 30 years, one over 40 and another over 50. Each couple had its own rendition of what has made their marriage stick together; some of the answers were not what anyone would expect. Because of the intimacy of some of the discussion, no names can be used, but some general principles can be drawn from these three successful marriages.

Principle 1. Choose correctly in the beginning. Take the time to find someone that you are truly in love with. Looks and body size will change with age regardless of how attractive people are. A person looking for a mate must go beyond this and look to the person inside. Are they someone who is loyal and who can be counted on no matter what happens? Will they stick when the going gets rough? Are they realistic about life and what it may offer? Could the be satisfied with the situation the couple is both presently in (financially, emotionally, spiritutally and materially) and not having to have more or something different than what presently exists? Do the two people have common dreams and goals? All these things came up during the interviews.

Principle 2. Grow up. The core families couples grew up in are important, but once married that family should not, in fact cannot, override the marriage bond, or things will get rough. Seldom do parents of marriage partners think that the person their child is marrying is good enough for their offspring. Even in the best of circumstances, many in-laws believe their kids could have married a better person or at a higher station in life. As one parent said of their own daughters getting married to various young men, "You never know what to wish for and you know you'll never get it." Marriage partners must be convinced that they are a unit that stick together during family tribulations. In laws can also work to divide and conquer and married couples must separate themselves emotionally to live their lives together.

Principle 3. Sex is important, but not everything. Couples should have a good sexual relationship, but should also understand that intimacy goes well beyond the bedroom. Sex also changes over the years. Marriage partners need time for each other, despite what work demands, kids require or certainly hobbies or sports entice. Make room for romantic times; have a date night, a weekend away and some vacations only as a couple without anyone else along.

Principle 4. Children will change your life and your relationship, so plan accordingly. New babies, particularly the first one, will upset the apple cart. The joy of a new life in the home cannot be underestimated, but on the other side of that joy comes responsibility and sacrifice. Young couples often want to continue what they are doing in life and financially when a child comes along, but once the baby is there, that equation changes. More children will change it even more. Whether those additions to the family are for the good of a marriage or the bad of it can only be determined by the couple themselves.

Principle 5. All for one and one for all. Couples need to build a relationship that allows each to have their own lives and interests, yet has a bond of intimacy that includes both people. The three couples we spoke to all did this differently and to different degrees. One couple did everything together and have common interests in everything. Another has interests apart from one another but common ground that they both are passionate about. The third couple have very diverse interests from one another, allow each other space for those interests, yet have such passion for each others being that they are rock solid in their marriage. All three couple said that their togetherness, yet autonomy had to do with the spirituality between them. Which brings us to the next principle.

Principle 6. While interests in life can be very different, deep down beliefs must coincide in some way or another. This doesn't necessarilly mean people must marry within their religion, because two of the three couples did not. But it does mean core principles of spirituality should be the same. And don't expect someone to change these beliefs. Too many people get married in the hopes they can change someone.

Principle 7. Trust your partner. Don't lie about anything, even small things. If there is a hot button in the marriage, confront it and discuss it and find a solution to it. If there is anyone a person should be able to tell anything to it should be the person they are married to. All three couples said they discovered this principle by living through it; all had lied to each other and had issues that seemed insurmountable. Obviously they worked through it.

Principle 8. Have a sense of humor about what happens in marriage. Couples see each other in all aspects of life from the greatest glories to the most abject failures. Know that in the realm of things, all that counts is the love that you have for one another. Never be cruel in teasing, but also don't be overly sensitive either. Learn the limits of what humorous things can be expressed about your partner to others.

Principle 9. Be of comfort to one another during crisis. Even couples may have different feelings about a death of friends or family, divorce of aquintenances or childrens paths in life. The hardest thing to do is to support someone when in yourself you don't feel the same way about a situations. Understand your other half's sensitivities, anger or depression about bad situations. Understand that you depend on each other for much more than you even realize.

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