I met a couple at an event recently, and they were sharing their experiences in a marriage that has lasted over 40 years. I was sp curious and couldn’t help but ask, ‘what has kept them together?’
Eight key factors made the difference between bliss and bust.
If couples could not share feelings honestly and kindly, they were sunk. Crucially, if they could not listen — and follow up to find out why their partners felt or acted the way they did — the marriage could not survive. The couple whose marriage did not last reacted quickly and angrily to any slight, real or perceived. Meanwhile, the still-married couple communicated about everything, from the husband’s ambitions to his wife’s initial lack of a supportive family.
Like all of us, these partners made mistakes (occasionally big mistakes). But each successful pairing featured two people who were forgiving enough to learn from a transgression — and to forge on. Olajide initially lied about smoking to Bimpe: He claimed that he had quit, and she angrily spelled out her disappointment in him as a person when she found out he hadn’t. But then Bimpe calmed down and began the hard work of learning why Jide had lied; when she realized it was because he loved her and didn’t want her to know he’d been weak, she felt compassion for him. He promised he would never lie again, and her empathy strengthened their marriage.
Many people start out with a fixed idea of what they want from a partner, which becomes an excuse to break up the relationship when they (inevitably) don’t get exactly what they expected. Flexible people, by contrast, work hard to figure out their partner, then readjust their expectations as necessary. Bimpe never anticipated falling in love with a man who would be in constant training, day and night, for the first six months of their relationship, but she adjusted quickly because he was important to her.
Bimpe had to wait for Jide to believe in their relationship with the same confidence and intensity that she did. Had she pushed it, the relationship that was slowly being kindled might have been snuffed out. Allowing her partner to move at his own pace turned out to be a key success factor.
The couples who really stood out had a generous spirit toward the relationship. Jide was devoted to welcoming Bimpe’s family members because she had stressed how important it was that her husband fully accept them, no matter how difficult they might be. Every time a person put the other one first — it bolstered the relationship.
6. A healthy ego
Self-assured partners believe in their own core worth — and are not afraid to reveal how that makes them worthy as a mate. So even though Bimpe didn’t find Jide particularly attractive when she first walked down the aisle (she melted in tears after the wedding), Jide didn’t let it get to him. Convinced that Bimpe would see him differently once she got to know him better, he simply kept the faith that he had the goods — and that Bimpe would come to appreciate them. (And she did!)
When one partner admired something the other had done, and said so, the compliment breathed oxygen into the relationship. Jide constantly told Bimpe how much he respected what she’d done for her family (assuming custody of her siblings) and the fact that she’d carved out a career for herself as a nurse .
Virtually no one reaches adulthood without having his or her trust betrayed by someone else. Jide had never gotten the chance to know his father, while Bimpe walked down the aisle alone because her family didn’t approve of her marriage to Jide. Yet this successful couple somehow mustered the faith required to trust the love, loyalty and commitment of their new spouses.
I hope these eight tips helps you just as it has helped OLAJIDE and OLABIMPE for forty years.
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