After that magical meeting of hearts, after the butterflies settle, after the ‘happily ever after’ curtain falls … what makes love work?
When we talk to people in long term relationships, it seems there’s much more to it than being lucky enough to find someone who could be ‘the one’. These are the secrets of our relationships …
Jen and Dave, together for 28 years, give each other ‘crazy time’. Jen says, ‘We were watching an unmemorable film a couple of weeks before our wedding, and one of the characters said, “only one person is allowed to be crazy at a time!” By our definition, “crazy” can be anything, you can be miserable or angry or sick or the life and soul of the party but the first person in would mean that the other one would have to back off and be the grown-up … and you have to take it in turns to be the crazy one.
‘It’s a silly statement but one that resonated with us, becoming a core part of our happy and successful 28 years of marriage.’
Marlene and Paul, together for 41 years, are best friends. Marlene says to make a relationship last, physical attraction must also become love and eternal friendship.
‘Becoming interdependent is vital, we are always stronger and more effective together and weaker when apart. Trust, honesty and effectively communicating is key to any relationship if it is to last. Know instinctively when love and help is needed, always putting the other person first. Live life, take pleasure in small things and always want to share in experiences, laughter and tears.
‘Know that you can get through any bad time because you have each other, however bad times may seem. Always put the other before yourself, safe in the knowledge that they would always do the same. It takes two to keep a relationship, but only one to break it, and the security of knowing that you must work together will make you successful. Above all, love one another above everything else. It has seen us last for 41 years, with many more to come.’
Leigh and Brendan, together for 21 years, see each other as the most important people in their lives. Leigh says, ‘I still find my husband the most attractive human, and I look forward to seeing him and just being with him every day. Even though we have both have taken on what so many would say is madness, and even though we have kids, we still see each other as the most important person in each other’s lives.
‘We spend a lot of time with just the two of us together. Meals, weekends away, holidays. We find things we love doing together. Bren would rather play golf with me than anyone else. We make an effort to put the two of us first because we believe a happy marriage makes for happy children!
‘Effort is key! We also have healthy debates about all aspects of life, we are candidly honest, and have a healthy intimate life.’
Bronwyn and Miles, together for 16 years, had to learn to put each other first again after having kids. Bronwyn says, ‘It took me quite a while to realise how my husband and my relationship had morphed after having kids. It was a subtle shift, but three kids later I could definitely see how we had changed. As we became parents, so we started seeing each other as a mother, and a father, no longer as the emotionally, physically and even sexually desirable beasts of our younger days.
‘By always putting the kids first, we were putting ourselves last, which created distance between us. One day we chatted about this, and realised we both (unknowingly) felt the same way. Two important things came out of this for us: communication is key, as it’s easy to misinterpret things when you’re focused on your kids and not your partner, and keeping the lines of communication open for real, honest conversation is absolutely critical, and secondly, the cliché of taking time out to do stuff without your kids, like date night, is really important.
‘Relationships take a lot of work, especially in a complex family dynamic, but stripping them back to who you are as individuals without the labels of mother, father, wife and husband give them the space they need to breathe, and grow.’
Sabine and Steven, together for 20 years, fiercely believe that ‘love conquers all’. But sometimes that takes work, she says. ‘We’re lucky that we balance each other out, and there have been easy times, when we’re tripping through happiness, but there have also been times that our “us”, our little universe, has felt like it’s on the verge of imploding.
‘But we make sure that we never go to bed angry. We talk. A lot. Openly and honestly and without blame or judgement. We accept each other for who we are. Completely. We compromise, we support each other’s dreams, and we believe in each other. We’ve become better people together.’
Steven says, ‘You have to realise she’s never going to be perfect and you’re never going to be perfect, but somewhere in between you’ll find that perfection.’
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