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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ...  (More)

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Marriage last 40 or 50 years?

Uploaded: May 16, 2014
What do we need to make our marriage last 40 or 50 years?

Planning Ahead

Dear Planning Ahead,

Good for you for thinking about this now. Most people spend more time planning vacations than they do working on their relationship. In fact, many people don't work on it at all! Lots of wedding planning, then live happily ever after. Oh, wait! I have to work at this?

One of the lovely women at Water Zumba just had her 45th anniversary (congratulations!), and I asked her what the keys are to a happy marriage. Part of what she said: Patience, Communication, Respect. I asked her if by patience, she meant remembering that, "This Too Shall Pass," and she laughed, and said yes. I just finished a novel in which a character says that Admiration, Looking Up To, and Cherishing are what's needed for a good marriage.

These may be qualities that get lost.

After a couple of years the "love hormones" calm down; we've been through experiences together and see a more complete picture of our partner (and ourselves, hopefully). S/he has traits that are not your favorite; s/he doesn't act "right" sometimes (which means not how I expected/not how my family would act in the similar situation); we don't always feel safe and secure being ourselves in our relationship (I am not referring to domestic violence here, just being our quirky self). That may lead to decreased satisfaction and increased defensiveness.

This may lead to a downward spiral, and the question: Did I marry the wrong person? The answer is most likely, "No, it's just time to work."

We have the opportunity to grow and learn to change and to accept our partner's authentic self, while showing up authentically ourselves. That way, we're sure that when we are loved, it is ME that is being loved (not the mask we wear at times).

Remember, there is each of you, and the third entity, your marriage. You both get to and need to put effort into your marriage.

The upward spiral of increased satisfaction, trust and happiness happens when we learn and implement the knowledge of how the brain works, and learn tools and skills for marriage that decrease defensiveness and increase pleasure and our identity as a couple (vs. just partnership).

Slow down, be kind, explicit, and respectful, seduce one another, support each person's interests, provide comfort and great listening with empathy, challenge rarely and with the others' best interest in mind, find out each others' Love Language and give in that way to him/her.

Check out the Connect2 Marriage Counseling reading list for books that will help with these tools and skills. Many of them are described here in Couple's Net, so peruse earlier posts.

People ask me if they can say what they normally would to their mate. No, that's what got you here! The great thing is that it really is within your capacity to experiment with new behaviors and create a happy marriage again.

Please remember, many people rewrite history when they are unhappy. You were connected, intimate, sexual, and communicative in the early days. Do what you did then. It will help a lot, and lead to a 40 or 50 year marriage. Put more into your relationship.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Erin, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 21, 2014 at 8:18 am

Thanks Chandrama. My parents have been married close to 50 years. They have a loving, wonderful marriage but it certainly has not been without trials and tribulations that always come (job and money stress, etc.). One of the things my dad said that I thought was really interesting is: "sometimes, your mother and I were together because we could not afford to be apart." He meant that quite literally-- they came from very poor backgrounds and had to scrape and skimp and claw their way to the comfortable life they have now. It wasn't an easy road, but they worked hard and have made a great life for themselves.

It seems to me that sometimes, it's simply being there. I have seen friends divorce because leaving for something new seemed easier/ more interesting than doing the hard work to fix what is wrong with their marriage. If you can't afford to leave, then you are forced to face and fix.

I love that lesson, and I think my dad is right. Again. :-)

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 21, 2014 at 10:23 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Erin, thanks for sharing your parents' story. It is lovely to hear that they worked through rough times (or just stuck it out). And what great lessons you had modeled for you.

It is also true that wherever we go, there we are. Meaning that if we leave, it's common to pick another person that looks/feels/seems different yet later we find that the same or similar issues arise that we need to work on. We just can't get away from ourselves!

Posted by Member, a resident of another community,
on May 21, 2014 at 5:12 pm

I read recently that half of currently married couples are unhappy together. And we all know half of all marriages end in divorce, with 80% of divorces filed by the woman. Certainly several couples I know would divorce if there weren't so many implications (cost, children, complexity).

Now that I've been married a long time and can see how truly bad it can get, and have heard enough details from divorcing friends to know most had no alternative, I am really disillusioned with marriage and *some* husbands. They cheat. They lie. They have horrible tempers. They don't help much with the household and child care chores. They make choices with very negative outcomes, without considering the good of the family or the opinions of their spouse. They are horrible parents, but think they are always right. They devolved into not very nice people, worthy of respect.

I wish I could say these are the outliers, but in today's society, it seems ridiculously common. Unless both parties are willing to put the effort in, you will continue to see 80% of divorces filed by the female. Address that issue.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 21, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Member, I will address the many questions and points you raise over a few posts. Due to the holiday, look for the first one late next week.

You sound angry, so I am wondering if you've been on the receiving end of lying and cheating? I hope you have or are seeking out good support for yourself.

Posted by lojane, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on May 22, 2014 at 1:17 am

Thanks for your personal marvelous posting!

Posted by Wife, a resident of another community,
on May 23, 2014 at 1:47 pm

The best advice I ever heard about the key to a successful marriage came from a woman who was celebrating her 50th anniversary. When asked what made it last, she offered two words: "LOW EXPECTATIONS!"

Posted by Married 25 +, a resident of Adobe-Meadows,
on May 23, 2014 at 5:14 pm

We have been married over 25 years and my parents were married over 50 years before one died.

The important thing as far as I can see is putting the marriage first and looking on what is best for the marriage not for the other person, or for the children, or for yourself. If the marriage is considered important to cherish, then it will be. If self importance or winning points becomes important, the marriage is no longer the most important part.

If the marriage is cherished everything else seems to fall into place.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 27, 2014 at 8:37 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Well said, and congratulations. Putting more into the marriage makes a huge difference.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 27, 2014 at 8:39 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Wonder what she meant by "Low expectations"? Of herself, of her husband? We are dealing with a lot of desired perfectionism here in Silicon Valley. This might be the black and white pendulum swing . . . There are options of reasonable expectations, too.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on May 29, 2014 at 8:32 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Dear Member,
You ask me to "Address that issue" and I wonder if you would be specific as to which of the many important issues you wrote that you want me to address?

I've been writing a response that is getting too long, so I'd like to focus it best for you. Would you mind asking a particular question and I'll direct my answer to you.

Thanks! Chandrama

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