Tips for Maintaining Mystery In Your Marriage
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By Samantha Dunn
My in-laws, Scott and Sharon Camp, are trained family and marriage counselors who have been married 49 years. But they’re not your typical sweet, handholding senior citizens — it’s not unusual to walk into the kitchen to catch them kissing. Here are their tips for keeping the mystery alive, and insight as to when it's best to not be so mysterious.
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Keep evolving, Scott says. Expose yourself to new ideas, different ways of being and different experiences in order for there to continually be something new to explore about each other. Change is good, says Scott, “You can get so cocooned and so insulated you start to fear anything new. The key thing is to be exposed to outside influences that can change you.”
Get Excited3 of 11
Sharon and Scott take turns planning a trip or event for their anniversary. One year, Sharon had Scott go on a scavenger hunt throughout town in order to find his present. The real present, of course, was the time she spent thinking and planning something he’d have a blast trying to figure out. You don’t have to save excitement for a special event — try taking a spur-of-the-moment road trip or simply going to a new restaurant.
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“I’ve been known to pick Scott up from the airport wearing only a pair of heels and my London Fog,” Sharon admits. ‘Nuff said.
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“Don’t think you’re going to change a peron or make them act more like you [when you're married], because that isn’t going to work,” Scott advises. Accept that your partner’s experiences, background and personal choices have made them a fundamentally different person from you, even if your attitudes and beliefs are in sync. Spend the rest of your life marveling at your differences rather than trying to become the same person.
Engage in PDA6 of 11
One of the things that shouldn't be shrouded in mystery? Your love for each other. The Camps are big on hand-holding, the casual kiss as they walk through the mall, even an occasional butt pat. “Displaying affection reaffirms your connection and affirms who you are to each other to the rest of the world,” says Scott.
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Avoiding conflict may also build mystery, but it won't be in a good way. “I’ve met people who have said ‘we’ve been married umpteen years and have never had a fight.’ When I hear that I think you must be either really passive-aggressive or miserable,” says Sharon. You can’t be afraid to express tension, but the Camps have one rule: Never say anything intentionally meant to demean or hurt the other person.
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“Mystery can imply a level of withholding, even deceit,” says Scott. Thinking you have to hide part of yourself to be appealing to your partner actually creates low-level tensions and mistrust that only serve to erode your bond and your attraction to each other over time. It's better, the Camps agree, to have a policy of openness and honesty.
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Make sure you do share the important things. “I’ve heard it said that marriage is a 50-50 proposition. It isn’t,” says Scott. “It’s a 100-100 proposition.” Sharon says, “True depth of relationship is depth of knowledge.” Your partner should be the one you turn to to express your emotions and your thoughts — this builds a connection that only gets more complex and enthralling as you go along.
Get Through "The Rs"10 of 11
After the romance, reality sets in. (Read: Little room for mystery here, folks!) You may need to reassess where you are together, what you need and what you are willing to do to make it work. You then have the choice to readjust or reject. “I’ve found that most people reject rather than readjust because it doesn’t demand as much of them. Rejection is easier because you don’t have to change,” Scott says.
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And, while it may sound a bit old school, marriage is really about fulfilling your partner's needs. “There's an expression — ‘men trade intimacy for sex and women trade sex for intimacy,’” says Scott. “That might sound somewhat cynical, but there is a transactional component to marriage. The bottom-line is: You have to be willing to offer what the other person needs so they will fulfill your needs.”
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