You went into this marriage with both of your eyes wide open. You had your checklist and assumed if your fiance possessed all those “must-have qualities you’ be that married couple sitting on a porch swing well into your golden years with your beloved, holding hands and communicating through, thoughtful non-verbal gazes.
Of course no one could have prepared you for life’s proverbial curve balls that seemed like bad plots out of a melodramatic screenplay and so far form your reality when you said I do. Still here you are years later, married and feeling anything but wedded bliss. Between dashed careers, kids, mounting bills and basic life stuff your happily ever after is on hold. And that sense that you could unload your every last crappy feeling onto your partner has been replaced by a feeling of disconnection and apathy. Your attempts to talk and share have fallen on deaf ears so many times that you no longer feel a need to mend and work on your problems. Sure you still share a bed, but the emotional chasm which stretches between the two of you each night as you lay down seems like it will be increasingly harder to breach.
And while you may have read every self-help book out there to find a way to mend your very shaky union, sometimes hearing words of wisdom from someone who has actually been there and done that as opposed to a self help talking head guru can give you a greater understanding of how to apply those same lessons learned in your own marriage.
Having stayed married twice in the course of their 62 years, 15 days, 23 hours, and 15 minutes, Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad, author of the award-winning This Path We Share: Reflecting on 60 Years of Marriage, www.ThisPathWeShare.com believes her union was well worth weathering the storm and the ugly word divorce that popped up in heated conversations during years 23 and 33.
I met Les when I was 16 and we knew by our third date that we would marry. We were married two weeks before I turned 18 (Les was 26) and had our daughter when I was 21. Our three boys were born when I was 23, 25, and 27,” says Ms. Tschetter Hjelmstad.
But it wasn’t all roses and wine according to Ms. Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad. They had problems with money. There was none. They had four children in six years. She suffered depression. And then I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome at age 58 and breast cancer at age 59. We traveled 400,000 miles by car the ultimate test of togetherness.
Unfortunately, the treatments for breast cancer almost always either put a patient into menopause or reactivate that menopause. Two mastectomies do not make a woman look or feel sexier, says Ms.Tschetter-Hjelmstad. We had promised somewhere in the middle of our marriage to keep our sex life going no matter what, so we continued to make dates and honor them. After persisting every week for TEN years, FINALLY my desire returned. We hung out a welcome banner.
Ms. Lois Tschetter-Hjelmstad admits she and her husband seriously talked of divorce at Years 23 and 33. Sometimes the problems, the differences in personality and interests, the inability to see the other’s side almost overwhelmed us. But then we would reach back into our memories and deep down into our hearts and rediscover the love that brought us together.
Tips to stay in the marriage
If younger couples could fathom the rich rewards of a long shared history, a best friend forever, an intact extended family, someone who thinks of and sees you as young they would not carelessly toss that history into a wastebasket of freedom fantasies or desperate solution, says Ms. Tschetter Hjelmstad , who offers these tidbits of advice. To stay married for 60 years, you not only have to be blessed with unusual longevity. You have to find a way to resolve the many differences and survive the many crises that arise over the years.
Ms. Tschetter Hjelmstad top three tips
1. Nurture your primary relationship tenaciously–we adore our children and care for them, but our spouses must come first
2. Create a post-parenthood marriage–there may be years with an empty nest
3. Keep sex alive as long as you live
Ultimately things that don’t work: affixing blame; trying to be the winner; forgetting the we of marriage, says Ms. Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad. “Things that do work: nurturing your primacy relationship tenaciously; falling in love with each new person your mate becomes; reinventing your life to fit changing circumstances; fostering a lifelong sexual connection; being kind and courteous to the most important person in your life. If you can do that, the little things may well fall into their little place”.