I consider myself blessed that, in this day and age, I grew up with parents whose marriage is not only in tact, but on the majority of days, happy. It’s easy to give up on marriage these days because we’re surrounded by celebrities who dispose of relationships as easily as they dispose of shoes or people who have false expectations about marriage. However, I think if you look hard enough, you’ll see that despite the divorce rate (which is actually getting lower), there are plenty of people who are getting married and staying married, despite what’s happening around them.
Having good role models helps, though and it’s nice to be able to only have to look so far as my parents, who have been married for 26 years now and are happier than ever. Watching them gives me hope for my own future, for the future of marriage in general, and cultivates my belief that marriage can in fact be the best thing ever. And while I’m in no way ready to get married myself at this point in my life (I’m 22), I look forward to it- to facing both the joys and the challenges with the man I love because I watched my parents have a marriage successfully.
1) Take It One Day At a Time: When I asked my mom how you stay with someone for years, she said, “You don’t stay with someone for years, you stay with them one day at a time. If you can ask yourself, ‘Can I stay for this one more day?’ you usually find that you can.”
2) Give Your Partner the Benefit of the Doubt: People aren’t perfect- neither you nor your partner, so just as you want your partner to forgive any mistakes you make, so your partner wants you to forgive him/ her.
3) Regular Sex is Important: Around the time that I started driving, my parents would use this to their advantage once a week by requesting I take my siblings out so they could have a “date.” It didn’t take us long for us to realize what this meant and that we should be happy for them.
4) You Can Fall in Love Again: That quote that says, “Marriage is falling in love again and again always with the same person” has definitely applied to my parents’ marriage. I remember weeks at a time when my dad would bring my mom flowers home for no reason, or days when my mom would be giddy about anything my dad said.
4) Communication is Critical (As is Fighting): Even though I hated listening to my parents fighting, I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to fight, because it clears the air and can give the relationship a fresh start. However, usually you can solve issues as they arise by keeping communication channels clear and open.
5) Just Listen: My mom always taught me that you can’t say anything that a person will understand unless they want to. Also that if you can just listen without judging you can learn a lot more than by thinking you know the answer.
6) You Don’t Have to Do Everything Together: My parents rarely do things together. They both lead their separate lives and then come together at the end of the day. They’re both completely different people and don’t expect the other person to be anyone other than they are- therefore, room for change in both people and the relationship is available.
7) Persistence Pays: Albert Ellis once said, “Love is, largely the art of persistence.” Having watched my parents seriously struggle in the early part of their marriage but somehow not divorce speaks volumes of their tenacity and courage. It’s not always easy to stay, but it’s totally worth it.
8) You Are Responsible for Yourself: Your partner is NOT responsible for your own happiness. Both my parents know what they need to feel at ease within themselves and they don’t rely on each other to give it to them.
9) Your Spouse Should Be Your Best Friend: Friendship is critical to a lasting relationship, because if you can’t be friends with them, then you can’t live with them, especially when it’s hard. My parents are definitely each other’s best friends. They’ve been by each other’s sides through multiple exterior friendships on either side and are always incredibly supportive of each other’s dreams and ambitions.
10) It’s the Small Things: Yeah, flowers and gifts are nice, but it’s the small things that really pay off. My dad will go out of his way to cook dinner because he knows my mom’s sick of it now and my mom will do a little something extra to ensure my dad gets out on his bike regularly. It’s these small things that keep them happy in their daily lives.
So once again, I raise my glass to my parents and their very real, mostly happy and successful marriage. Thank you, for everything.
Anastasia Strgar, a recent graduate from the University of Oregon with a B.A in journalism, has been writing about love and relationships for several years. She has written short stories and romance novels, penned the love and sex column in the school newspaper and wrote several blogs. As the eldest of founder Wendy Strgar’s four children, she has been inspired by watching her parents’ marriage and strives to put those lessons to use in her own relationship. She believes that teaching her peers early on about how to maintain healthy relationships is essential to creating a future generation of loving partnerships. She currently works as the Director of Public Relations and Magazine Editor at Good Clean Love.