What’s The Secret?

Couple photographed by Henri Meilhac

“What’s the secret to staying married sooo loong?” This was the question asked by a young waiter during a recent anniversary dinner at R2L.

My husband and I looked at each other and chuckled a bit without saying a word. I was taken aback by the way the waiter stretched out the two words: “sooo loong.” Perhaps he was not accustomed to seeing people have such a good time together after all these years. The question was a fair one, but his tone seemed to suggest that we were an anomaly. We were having fun, still vibrant and secure. We were genuinely having a good time together, just the two of us.

With no children underfoot, we were able to appreciate a clear view of the Philadelphia skyline just past dark and enjoy each other’s company without the threat of being interrupted. It was the perfect time to order my favorite cocktail, a Cosmopolitan. Let’s just say it’s always a great night when I have a Cosmo (not so great when I have two).

Back to the waiter’s question: “What’s the secret to staying married sooo loong?” Now that I’ve had time to reflect on his question, I want to share with you three secrets that I wish I shared with him.

  1. Schedule the time to be fully present with each other. Insist upon the time for romance. Book a special place. Get away from your children and your domestic space; get away from the busyness of life and the distraction of social media. Go somewhere where nobody knows your name or precise location. I remember when I fell in love with my husband without the tug of social media beckoning me to share every move, venue, or meal. It was just the two of us looking into each other’s eyes; it was a sacred space, our secret.
  2. Teamwork makes the dream work—a much-overused but true adage. A relationship can only work if both parties are fully engaged and equally committed. There is no “I” in team. Commit to, and execute, your game plan. Once you’re married, life is no longer just about you. There’s no room for pouty me-me-me and petulant cries of  “what about me?” You can still meet your personal goals while remaining committed to your partnership, but building a strong foundation together requires an all-hands-on-deck vigilance and attentiveness. I wish someone told me this twenty years ago.

    It was a sacred space, our secret.

  3. Create your own traditions. I never dug traditions. Who says I need brass and nickel to celebrate my 21st year of marriage? Who made up these rules, I say? After 21 years, I cared for none of that bullshit, nor did I want a vow renewal ceremony that involved a whole procession of folks, including a borrowed three-year-old flower girl, for the sake of proving to everyone else that I was still happily in love. My marriage needed to be about being remarkably honest, confessing my secrets, confronting my fears, and owning my role in making my marriage work; none of this could be left to chance. I wanted simplicity, honesty, and time. I needed uninterrupted time and space where I could be completely vulnerable with my husband. Of course, I wouldn’t have shared this last one with our waiter. After 21 years, some secrets are better left as they are … secrets.

These are just some of the secrets that make me fall in love all over again. What secrets can you share for staying married … for sooo loong?

Photo Credit: Henri Meilhac

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