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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Married 40 Years....And We Never had ONE Fight

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 1st 2009

 Yesterday was a special day for my wife and I because it marked the 40th anniversary of our wedding. I recall quite a few years ago and when the number of years was far less than 40 (approximately 25 years) someone incredulously remarked, "You mean to the same person?" That kind of said it all. Today, it seems, not a lot of marriages survive that long.

On yet another occasion, I remarked to another individual that, not only were we married a long time but, "we never had one fight." Of course, the signal word there is ONE. They too were incredulous until I explained what I meant and then they had a good hearted laughed. My wife often says, in relation to this joke of mine, is that "we did only have one fight but it lasted for forty years."  I say it differently, of course, by adding that we had One thousand fights during the years of our marriage.

I guess the point of all of this is to state the obvious: "marriage is not easy." Adding to the difficulty of marriage in this modern world is the fact that everyone is very aware of serious issues such as abuse, infidelity, conflict or arguing, money problems and male-female differences. What I mean by "male female differences" is the fact that in today's world, women are much better able to be competitive in the job market, including in the professions, such as medicine, law and corporate status and prestige, among many others. While these are good things that benefit women and their families, they also put unique strains on marriage not seen in generations past when women were at home raising the children.

Whatever the strains on marriage that exist, be they women's ability to compete on the job front, or greater awareness of harmful affects of verbal and physical abuse on the family, there is also a downside to some of these developments. What I mean by a downside is that many people may misunderstand the nature of marriage and the issue of marital and family disagreement, conflict and arguing.

In other words, marital conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in certain respects, it can be viewed as a very positive thing.

Now, before you start to think that I have lost my senses, try to keep in mind that human beings can be very aggressive and downright disagreeable.

You see, it is not that married couples fight that is the problem. Rather, it is the quality and nature of their overall relationship that is most important. Even those couples who can become quite loud when arguing, using foul language by hurling "epitaphs" at one another can have an extremely close and durable relationship. Unfortunately, we human beings seem quite capable of behaving miserably with those we love the most, from time to time.

Given that arguing is inevitable in any intimate relationship, it is how often the worst of the arguments occur that can determine whether a marriage is in trouble or not. The fact that two people will occasionally have a major blowout says less about their time together than their ability to recover, apologize, feel they have cleared the air and emerge stronger and more trusting than before.

Many married people establish rules for how to handle their disagreements. This is an excellent idea as long as it is also recognized that there will be those times when the rules break down.

I have told the story of a couple I had met many years ago who had a unique way of dealing with their conflicts. Loving one another and deeply committed to each other and the marriage, they mutually decided to buy the cheapest sets of china available. If they reached those rare episodes where they both became explosive, they agreed to smash the china, piece by piece, while they quarreled. This actually worked quite well for them.

The basic fact is that, for any marriage to succeed, there must be basic respect between the two people. During the few times when a quarrel can become quite serious, the couple is able to draw upon that bond of trust that has been built up in order to feel secure even when hurling insults.

I have always maintained that couples who are sexually passionate with one another will have those few instances where they argue passionately.

For marriages to succeed there must be some of the following elements present:

1. Mutual trust.
2. Mutual respect.
3. Passion, both sexually and emotionally.
4. Closeness and intimacy. Those couples I have know with the strongest marriages stated that they were one another's best friends.
5. Confiding in your best friend: your spouse. I was very troubled when someone recently informed me that they go to outside friends to discuss issues because they never would with their spouse.
6. Shared values and interests. Not everything must be shared but there needs to be "enough" of mutual interest so that the couple goes out and enjoys things with each other.
7. A deep sense of commitment to each other.
8. A willingness to listen, admit when you are wrong and make compromises.
9. A willingness to work at solving problems together.
10. An ability to empathize with each other.

There are many more things that should go on this list, such as, laughing together, talking and talking endlessly and, laughing, laughing and enjoying all the ironies and inconsistencies of life.                                                                                   

This is not a full list and the reader is invited to add more items that contribute to a successful marriage.

Your comments and questions are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    not married yet jsut facts to tell you. - kaitlin gifford - Apr 8th 2009

    well i  can tell you this i remeber years ago my dad fighting w/ my mom and dad took her  keys and got explosive cause he got yelingo n top of his lungs and almost didn't know but he almsot threw a chair at mom when he got a cook imaging and got laid off his job. then mom got pregnant later when  iwas a 5th grader  iwas emotionally having sturggles with autism  i ahted the fact my mo mwas naked hwen  iwas a 5th grader i n  her bad fertile and pregnant bc i saw her naked in her bed and i said why the hell did yo u have sex with dad i f-ing hate you  mom and i kept on dwelling it.

    well my dad has intmacy issues sex problems and he loves my mom but he doesnt understand  osem stuff abotu me os he worries about me when hes having sex he tlaks and cries in his heart for me hwich  i lvoe dad but anywass back to about me.

    I have bipolar and i want to have sex  i have PDD and autism and bipolar os life is harder on me and i have ot work harder.

    I had sex so many times with me and my  b/f  tim nelson a long time ago and sex is hard t o understand but asi  get odler i  know i want toget married.

    Well thats all,

    Thanks!

    Love,

    Kaitlin Gifford

    love is crazy - Valerie M. - Apr 5th 2009

    Thanks so much for a great document!  I sure learned a whole lot more now on the ups and downs associated with marriage...10+ yrs now for us. And  I must say that i absolutely agree with everything!  Marriage definitely takes a lot of WORK for it to last...no doubt about it.  As for me, i really don't know how much longer mine will last...we'll see. VM

    Perfect Relationship - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Apr 3rd 2009
    <p><em>Hello Me,</em></p><p><em>One of the major points of this article is that the <u>perfect relationship</u> does <u>not</u> exist. Too many people get themselves into trouble in their attempts to build a relationship by searching for perfection. A successful relationship depends upon the ability to tolerate imperfection both in your self and in your partner.</em></p><p><em>Dr. Schwartz</em></p>

    Thank you for posting this article - Me - Apr 3rd 2009

    I greatly appreciate this article.  Far too often, emphasis is placed on problematic relationships, when not enough is focused on partnerships that work.  I strongly believe this perfect relationship is possible.

    Many thanks! 

    Crazy little thing called love. - JR - Apr 1st 2009

    Hello, Allan, and congratulations to you and your other half on a pretty good innings.  Long may it continue.

    "Herself" and I are, as of a couple of weeks back, "24, not out".  Sometimes I wonder why.  Certainly not for lack of fights.  The fights are just part of human nature.  The subject of marital fights reminds me of Dan Rowan's joke about Chicago politics some time back - "In some cities, people have arguments with their mayor from time to time, but in Chicago, people have arguments with their Mayor Daly".  If you want to live without arguments - stay single.  Also, I have given my dear wife quite enough reason to throw me out, over the years.  I don't know - there must be something she saw in me the first day that was not a mirage.  I am certainly very proud of her - the fact that she "outranks me", and has done for quite a number of years, has never been a problem.  I hope that I will be given a few years to make up to her for my past sins.  I suppose I am in love.  I suppose she must be, too.  No accounting for it, really.

    By the way - have you seen the video for the Queen recording of "Crazy little thing called love"?  Simple, brilliant and "fuelled", apparently, by the copious consumption of brandy that had occurred while the band and backing crew waited around (for hours) for the "shoot" to be set up.  Bill W would not have approved ...

    Best regards,

    JR

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