Recently, Ray and I passed the twenty-five year mark as a couple, and in a few months we'll celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. I realize those numbers aren't record-breaking—we all know couples who've been together twice as long or longer. And my mate and I aren't claiming to be paragons of contented couplehood. Still, we've learned a thing or two about durability over the years.
Here, then, is a handful of those lessons, offered not as instruction, but as an invitation for you to share your own thoughts about what makes a relationship endure, whether it's a marriage, a friendship or a close connection with a family member.
But sometimes, separate
I spend most mornings practicing yoga, meditating, reading, writing and answering email, while Ray goes for walks and putters with projects in his workshop. On weekends, he might head off to a car show or woodworking demonstration, and I might play with my camera or attend a writing workshop. When we come back together, refreshed by our individual pursuits, we have new experiences and insights to share and more to talk about than whether it's time to take out the garbage.
The five-to-one formula
A few years after Ray and I got together, when I was still a staff writer at the Detroit Free Press, I wrote an article about research at the University of Washington's "Love Lab." That’s where psychologist-mathematician John Gottman was engaged in a long-term study of hundreds of couples, trying to tease out behavior patterns predicted marital success or failure. One of Gottman's key findings was that lasting marriages have a magic ratio of five times as many positive feelings and interactions as negative ones.
Ray and I don't keep a running tally--how silly would that be? But we seem to have developed an internal counter that prompts us to balance every tense exchange with a slew of more loving ones. It makes for a sense of safety and comfort that fosters even more warm feelings.
Rough patches? Sure, we have those. Doesn't everyone? And we're not always graceful about getting through them. One thing I've learned to keep in mind, though, is that everything changes. If you're patient and calm, something will shift, and you'll find a way through.
Now it's your turn. What have you learned about creating and maintaining lasting relationships?
4/5/2017 09:05:36 am
What a lovely article. It seems you two have found your soulmates. Thanks for sharing a look into your life together.
4/5/2017 10:51:12 am
Thank you, Susan. We kinda feel that way. You and your mate have found some shared interests, too, right? Hunting, for instance? Or were you into that pre-marriage?
4/5/2017 10:37:19 am
I loved this post! Jack and I just celebrated 47 years, and definitely have gone through the 'richer and poorer' and 'in sickness and in health' stages. I think we would both agree that each of us brought great in-laws to the marriage, and though I don't think we realized it when we met, we both share a sense of frugality and a 'do it ourselves' attitude. I also have loved the friends he brought into my life--they're now considered family! And my mom gave me a great piece of advice--as you're picking up your loved ones shoes from the living room floor for the umpteenth time, chant your version of the following, "he'd come change a tire for me if I had a flat!"
4/5/2017 10:52:30 am
Great to hear some of your secrets of success, Katherine. I love the mantra at the end -- good to keep in mind.
4/6/2017 03:45:26 am
What a beautiful love story! Al and I will celebrate 46 years next month. The ebb and flow of life definitely is helped with humor. That's our most common path to follow in all seasons of marriage. Blessings to you and Ray for many more years creating loving moments.
4/6/2017 06:29:03 am
Humor does help, for sure, Sue! One of the little sayings inside dark chocolate Dove Promise wrappers (not that I would know from personal experience) is "Solve arguments with a dance-off." I'm not sure we've ever employed that technique in the heat of a dispute, but impromptu dancing certainly lightens the mood on stressful days, we've found.
4/6/2017 07:36:54 am
I love reading your pieces and admire/ envy your life there. I have been in 4 long term relationships in these 67 years. This one of 15+ years is it. I think the main thing is that we enjoy time together and know we can count on each other.
4/6/2017 08:09:23 am
I think you nailed it there, Debra. Enjoying time together and knowing you can count on each other are really the biggies. I'm happy to know that you have found the one. It took me quite a few relationships to get here, too.
4/6/2017 09:01:25 am
What a delightful post and a look into you and Ray's life together. Love those pics. You guys make a great couple. You made so many important points in building a relationship. I've thought for years I should write a book on what makes long-lasting relationships and interview people who were married for 40 or 50 years as perfect resources. But I've put the project off for so long, I can interview my dear hubby and myself as we close in on 47 years in June. I believe R-E-S-P-E-C-T and a sense of humor, and tons of each of them, are vital to having a healthy relationship. And since your blog is about creativity, long relationships are always inventing new ways to keep it fresh and fun--just like creative guy, Ray!! Thanks.
4/7/2017 05:05:48 pm
Great book idea, Janet. Do it! (After you finish the memoir.)
4/6/2017 07:20:35 pm
Congratulations Nan and Ray & thanks for the blog. I really enjoyed reading the comments& tips on long lasting relationships. I agree especially about respect and being there for each other;except for the dancing comment.I love to dance, but not sure I could dance when I'm pissed off. :) ♡
4/7/2017 05:07:38 pm
Ha! Thanks for the warning not to ask you to dance when you're PO'd!
4/7/2017 07:32:17 am
Such a great article and I loved the pictures! Joe and I will be celebrating our anniversary in June, I think 46th. The number of years has never been my focus, just the continuing love affair. I think Joe is the first person who saw me, brought me into focus. Our connection was immediate. Met in December, engaged in March, married in June. And as with other couples, we've had our challenges. But we try to get through these times with communication and respect. And, in my mind, the most important of all, we've never tried to change each other to better fit our idea of the perfect mate. For me, and I think Joe, as well, this has been key.
4/7/2017 05:13:41 pm
Interesting how many folks here are at the 46- or 47-year mark.1970-71 must have been good marrying years.
4/8/2017 05:26:53 am
I love your love story. Even though you’re all grown up, you’re still the love-struck kids you were 25 years ago.
4/8/2017 08:00:59 am
Awwww. Blush. (And apologies for not giving you a photo credit on the Dally picture. I'm fixing that right now!)
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Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.