Have you heard the story of the couple who celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, surrounded by their children, current and ex-spouses of their children, grandchildren, current and ex-spouses of their grandchildren? Well, the old lady was asked by all her family, "What is the key to your long and happy marriage?" Her reply was, "It's very simple. In our time, when something was broken, we worked to fix it, not replace it!"
In that one sentence lies the most important of all the keys to a successful marriage - work at it! Not everything will be perfect, accept it.
This key unlocks some basic behaviours. The first is to choose to love each other, even when you think he or she is wrong. Second, always try and answer the phone when he or she calls. Third, be there for your him or her when they need you. It may mean coming early from work, it may mean forgoing that dinner with friends, but to your spouse, it means that you have made him or her your priority. Take time away regularly to spend time with each other, to understand each other, and to just relax and have fun together! Do not put off your marriage till your kids have flown the nest, or till you earn enough. Believe me, happy children or a successful career rarely resulted from an empty marriage.
The next most important of the keys to a successful marriage is Respect. Respect for one another decides your tone in an argument, in the bedroom, when you are raising your kids, and in front of your friends. In an argument, remember that may never be one winner and one loser, so do not make winning a priority. Never keep secrets from each other, and never lie to your significant other. This will come naturally to you when you respect and have a healthy regard for each other.
The third critical key is Patience. Trust me, marriage is sure to test your patience! You will need all your patience when two adults live under the same roof; patience to live with wet towels on the floor, patience with each other's friends, patience with another's moods and tempers, and most important, patience with each other's mistakes. But when you respect each other and are willing to work at being together always, you will find that being patient is not very difficult after all.
The fourth one, and quite a contrary key, is to be able to be independent. Every marriage calls for a strong companion, not a clingy dependent. Sure, you love each other, respect and care for each other, and miss each other when you are not together. But being independent in a marriage means not depending on the other to fill your idle hours, or completely take care of you financially and emotionally, or leaning on the other for making all the decisions. The most successful marriages are those that are equal partnerships.
Finally, remember that we all make mistakes. You could sometimes make a mistake, lose your patience, be rude or get clingy. When that happens, just remember that the first key unlocks the next door - work at it! Forgive yourself first, and work at learning from mistakes. You will soon find that your marriage is on auto-pilot, and that all these keys keep the doors open all the time!