Rather than focusing on estate planning in this article, I plan on sharing the wisdom from clients who have successfully navigated many years of successful marriage. I’m grateful that Patti and I have thirty years behind us, which, I suppose is a great accomplishment these days.

Nevertheless, all of us have a lot to learn from those who have traveled a longer path. So over the years, I wrote down these nuggets from those who had been married fifty years or more:

  1. Be a good listener and don’t offer an opinion unless asked.
  2. If you think marriage would have been easier with someone else, think again.
  3. Grow together. You’re both going to change, but do so on the same path rather than taking separate paths.
  4. While you want to grow together, also have some separate interests and friends. It’s okay to take some time away from one another every now and then.
  5. Everyone has their own quirks that make us difficult to live with. Do your best to minimize your own, and accept those of your spouse.
  6. Marriage is an “on the job training” proposition. When the going gets rough, it’s a sign that we may need new skills, not a new spouse.
  7. Remind yourself daily why you fell in love in the first place.
  8. Don’t let the kids become the number one priority. Your marriage is your first responsibility.
  9. When you’re angry, it is not the time to fight.
  10. If you are thinking “I really shouldn’t say this” – Don’t.
  11. Be the first to apologize and the first to forgive.
  12. Try new things together. Don’t do the same thing over and over.
  13. Trying new things also applies to the bedroom.
  14. Surprise your spouse in a good way every now and then. Whether that means to bring her flowers for no reason, book a trip ‘just because’ or do something nice for her parents – those things go a long way.
  15. When you screw up, don’t blame your spouse. Take responsibility for your own mistakes.
  16. Be willing to compromise but also realize some situations can’t be compromised – e.g. – where you live, how many kids you have, etc. – realize that when your spouse gives in on such a matter it is both a gift to you and potentially dangerous. Before acting, you should be certain that both of you can live with the consequences.
  17. Don’t always make your spouse give in when compromise isn’t possible.
  18. Don’t rehash the past.
  19. Don’t hold grudges – accept apologies graciously and move on.
  20. Keep a good sense of humor.
  21. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  22. Realize that even tragic times will end.
  23. None of us are happy 24/7 – nor do we need to be.
  24. Trust is more valuable than all the money you could possibly save.
  25. Most good marriages have one person who brings up difficult subjects or stays hopeful in difficult times. While you may wish that both of you take on this role, be grateful when one of you is willing to do it.
  26. Marriage can make you a better person or a worse person – your choice.
  27. Better to request a change than to complain and criticize.
  28. Fights are usually not about the content of the argument du jour. It’s usually better to define the underlying issues of what is really upsetting and address those rather than continue arguing over trivial matters.
  29. Learn how to make up properly as two people can’t be in a marriage without upsetting one another from time to time.

And my final marriage tip?

  1. Enjoy life together – and appreciate the small things.

© 2020 Craig R. Hersch. Originally published in the Sanibel Island Sun.