My husband and I attended a wedding yesterday and, as a gift, wrote a note about what we had learned in our 30-year relationship. We learned from each other, from individual and couple’s therapy, and from all the germane trainings and books I’ve digested over the years. Doug’s main point is about differentiation: being and showing who you are, and accepting who your partner is.  My favorite teachers of this Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson.  I gave the couple brochure from Ellyn and Pete called Stepping Stones to Intimacy, a positive outlook on the Challenges All Couples Face. I give this to many couples or individual clients dealing with relationship issues, since it goes step by step through the many iterations of bonding, conflict, differences, intimacy and finally synergy–being independent and happily connected, all at once.

Here’s the note:

“From Doug:

Your partner will never meet all your needs. You are not the same. You don’t need the same things, or even the same people in your life. But stay curious about those differences. Know what is going on in the daily life of your partner, and be invested, in a good, non-controlling way in those things.

Learn how to fight, respectfully and while holding on to yourself. The next great, deeper stage of your relationship is birthed in those moments. Trust the process, and each other.

You will not change your partner, but they will be changed by you. Explore and take joy in how you have changed and are different because this person is intimately in your life. That’s the whole point. But the annoying bits will always be there, those are hopeless.

The marriage you have today is not the one you will have 10 years from now. Embrace those changes. Robin and I are probably on our third or fourth marriage (to each other) by now. Each one is better than the one before.

From Robin:

What Doug said!

Enjoy the little things every day.

Notice and speak your gratitude for the little and the big things, daily.

Schedule time with each other, and allow each other to have time away, too.

Don’t expect to like all the same things, and find some things that help you share joy.

Don’t hesitate to hire a therapist if stuff from your family or former not-as-good relationships begin to intrude on this marriage.

Allow your spouse’s love to permeate your soul, psyche, and body.

Live long in health, happiness, prosperity, and love!!!”