My husband and I were on a plane to the Bahamas when we struck up a conversation with the woman next to us. She asked us if we were married and for how long. We told her that we were closing in on our third year of marriage.
That’s when this nurse from New York City with nary a wrinkle told us that she was married for over forty years. 4-0. She smiled to herself the same way that a painter would stand back and look at his hard work and say, “Job well done.”
Of course, I had to ask, “Do you have any advice for us? What’s your secret?”
The most important advice she gave us was that she and her husband made spontaneity an integral part of their relationship.
As an example, she said to me, “Don’t always ask him what he wants for dinner, surprise him knowing what you already now about him.”
To my husband she said, “Take her out without having to be asked. It makes the relationship exciting and you have a lot of fun together.”
The other thing that struck me as part of the secret sauce to a happy marriage was the fact that our new friend was not travelling with her husband to the Bahamas.
She and three of her oldest girlfriends from elementary school were traveling for a “Girls Only” trip so they could get on bad without having to tend to their husbands.
She shared that she and her girlfriends had made a pact when they were young to stay together. (Isn’t that beautiful?) She said that they had been together through marriage, children, and divorce, and were stronger than ever.
As I reflect on that conversation, I realize she validates much of what we fought for and about early on in our marriage: we fought for intimacy, lightness, and connection while simultaneously leaving room for our individuality. We now do a lot things for each other without having to be asked. When it comes to our independence, my husband does his thing with his friends and so do I.
No marriage is perfect, but there are marriages that are good and marriages that are great.
I’m striving for the latter.
Some day I hope to be able to say that I’m an O.G. when it comes to being happily married and can dole out tested and tried advice to all those newly-married “whipper-snappers” with confidence. In following her advice, I should have the stats of being content, vibrant, and loved in my marriage to show for it.
BMWK- What do you think? What are some other pieces of advice for a loving and happy marriage?