(When I first saw you, I saw love.
And the first time you touched me, I felt love.
And after all this time, you’re still the one I love.)
Looks like we made it
Look how far we’ve come my baby
We mighta took the long way
We knew we’d get there someday
They said, “I bet they’ll never make it”
But just look at us holding on
We’re still together still going strong
These are the lyrics from ‘Still the One’, one of my favourite love songs from Shania Twain. This week, I was really happy to sing those exact same words to my wife. Why? The 8 of May 2010 marked a really important milestone in my life. It was the 10th year anniversary of our marriage and we celebrated it by taking a romantic getaway to Bali. Time really flies indeed. Ten years ago, on the 8th of May 2000, we got married after going out together for 6 years. I was 24 and she was **censored**. Now, ten years later, we have two wonderful children and are as happy and in love as ever.
The reason that I am really proud in reaching this milestone is because I know that staying happily married after 10 years is not easy at all. Nowadays, a happy marriage is the exception rather than the norm. We all know that less than 10% of businesses that start make it past the 10-year mark. Marriage isn’t all that different. From my informal observations and surveys of the thousands of people that come for my seminars, I have found that less than 20% of people stay happily married after the first five years.
So many friends I know, including my own parents and my wife’s parents, have ended their marriage in divorce. And many of those who decided to stay together have lost the love and passion somewhere along the way. I can name many who are married but are miserable. They are just staying married because they feel obligated, staying for the sake of their children or because they are too fearful or shameful to make a change.
After being married for the first decade, I now know that a successful marriage DOES NOT happen by chance. Many people have the illusion that as long as they find Mr./Mrs Right who they love, everything will be plain sailing, the birds will be singing everyday their love will automatically last the test of time. Sorry to say, it does not happen that way.
No matter whom you marry, the road to marriage is fraught with challenges and problems. There are going to be disagreements and fights over children, money, in-laws, holidays, parenting teenagers methods life choices etc- Unless you use the right communication strategies and management skills of your thoughts and emotions in the right way, these inevitable events will destroy any relationship.
At the same time, love, like any human emotion does not last unless you make the effort and spend the time to cherish, appreciate, pamper, delight, surprise, entertain and serve each other every single day. You cannot marry someone and expect to be still happily in love after 10 years without working on your relationship on a consistent basis.
I have observed that the main reason why most relationships fail is because couples take each other’s love for granted and never worked on building and nurturing their relationship once they got married. Whatever you don’t nurture consistently will slowly and surely die. And when things go wrong, they find someone to blame, especially each other. Many of my friends who end up in divorce tell me that it is because they married the wrong person, because their mother-in-law broke the marriage up, because of money problems or because the children killed the intimacy in their relationship.
The reason my marriage has successfully made it for 10 years is not because we were perfect for each other and that we are lucky enough to have no problems.
In fact, we are as different as night and day. She is a vegetarian and I love to eat meat, She loves shopping and I hate it (I think it’s a damn waste of time). She wants to watch Chinese movies and I want to watch English ones. I love massages and she hates anyone touching her body. I wanted to live in a Bungalow and she wanted to live in an apartment-you get the message.
So, what the heck do we like about each other? I don’t know about her, but what I love about her is that she has a really kind heart. She won’t even harm an ant (literally!) She goes out of her way to help strangers and is extremely honest with her thoughts and feelings. She doesn’t play games and goes straight to the point. She’s the kind of person who I know will stick with me through thick and thin. If I ever lose everything I have, she will be standing there by me. She is also an amazing mother to my children. That’s what I love about her! So despite our inherent differences, our love for each other has driven us to always find a way to make it work.
At the same time, we have gone through our fair share of huge challenges and emotional ups and downs. We have disagreed over everything and almost anything you can think of. There were times when we felt like killing each other and calling it quits. They have been some very low and even near breaking points in our marriage. However, what allowed us to bounce back and strengthen our love was the fact that we chose to put in 100% effort to make it work and to apply the right communication leadership strategies that we read from hundreds of books on relationships, NLP, psychology etc-
Here are five lessons I have learnt throughout my 10-year journey that I would like to share with you. It has helped me on my journey of marriage and I hope it would do the same for you.
Lesson #1: Love Your Partner The Way They Want To Be Loved
We have all heard the phrase ‘Treat others the way YOU want to be treated’. I discovered that this advice does not work in a relationship. Instead, we need to treat others the way THEY want to be treated.
We all have different love languages. Some people feel loved when they are physically touched (hugged, kissed, touched etc..). However, some people do not feel deeply loved through physical touch. They may like it, but they don’t feel deeply loved by it. Instead, they feel loved only when they hear the words ‘I love you’. For others, they only feel loved when you do things for them or when you spend time with them.
When I first got married, I expressed my love primarily through physical touch and by saying how much I loved her. These were my two love languages. Unfortunately, I neglected spending time shopping with her (since I was always working) and spending the time just talking. This made her feel really un-loved as ‘quality time’ was her primary love language. Imagine my frustration when I gave her hugs and expressed my love through words and she did not return the affection. It was only after reading the book ‘The Five Love Languages’ that I began to change the way I expressed my love-in-.her language. As I started to spend time with her doing what she loved did she feel totally loved and the sparks began to fly again. The lesson I learnt? If you want your partner to show you love, first make him/her feel loved by expressing love in THEIR language.
Lesson #2: Remember the Compliments, Forget the Insults
In any relationship, there will be times when you get into a heated disagreement and start saying nasty things to each other- ‘ I hate you’, ‘get lost’, ‘you’re so stupid!’, ‘what’s the hell is wrong with you’, ‘are you mad?!’ etc- There will of course also be times when you say the sweetest things to each other.
If you are the kind of person that remembers all the bad stuff like an elephant and keeps replaying those hurtful images in your head and keeps those lousy feelings at the back of your heart, then your relationship may not last too long. Every time you get into an argument, you will tend to recall and bring up the past, reinforcing and intensifying all those lousy feelings all over again. Pretty soon, looking at your partners face will trigger all those bad feelings. This is known as ‘anchoring’ in NLP.
I have learnt that no matter what painful things you may have done to each other, you have to learn to let go. Learn to forget and forgive. Disassociate emotionally from it. A effective study techniques I learnt in NLP (known as the scramble) has really helped me to do this. Know that when our loved one is in a bad state of mind, they will say things that they do not mean. Don’t take it personally. They are not a bad person, but merely in a bad state of mind. Instead, remember the great moments and the loving words they say and keep playing these great feelings in your mind until it gets fully associated to your partner. Every time you see them, you will feel amazing. This love conditioning is what makes love in a marriage grow over time.
Lesson #3: Choose to Be Happy
Many of us make up mental rules in our head of when we should/should not be happy. Many of these rules involve our partner having to do something that meets certain expectations we have.
Here are some examples.
When he/she buys me something-then I will feel happy
When he/she hugs me-then I will feel happy
When he/she does xxxx-then I will feel happy
When he/she says xxxx-then I will feel happy
Here’s the problem. People do not always act/say or behave the way we expect. When they don’t, we get angry or upset. If you are constantly in a lousy mood, your partner will not enjoy being around you, as you will make them feel lousy as well. No one enjoys being around a grouchy depressed person. That is a sure way to kill the relationship. Take charge of your emotions and choose to be happy!
Even if you partner does not act in the way you expect, focus on what you love about the person and put yourself into a positive happy state of mind.
People love people who make them feel good about themselves. What my wife loves about me is that I constantly choose to be in a happy and positive state. Whenever she is around me, no matter how bad she feels, she feels my happiness and that makes her feel good as well. Constantly think of how you can light up your partner’s life.
Lesson #4: Win Arguments By Avoiding It
The next lesson I have learned is that you can never win an argument with your partner. Even if you argue and prove that you are right, you have ‘lost’ the bond and the love… the very thing that is the most precious to you. You would have made your partner lose and feel bad. That should never be the intention in a relationship.
Whenever my views clash with my wife (which is pretty often) and we feel an argument coming on, we avoid it by focusing on what is the outcome we really want. We focus on our ‘good intentions’ and what we have in common. This way, we never bother about who is right or wrong. Instead, we focus on compromising to get what we both want.
Lesson #5: Act Like It’s The Last Day on Earth
What I find kills most relationships is when partners start to take each other for granted. We stop doing special things for each other. We stop saying, ‘thank you’. We stop writing love notes and surprising each other with it. We stop telling the person how much they mean to us.
I don’t know about you but I have come to realize that life is really very very short. In the last two months, I have experienced the death of two friends who are not that much older than me. Like the blink of an eye, 10 years have come and gone and the next 10 will equally zoom past as fast. Through these experiences, I have come to realize that our time together is so limited, so why waste it being unhappy or arguing over petty things?
This has always reminded me to live each day as if it were my last. To treat my wife as if it was the last day we had together. So even though we have been together for 16 years, we don’t take the time we have together for granted. We still make each other feel very special with ‘love notes’, ‘surprise gifts’ and the playfulness of a young couple.
So, whether you are married or in a steady relationship, I hope what I have shared can be of value to you and I wish that your relationship journey will be as happy and enriching as mine.