This week has been the anniversay of my wedding, a whole 20 years ago. (Though we were together for five years before that.) It has been a lengthy journey to get to this point, filled with a blend of scenic good times, broodingly bad times and vast stretches of mundane times. There have been times that we have fought, times it looked like we were going to crash and burn, and times we took each other for granted and wandered off to see if there was something or someone better over the horizon. Yet, somehow, we have managed to stay not just married, but happily so. We still enjoy each other's company. We still find each other attractive. What it all boils down to is that despite how difficult and annoying we can both be, we would rather be together than apart. So we are.
If that's not worth raising a glass to I don't know what is.
So, in honour of my double decades of wedded bliss I shall give you my 20 top tips for a long-lasting relationship:
- Spend lots of time apart. This will ensure you always have new and interesting things to tell each other and will enhance your enjoyment of the time you do spend together.
- Never assume you know someone completely. You don't. You have secrets and so do they.
- Don't expect things to remain as they are forever. No relationship exists in stasis. It will develop and change over time. Those who adapt will survive.
- While relationships change people do not. Accept the person you love for who they are. You will never change them into someone they are not, so don't waste their time, and yours, by trying.
- Encourage your partner in their endeavours, even if you think they're destined for failure. If you don't they will either resent you for standing in the way of their dreams or go ahead and do it anyway. Then, if they make a go of it, they will think you are a faithless git who never believed in them and if they fall on their arse they will accuse you of never wanting them to succeed in the first place.
- Talk. Your loved one is not a mind reader.
- Indulge in playfulness. A bit of silliness goes a long way, whether it be an impromptu water fight over the washing up or a join-the-dots puzzle composed of chocolate buttons on your belly.
- Never sulk.
- Do not go to bed on an argument. Always stay up and fight. Get it sorted.
- Sex is important. But it isn't everything. There will be times when you are not in synch. This does not necessarily spell The End, especially if you remember point 7, above.
- Do not be fooled into thinking that the grass looks greener outside your marriage. As has been pointed out before, affairs exist in a bubble of unreality. Introduce mortgage payments, childcare, domestic chores and the mundanity of everyday life and suddenly the grass looks that little bit more uniform. Lovers are like zoo animals. Exotic and fun to vist but you wouldn't want to live with one.
- Balance brutal honesty with kind lies.
- Don't bear grudges. You either forgive someone or you don't and you most certainly shouldn't claim forgiveness and then re-open old wounds every time you argue.
- Do not air your grievances in public and most certainly not online. Far better to see point 7, above.
- Make the same effort as you would with someone you were meeting for the first time. Presentation never loses its importance.
- Apologise but remember that sorry doesn't always make it all better. An apology is not a Get Out of Jail Free card for bad behaviour.
- Beware complacency. Just because things seem to be ticking over nicely now doesn't mean they always will. Anything will die if you neglect it for long enough.
- Voice your appreciation. If they have cooked you dinner, made a cup of tea, mended the hoover, or just look very nice in those trousers, it is good to let them know you noticed.
- Never stop seeing your loved one. It is easy for a long term partner to start blending in with the wallpaper. What surrounds you every day blurs into the background over time and you stop really seeing it at all. Who you fell in love with in the first place is usually still there (see point 4, above - people don't really change, perceptions do) you just have to look past the accumulated assumptions of the years. If you don't lose sight of each other you'll find it harder to drift out of reach.