Falling in love is the easy part...
If you feel like the magic is fading after years together, here is some life-changing advice on making love last - by 10 women who know
So many married couples get out of the habit of being affectionate. Before you know it, you’re sitting on different sofas every night. Re-introduce touching, whether that’s hugs, strokes, holding hands or just sitting closely. Be playful. I’m talking about having a bubble bath together, having a pillow fight or dragging the duvet downstairs. Most couples who stop having sex do so because it just gets a bit tedious and not as much fun as it used to be, but you can make it fun again. People underestimate the power of sex in long-term relationships – it can be a pure expression of love and intimacy. Sex can be just as good, if not better, in your 40s, 50s and beyond than it was in your 20s.
The author of 'Improving Your Relationship For Dummies', Paula Hall is married with two children.
Dial down the criticism. Nobody can survive in a marriage, at least not happily, if they feel more judged than admired. I suggest to my clients that they pretend there’s a distinguished guest staying in the spare room. You’re likely to tone down negative comments and fighting, and learn that you are capable of adjusting your behaviour more than you think.
Psychologist Harriet Lerner is the author of 'Marriage Rules: A Manual For The Married And The Coupled Up'.
You need to be making the bedsprings creak – from laughter! That network of private jokes between a couple is one of the best medicines ever for a lasting marriage. The problem is that so many people seem not to really talk much any more, let alone keep up those giggly moments that most couples start off with. Get a couple of bottles of Pinot Grigio and a takeaway, and start talking about those things that used to make you laugh. Progress from there...
Author Jilly Cooper has been married for 51 years. Her 1969 guide, 'How To Stay Married', was recently reissued.
When couples have been together a while, they often start to communicate in shorthand. When your husband comes in from work and you ask how it was, he mightanswer, ‘Oh, you know, just work,’ and so you stop asking. Before you know it, you don’t know what’s going on in his life. At worst, you don’t really know him any more. That’s why one of the most common things I say to couples is to check in with each other to find out what each of you enjoys. As with everything else in life, our tastes and likes and opinions change – often significantly. Keeping up with those changes will make your other half feel appreciated.
A Relate counsellor for over 20 years, Denise Knowles is married with three grown-up children.
My husband Owen and I split up after just nine months of marriage. He moved abroad and we both thought that was it. But two years later, after we’d both done an enormous amount of reflecting, he contacted me out of the blue. When we met up, I realised how much I loved and missed him. We got back together, and now we have a wonderful marriage. I know we’d both fight for it harder than anything else in our lives. We do a lot more listening than we used to. Most importantly, we always keep at the forefront of our minds, even in rows, why we love each other and never say things we don’t mean because you can forgive, but you can’t forget.
Corné Immelman, 42, and her husband Owen separated for two years but are now back together.
Because my husband and I work together, we’ve created rules. One is that neither of us is allowed to think we can win an argument. If Sean changes something I’ve written and we argue and I win, it’s such a hollow victory. The same goes for marriage. We all know that feeling, in the middle of horrid arguments, of wanting to justify yourself, of wanting to win and the other person to lose, but all that does is hack away at something fragile and breakable – it’s not a victory. Arguments should be about trying to mend something together.
Author Nicci Gerrard and her husband of 22 years, Sean French, write together under the name Nicci French. Their latest book, 'Tuesday’s Gone', is out now.
As a lawyer I see the tail end of relationships, and communication stands out as the thing that’s overwhelmingly lacking in rocky marriages. We all tend to be good at either speaking or listening, but often not both. That’s something you can change, however, especially if you both make the commitment to improving the situation. In my experience, communicating in a respectful, insightful and forward- focusing way can so often change everything.
Sarah Anticoni is partner and mediator of the family team at law firm Charles Russell.
Stuart and I met when I was 17, and we were 19 when we married. Now, in our 60s, we are completely different - not just compared with the people we once were, but also from each other. So what’s made it work? Every day, without fail, we have made time for each other – to talk or to do something fun. We love new ventures and we have always tried to find a way to make them happen, which has kept life exciting. We allow each other space and independence to follow our dreams so that we don’t lose a sense of ourselves as individuals. And we see the lows, as well as the highs, as part of what binds us together. In other words, we approach problems as something that ultimately makes us stronger as a couple. Of course, we all get driven to distraction from time to time, and I’m no different – but it’s too easy to focus on the negatives. Remembering what works about our relationship keeps things in perspective.
Philippa Annett, 61, has been married to her husband Stuart for 44 years.
Focus on speaking kindly to your partner. Not only will it strengthen your connection and ultimately keep you together for longer, it also teaches children how relationships function. If you shout or are spiteful, you’re basically teaching your kids that this is the way to react in moments of anger or irritation. But if you show affection openly, your children are more likely to have higher expectations from their own relationships.
Chartered psychologist Dr Jennifer Leonard runs UK Parent Coaching.
How many of us can remember our vows word for word? But if you consider them – to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health... till death us do part – it’s a reminder that marriage is an adventure. There will be great times on that journey, but, yes, there will also be challenges. I believe that knowing and expecting this is the key to a great relationship. So many people have unreasonable expectations – the moment things look as though they’re going pear-shaped, they want to step off the journey. I don’t know why it is... Perhaps it’s our emphasis on fairy-tale weddings, which makes people think the marriage should be a fairy tale, too. But life is more complicated than that and, in the end, you’re stronger for it.
Reverend Martine Oborne is vicar of St Michael’s Church, Chiswick, London.
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