5 Life Lessons for My Son From 20 Successful Years of Marriage
By Anne Radcliffe
Photo by @klwsk/Twenty20
Feb 26, 2018
My son, it might be hard to believe, but yes, your dad and I have managed to survive 20 years together. We may have made a few jokes about it, but I can assure you nobody in this household has ever slept on the couch (at least, not for reasons other than falling asleep in the middle of watching TV).
I know that you know many of your friends have parents who are separated, divorced or remarried. Heck, you have five grandparents for a reason. Relationships are hard, even when they’re ordinary. But that doesn’t mean that we must make things harder than they ought to be. One day, you’ll probably want a relationship with someone, too.
There’s a few things you should know about putting the capital S in your “Significant other.”
1. Be friends, first and always
Your dad isn’t just my husband, he's also my best friend. This may sound corny (and possibly as unromantic as it gets), but the passion you have when you’re newly dating won’t last forever. If that’s all that you have going on between you and your spouse, then as soon as the attraction ends, so will the relationship.
I know you’re sticking your fingers in your ears right now, because you don’t want to talk about that either, but I have no doubt you’ll find that you’ll have a few such relationships on your way to finding your soulmate. You’ll realize it’s true.
You will need your friendship to sustain you when things are hard, when one of you is sick, when you are tired and when you are not at your best. You need someone who knows who you are — all of you — who can forgive you and love you for your flaws and faults, even when you forget to do it for yourself.
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2. Develop a sense of humour
Life is weird. So are people. Learn to laugh at it. I just found a grey armpit hair in my armpit the other day. Your dad once woke me up in the middle of the night talking in his sleep about cleaning products. And then he developed a new habit of snoring.
We could stress about these changes to ourselves and each other, or we could laugh. Laughing is more fun, and plus it gives us something new to talk about.
But I’m still investing in depilatory cream and recommending he go get a CPAP.
3. Argue — but know the limits — and don’t sleep mad
Some people say arguing is bad. I say that’s not true — if you never vent frustration safely, I think that’s worse for you and your relationship. Your dad and I occasionally yell at each other. We get annoyed and lose our tempers, and that’s a human thing to do, to blow off steam.
You’ll never hear your dad and I call each other names, though. We’ve never hit one another. It’s important to know the limits even when you’re angry. Do what we do: go to your space and cool off. Then either resolve it or let it go. Don’t take a grudge to bed with you, where you’ll both be unhappy about it.
4. Intimacy takes many forms and you should practice all of them
The worst thing for any relationship is to lose the ability to touch one another, spiritually and bodily. There’s many reasons for physical relations to be difficult in a long-term relationship, especially if pregnancy and children come along. But you can still work to satisfy each other’s need for intimacy with activities like holding hands, cuddling, and saying, "I love you."
It’s hard to believe, but sometimes we forget to do this after a while. We take it for granted.
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5. Realize you won’t always have the answers.
Certainty in life is the foolishness of youth. No doubt, right now you probably think you know better than me, but I’m pretty sure one day you’ll realize I knew better than you. (But it’s OK, 'cause the older I get, the more even I realize that I don’t understand jack squat.)
We won’t understand each other, sometimes. We’ll make mistakes and we’ll hurt each other. Learning and growing in a relationship is normal. Not just between your dad and I, but this is happening between you and I, too.
All of us will just have to do the best we can: to learn from each other, to think and to grow. It won’t always be easy, but we can smooth over some of the rough parts with love.
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