Author Andrew Marshall gives his advice on staying together.
Learn how to argue
We have this idea that we will find a soul partner who will agree with us on everything. This is a myth and often makes people feel that they are not allowed to disagree with their partner, which can be disastrous. The important phrase is: “I can ask, you can say no, and we can negotiate.” Argue about one thing at a time. Don’t attack your partner’s personality, and don’t bottle everything up, because one day it will all come pouring out. People sometimes have affairs because they haven’t had their needs met. But remember that you must articulate what those needs are.
Accept that, even after 35 years of marriage, your partner might change in ways you never expected. Couples should go out every 10 years and have a first date again to meet the ‘new’ person they’re married to. Ask your partner; “What are your hopes and dreams?” They may not be what you expect. Don’t let this make you anxious. Be open to finding out that your partner isn’t exactly as you had imagined.
Have separate interests
Spending periods of time apart – studying or travelling or having different hobbies – can bring energy back into the relationship. It’s important to have joint endeavours, but make time to be apart, too.
Make each other a priority
What often happens is that after retirement, or when children leave home, a couple realise that they have been on separate train tracks for years. It was just hidden by the business of life. Family time and couple time are two totally different things. You might think that your partner will understand if you ignore them for 25 years and focus on your children. But if you feel bottom of the pecking order, it can get to you.
We often tell people what we don’t like, but we’re bad at communicating the positives. Flirting with each other is fabulous. It shows you care. You need to learn how to touch each other, too. Make sure it doesn’t only happen when initiating sex. Make time to hug and kiss and stroke each other. It keeps you feeling connected.
Appreciate the magic
Falling in love is beautiful, but after more than 35 years together it can be just as magical as when you first met. At first it’s about the promise of a life together. Later on, it’s about the reality of the life you have made together. What could be more romantic than that?
• Andrew G Marshall is author of I Love You But I’m Not In Love With You: Seven Steps To Saving Your Relationship
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