Have you seen that photo? The one with a picture of an elderly couple hand in hand?

I have seen variations on that same photo many times and when I was younger, I wondered if I would be one of those people still walking hand in hand with my husband long after the sound of wedding bells had faded.

Well, here we are 25 years later and our marriage is still going strong. I have to think that we have passed most of the major milestones in a marriage that is supposed to last until death do us part, and I have some secret tools to share with you.

There are certain things that keep a marriage together and things that tear it apart. You have seen many marriages end in divorce. You don’t have to be afraid that that will happen to you. You and your spouse may have rough times but if you both want to keep it together, you will.

For now here are some of the best kept secret tools that happy couples use to keep their unions strong.

1. They really get to know each other every day of their lives.

People change and they change every day. Our experiences change our views and our views change our behavior. Many people are in a relationship with the person they knew years ago. They don’t see that the person has changed. Sometime later, they look up and realize that they don’t know this person any more. This happens over time but sometimes it takes years to realize it. Sometimes that realization comes too late.

Couples who want to ensure that their marriage endures must look at each other anew on a daily basis and get to know that new person. Look at his or her life and try to see it through their eyes. This can give you a little more understanding of what is going through the other person’s mind when they do the things that they do.

Where there is more understanding, there are less reasons to get upset. Being able to fully understand someone is a valuable tool in any relationship.

2. They are realistic and understand that people make mistakes.

Life can be very difficult at times and it can be confusing. If you are not paying attention, you can make a mistake that could easily tear apart your marriage and your lives. Even the most aware person can fall into social traps and hurt someone they love.

A friend of mine recently came to me asking for advice about whether she should divorce her husband. He had made a very bad mistake. It was a huge betrayal to my friend and her family. It was tough because she really loved this man.

After listening to her and seeing how her husband was completely beside himself with guilt and upset for what he had done, I advised her that it was her decision but in my opinion that if she did forgive him, the rewards could be great. She also knew that if she did forgive him, he would have to make amends to his family which he did willingly. Their marriage was saved.

It took some time and my friend had to work through a lot of hurt feelings and pain before she could feel normal again. But they both worked to restore their trust, their relationship and it worked. She and her husband are still together and their kids did not have to experience the horrible nightmare of having their parents divorce.

With the above in mind, understand that there are people who refuse to own up to mistakes and therefore repeat hurtful behavior. If you are married to someone like this please take a close look at your situation and see if it is destructive to you.

3.They never, ever cheat on their spouses.

If you want to torpedo your marriage and destroy your spouse, go ahead and cheat. In a previous marriage I had this happen to me and I can tell you that it is the most devastating thing you could ever do to another human being. It is akin to plunging a knife in the heart of your best friend. Don’t do it.

If you refrain out of love and respect for your spouse, great. If not, understand that love and relationships are very emotional for just about everyone. “Crimes of Passion” are not unusual when a person betrays his or her spouse.

4. They allow each other to disagree.

Even in the best marriage, you and your spouse may not agree on everything. Hopefully, you do agree on the important issues. If not, you do have to come to some agreement on them in order to continue.

Understand that when you disagree with something, it is destructive to keep harping on it and trying to get the other to agree with you. It is best at that point to “agree to disagree” and allow your spouse to keep his or her viewpoint.

If you love each other, you already have many, many things in common. Take up points of agreement and leave the points of disagreement behind.

Additionally if you do have arguments or disagreements with your spouse, do not call each other names and say hurtful things. Those have an effect and the damage cannot be undone by saying you are sorry. These little courtesies should be set as rules if you want your relationship to last.

5. Point out the great things about their spouse.

I know after time, you may start to see only the things about your spouse that you feel need to change. Instead of seeing only those things, seek out the things he or she does that you love, and really make a big deal of it. You would be surprised at how they react. Everybody wants to be ensured that they are right way more than they are wrong. Give them that gift. This alone, done by both parties could completely rekindle a lost love.

Don’t forget that bragging about how great your spouse is to others is important as well. Some people may think it is boastful but it makes me really respect the person doing it. If they talk in glowing terms about their spouse, I can bet that they talk about others in glowing terms as well. This is the mark of a great person.

6. They listen to each other.

Disagreements are stressful for any marriage but they don’ t have to tear you apart. If your spouse is seriously upset, and it is something they’ve been trying to get you to handle. please handle it. Pick up your socks or balance your checkbook if it is an issue. Handle any repeating problem so that it doesn’t cause anymore resentment. Living together is tough and courtesy is  important.

Acknowledge that the person is upset. It can be as easy as saying “Wow! I can see that you are really upset about this!” Then listen to what they are trying to tell you. Don’t engage with them or make them feel wrong for being upset, listen and see if you can help them handle the problem. You would be amazed at how fast a situation or potential fight can be defused just by acknowledging their feelings and being willing to try and help the person handle it.

 

7. They go out of their way to do nice things for each other.

It takes so little to make someone happy. Stopping by the store and getting his favorite ice cream or giving her a sweet card that says something nice is so appreciated and so easy.

Recently I had to take a sick leave for a surgery and was overwhelmed by the love I got from the kids in the music class that I teach. Their tokens of affection were things like pictures, homemade cards and things they learned to make in school.  My favorite was a rose that one of my students picked from his garden. He then took off all of the thorns for me. It must have taken time and care to get every last thorn but he did! Those types of gifts are priceless and strengthens your love for one another in your relationship.

8. They stay in communication.

One of the most important things you can do to keep any relationship strong is communication. Most often arguments start because there has been some form of miscommunication.  There are many decisions made on a daily basis and being married, some of them affect both you and your spouse. Whenever there is a decision like this, I text my husband and let him know. It can be simple decisions like what to have for dinner or the fact that you have a few extra minutes so you picked up the kids early. Communication is the back bone of a marriage and more communication is always better.

Having dinner together is a very important way to keep the communication strong in a family. If your schedules do not permit a dinner together, set time aside daily to come together and regroup. This is a vital time for the entire family.  Also realize that communication about unhappy things should be balanced out by communication of happy things.

Communication is the glue that holds families together.

9. They protect and stand up for each other.

Even the most perfect marriage with two very loving partners can be torn apart by open or underhanded attacks on one spouse to the other. A stereotypical example is the meddling relative who takes the husband aside and tears down his wife behind her back. It could also be coming from another person who has a romantic interest in one or the other spouse.

These are vicious attacks on the spouse, the marriage, and the family unit including the children. It destroys marriages and those who want to keep their families will recognize it for the assault that it is and put an end to the attacks immediately. I have known several people whose in-laws have mercilessly torn them down to their spouse and it has completely destroyed their marriage.

Attacks may not always be outright and overt. Most of the time they are barbed and critical comments delivered as a means to “help” or “educate” the person under attack. It undermines the validity and intelligence of the victim to those around him or her and erodes their self confidence and self respect. It is a cowardly and underhanded form of bullying. It takes courage to stand up to this type of abuse but if you don’t, you will lose your spouse and your self respect.

10. They each live their own lives.

I am sure you have met someone who is needy. I remember girlfriends who would sit by the phone waiting for their boyfriend to call. They also felt incomplete or helpless without a man. These people put themselves in a very precarious situation. If your whole world is someone else and that person leaves, your world is gone.

I have never seen happy people in that type of situation. Sooner or later, the other person feels suffocated by the neediness of their partner and the relationship ends.  The strongest marriages I know are built on mutual respect and SPACE. Each partner having time with other friends or different interests is important.

I have always said that a person’s life is like a cake and the love relationship is like the frosting. Without the cake, the frosting has nothing on which to stand.

My advice to those who are unhappy and think that a man or woman will make them happy is to find happiness first and then find the man or woman of your dreams. In other words, make your cake first and then find your frosting. I believe that this is the only way it will work.

I have given you a lot to think abut here and I hope you read this article a few times over and start practicing using the tools. They are quite valuable and they make you a very valuable person to have around. Anyone who can handle personal relations is a very powerful person. Getting proficient with these tools can give you the power to chart the course of your marriage without relying on luck to see you through.

Go have a great life and create a great marriage and family!

Good luck!

Do you have these in mind? 10 Relationship Tips That Couples Often Forget

Featured photo credit: Elderly couple embracing via Shutterstock

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