My wife, Gail and I will soon be celebrating our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. I am often asked, "What is the key to staying together for so long?"

This is an important question in modern day America where fifty percent of marriages fail. It seems that primary relationships are difficult to maintain in contemporary society.

There are couples that stay together for years for financial reasons and other considerations, but what ever passion that once existed, died out a long time ago. Staying together because it is expedient does not stimulate excitement or bring joy.

The one essential key that enhances our relationship is mutual trust. It is a trust that has been developed over time and time is the only way to develop it.

The aspects that have allowed our marriage to grow and thrive are not complicated concepts.

They are:

  1. Sharing common interests. My wife owns her own school and I am a therapist in private practice. We both are passionate about discovering ways to heal emotional pain in children, teens, adults and families. We share similar political perspectives and we are both very athletic. We are comfortable with each other during conversation and silence. We both love movies and plays that move us emotionally. We both love to read interesting books and magazines. Friends and family are very important to us.
  2. We also have different issues and we give each other space to pursue them. Gail loves camping, birding and being outdoors. I prefer being in a place that provides room service. I am pretty driven and focused on outcomes while my wife is laid back and relaxes much easier than I do. I am Jewish and she is African-American. We honor each others cultures; their differences and similarities.
  3. We have clearly defined roles when it comes to all issues financial. We both have our own businesses that we are responsible for and any major purchases are made by mutual decision.
  4. We do have arguments at times and it is important to both of us that conflicts are resolved as soon as possible. Many couples have arguments that they don't ever resolve because they lack the communication skills of how to accomplish this. Other folks are terrified of conflict and avoid it at all costs. Psychotherapy and other self-help groups can help remedy this. We both believe that all dissension can be worked through if we take the time to listen to each other. Gail and I have the expectation that we will have fights from time to time and they will be resolved by bedtime. Our marriage has evolved into a wonderful everyday experience. It hasn't always been that way. In fact, we have had some rocky moments where the state of our union was in jeopardy, but we both worked diligently to resolve these problems.
  5. Long ago we instituted a fair fighting rule. We both promise to never take part in character assassination or utilize words that cannot be taken back. We both realize that tension and frustration will sometimes lift their spirited heads. Raised voices will occur at times and anger will be emphatically expressed. Although yelling is sometimes part of conflict resolution, it is not the middle or final step. Conflict can only be resolved when cooler heads prevail.
  6. Physical attraction, chemistry and sex are not over rated. Speaking for myself, I am as physically attracted to my wife as I was when we first met in 1969! Experiencing intimacy through making love takes my breath away. I then remember why it is so wonderful to be alive.

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