Our oldest daughter got married last weekend. My husband and I, along with the groom’s parents, were invited to offer a few words of wisdom to the newlyweds. The Bridesmaids and Groomsmen started the reception festivities off with the requisite sharing of awkward adolescent memories, tales of brotherly bonding and sisterly love. When my turn came, I wanted my sentiments to be short and sweet,condensing the insights I’ve gained from almost 37 years of marriage into three minutes or less. (Really? Can the secret to cohabitating successfully for nearly four decades be reduced to a brief sound bite?)
My thoughts were inspired by an article on longevity in relationships that had recently come across my radar (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/), and a communication technique I learned many years ago for facilitating group interactions (inspired by Parker Palmer’s guidelines for Circles of Trust). I didn’t write my thoughts out because I wanted to speak spontaneously from my heart …so here is an approximation of what I said:
“Rob and Regina, I’d like to offer you two brief pieces of advice borne out of my own experience. First – psychologists who study marriage have determined that kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. The quality of kindness towards one another that couples bring to their relationship – even when disagreeing or fighting – can predict with 94 % accuracy which couples will stay together. Kindness, more than any other variable, is the magic ingredient that glues couples together.
Second – when things get difficult, turn to wonder. Bring curiosity to those situations, habits, and annoying personality traits that are sure to push your buttons. Instead of shouting “You are such a slob!” when you’ve tripped over your spouse’s dirty clothes pile one more time, try asking “I wonder why it’s so difficult for you to keep your belongings off the floor?” This approach goes a long way toward shifting the energy from criticism, judgment and hostility, toward inquiry that can lead to deeper understanding and acceptance of each other’s foibles.
Regina and Rob, may you be kind to one another, and always be on the lookout for wonder! Cheers!!!”