Some people have asked how I managed to stay married to my wife, Katharina, for so long. In September this year (2016) we celebrated thirty-six happy years together. So how did we do it? What are our secrets? Well here they are.
(Strange thing is that the first letters of these 5 headings spell the German word "sanft" which means "gentle" which kind of sums up what I am saying here.)
What we decided on from day one was sharing. It wasn't even an issue. We were married, sharing our lives together and sharing bank accounts was just a natural next step. There was no "my" money even though at times I was the sole earner. My earnings were for the family and if I needed something we had to look at our finances as much as we did for anything needed by the family. This of course requires the fifth secret in this list. Without trust none of this is going to work.
But we shared more than our finances. We shared our time together. Romance doesn't die when a couple gets married. Many couples make that mistake and allow daily routine and familiarity to get in the way of romance. Romance is something which needs to be worked on all the time. We need to constantly remind ourselves to take time off to do something together, even if that is simply going for a walk or watching a movie. Going for meals or breakfast is also something we love to do or to get away for the weekend to some place away from home, and it doesn't need to be far.
Agreeing is one of the things which causes a lot of distraught amongst couples. But there are two things which we did agree on from the start:
- Never go to bed without making up after a fight or argument. Never, ever let the day end with a strife spoiling the mood or taking away your smile. This wasn't always easy but with this rule the next day was sure to begin on a positive footing.
- Always agree with what we tell our children. This is a big one and the cause of much strife among young parents. One parent tells the child one thing and the child goes to the other parent who tells them something else. Children are very clever at playing their parents against each other. They don't mean bad it's just their way of trying to get what they want. We always made sure not to contradict each other in front of the children. When a child came to ask our permission to do something we always asked, "What did Daddy say?" "What did Mummy say?" That way the children seen us as a united unit and not as two sides at disparity with each other. This formula also provides opportunity to discuss with the children about the ins and outs of whatever issue is on the table and allows us as a family to come to a united decision.
Not being right
This is one which took me nearly twenty years to understand. Granted this realisation came after a time of immense stress and change in our family which resulted in many disputes, not always so discreet in front of our teenage sons. But two people will never see eye to eye in everything. Each individual sees the world through their own eyes, coloured by their own experiences and perceptions. No two people are going to agree one hundred percent in all things.
So I realised, even if I was convinced that I was right, that being right was less important than my relationship with my wife. Once I came to that understanding I do not any more allow a disagreement get out of hand. It is better to simply drop the subject rather than argue it out to the point of falling out or ending up upset. Being right leads to conflict, not being right leads to harmony.
Many couples suffer from a lack of trust and therefore want to restrict their partner's freedom. They don't like their partner going out without them. They want them at home or together where they can see what's going on. We have always allowed each other to pursue whatever activities we wanted, as long as the sharing and romance was given its place. Having friends and doing things with those friends is important. Of course, being in a relationship where two people are living together and sharing their lives together does mean there will be changes. Accepting those changes while at the same time allowing freedom allows for a balanced relationship which will last.
Here is the pinnacle of everything else in relationships, trust. If you can't trust your partner then find another partner. In other words if you already mistrust your girl friend or boy friend then then this will only interfere when you do begin to live together. Trust is essential in any relationship. You must trust your partner to be the person they are, and trust the love you have for each other to be the magnet which binds you together. Not trusting your loving partner is a betrayal of that love and setting yourself on a higher pedestal than your partner. Trust in equality and freedom of expression and you will continue to have a long and happy relationship in spite of little differences along the way.