I was chatting with a friend this afternoon, who is coming up to the first anniversary of her second marriage. We were discussing the 'official' anniversary gifts for each year as she said that they had agreed to have a big celebration every five years rather than wait for 25! I said 'What's the gift for 24 years?' as that will be our anniversary in April 2013. She didn't know, but asked me - what is the secret of a long and happy marriage?
I don't know why 'long' and 'happy' always go together, because when you've been married a long time, unless you are one of those horribly perfect couples on the inside as well as the outside, the chances are it hasn't always been a bed of roses. But anyway, getting back to the question....
I instantly said 'Communication'.
Over the last 24 years, things have variously been bottled up; written in a diary instead of talking about them; or simply left unsaid. At some point diaries were discontinued, and in fact destroyed - a clean sheet of paper, as it were. But with no paper involved. It was a good start to talking more.
I followed it up with 'Sending them away for a year helps too'.
We chuckled but it's true. There is nothing like not having someone around all the time to make you realise how much they mean to you, and perhaps how much you take them for granted. And the communication flourished for being on writing paper, in an envelope with a postage stamp. I'm not suggesting that it would work for everyone, but it was good for us.
'And lastly', I said, 'go through a traumatic experience together'.
Having to support each other, and in our case one being reliant on the other to some extent, is a big ask for a relationship. I'm sure in some cases it can cause massive strain, stress and resentment but in our case it brought us even closer together (at least, if Mr H resents any of it, he hasn't told me!)
So there you have it, my recipe for a long marriage: Communication, Absence and Trauma.
You could probably leave out the last two.