Marriage is often described as a journey that two people embark on together. Newlyweds are excited about building a home and possibly starting a family, and about forging a new identity as a pair. In contrast, older married couples -- the veterans -- have passed these milestones and they understand that the road is full of hills and turns.
Love Is a Start
Newlyweds exclaim, "We're in love with love!" Hearing this, veteran couples smile indulgently and exchange knowing looks. Newly married couples sometimes fall prey to the "love conquers all" myth. Older couples know that a successful marriage doesn't just "happen." In an article for "Psychology Today," psychologist Vivian Diller notes that the expectation of "unconditional love," while appropriate for parents and children, prevents couples from developing skills that keep a marriage alive.
Conflict Is Productive
Early on, couples may avoid conflict, afraid that an argument will disrupt the "magic" of their new marriage. According to WebMD, airing grievances gives couples the opportunity to hone their communication skills, thereby building the relationship. Couples may believe that walking away from a disagreement will prevent a fight, but the opposite is true. The key is to learn to disagree effectively. Successful couples know how to listen and respond without letting anger take over the conversation.
Balance Is Everything
Newly married couples can feel overwhelmed by the demands of blending their individual identities with their new married roles. They may feel pressured to spend as much time together as possible, forgoing activities they enjoyed as singletons. Spouses may sacrifice their friendships outside the marriage. Happily married older couples will caution against this. Marriage doesn't mean that you become a new person altogether. On the contrary, maintaining your unique identities keeps the marriage fresh and exciting, and old friends offer vital support when the going gets rough.
Prioritize the Marriage
Marriage becomes more complicated over time, not less. Work demands mean hours spent apart. If children enter the picture, a couple naturally shifts focus onto the kids' well-being. It's hard not to get caught up in these pressures and forget that your marriage needs attention, too. New couples can forget to schedule time to be alone, even if it's just for an evening walk. Older couples who have weathered these storms have done so by staying connected and leaning on each other.