Everybody hopes to grow old with their spouse. When people tie the knot, they generally think of being side by side together in rocking chairs, being well into their eighties, perhaps enjoying a peaceful life of bridge and tea hour with the other residents of their retirement community. Or they think of a slightly peppier retirement spent at golf clubs and chasing around grandchildren. Either way, when you get married that first time, you hope it will be the last time, and you hope to see grey hairs with this person. In reality, for many individuals, that first wedding really is just that—the first in a string of many. They don’t see one spouse through their forties or fifties. They have a different one for every phase of life, or perhaps get one divorce and never want to trust or love someone again.
Making it a long, long time together—like several decades—is quite rare for couples. So what’s the secret of those who make that work? I’m not talking about couples who are still together but miserable, and just won’t split up for some sad reasons, like not wanting to date again, fear of the financial fallout, or upsetting their children. I’m talking about couples who are really, truly happy together after decades of being married. What’s the secret ingredient there? None of the couples I know who have made it a long time appear, at first glance, extraordinary. They don’t have some Zen-like wisdom about them. If I lined them up next to the divorced couples I know, I couldn’t pinpoint anything that stood out about any of them. But clearly they’re doing something differently than the many, many couples out there who have to sign divorce papers. So I sat down and spoke to some of the couples in my life who have been together for 30 years or more and asked them what marriage advice they have, that they fear isn’t given out enough.
Bite your tongue twice a day
A handful of times a day, you’ll find yourself really wanting to clap back at your partner—to argue with something he said, to settle the score, or to defend your ego. Don’t do it. At least two of those times, bite your tongue. You may handle the argument that ensues if you speak your mind some of the time in these instances, but biting your tongue twice a day will really minimize conflict.