On dating your spouse
Sometimes opposites really do attract. I mean, imagine two introverts at a frat party. I bet your brain transitions to them being alone in a dorm room reading a book, or snuggled up under a blanket to watch a favorite movie. How about two Type-A's gone camping? You might get the sense that this was their first (maybe last) trip, and perhaps even the next idea for a horror film.
Opposites attract because of the way personalities counteract devastating relationship effects of similar personalities. Other people tend to bring out the interesting parts of us that lie dormant.
This summer, I had the honor of taking part in several anniversary celebrations of couples having varying degrees of personality quirks and astrological signs: the Nielsens, who recently celebrated their 20-year anniversary; my parents, still holding hands after 40 years of marriage; and another duo—diving the Great Barrier Reef after 50 years together.
But how? How do people, let alone opposites, stay married for 20, 40, even 50 years?
What’s the secret?
Their Fourth Date
at the fork in the road
where the tangled oak
upon the weathered
his supple black leathers
Hounds tooth skirt
The sweltering sun
adrenaline rushes through
a crimson river
ebb and flow,
to the ever-changing
Layers of fabric
Walk a thin tightrope
~ Sheree Nielsen
Let's take a closer look at the Nielsens. Sheree, a right-brain creative (also our featured poet/photographer!), and Russell, the methodical left-brain of the relationship, invest in their 20-year marriage by continuing the tradition of date nights every couple of weeks. They admit communication wires cross often in their partnership, so when times get tough (and they do get tough), they reset by focusing on their mutual loves—coffee and good company. They admit sometimes the best remedy to a happy house is getting out of the house.
A favorite “quick date” for the couple includes visiting a new or local cafe. They find that where there’s caffeine, there is typically something else interesting buzzing, like live music. Date nights can also include double dates with other couples, such as their recent visit to the art museum followed by some good eats. The twosome will occasionally spend a night “on the town,” when outfits and attitudes are spruced up, but Sheree and Russell have no problem focusing on activities that include relaxing and enjoying the simple things in life. Either way, they always have something to look forward to, and they keep showing up for each other, as best friends—week after week, year after year.
Remember, intimate and lasting relationships are friendships, first and foremost. Sometimes, you call your friend and he or she picks up and says all the right things; other times, you call and call and they don’t pick up until you’ve already figured out what you need to do in the meantime. (Sometimes your “friend” is your husband, who forgot to complete the last item on his 'honey do list.') But, you keep calling anyway. Sometimes, both you and your friend are having a bad day or are simultaneously going through a hard time. (Sometimes your “friend” is your wife, who can’t acknowledge your D.I.Y. project because she’s exhausted from ____ , and tonight, all she can muster up is a quick “thank you” before bed.) But, you hug your friend anyway.
There is no secret, people. But, people, that’s the secret!—the information is out in the open. So, take the advice of the married and still dating: cue date nights. Long-term relationships, just like friendships, happiness, healing, or any other project by design, require passion, effort, and continuous investment.
Luckily, as many married couples will agree, shortly after another investment is made, passion follows and effort melts away (for a while, anyway—until the next date night).
Sheree K. Nielsen believes that every picture tells a story, so she combines her love of photography and writing with colorful visual descriptions and healing messages found in her coffee table books, essay collections, children’s books and poems. Her upcoming poetry and photography collection, Mondays in October, are her love songs for the beach and its eternal companion, water.
The Author/Photographer/Poet won the 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award for Folly Beach Dances (inspired by the sea and her lymphoma journey), was a Chanticleer Finalist for Ocean Rhythms Kindred Spirits – An Emerson-Inspired Essay Collection on Travel, Nature, Family and Pets, coauthored Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat (a picture book), awarded Chanticleer Little Peeps First Place Category Winner and Montaigne Medal Finalist. She also has many other publications.