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On April 21, 2015, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary! Our marriage (after so many years) works pretty well…but it is definitely not an automated machine. Rather, it is a relationship of process – of mindfulness and respect, which still needs periodic major overhauls.

In many respects, my marriage has been a real-life lab. My work and growth as a therapist has informed my relationship and my relationship has impacted my practice. And, like any good chef, I’ve assembled a myriad of marriage ingredients from a variety of sources.

From my mother, I learned that for her and my dad (married sixty years), having something to look forward to is the spice that made their marriage work. Life can become routine. Planning and looking forward to things is a joint creative experience.

From my clients, I have learned to respect differences in styles and to appreciate them. There are many ways to achieve happiness and success; suspending judgment is the crux of any good, long-term relationship.

My own personal soul-searching and reflection has led me to understand my own strengths, weaknesses, and needs. I have an independent life, as well as an interdependent life. Remember the safety instructions you receive on an airplane – take the oxygen mask first for yourself, then give it to another.

Each relationship has three entities: yourself; your partner; and the relationship itself. Like a triangle, each requires the support and balance of the other to make the entity work. What follows below is my recipe. But remember, like any good recipe, there’s room for tweaking and customization. But, for now, here’s my marriage recipe:

• Be committed to your own personal process and growth.
• Let go of judgment of the pace and the way your partner develops.
• Be respectful, not cynical. Cynicism kills any relationship.
• Practice flexibility, it will serve you well when you really need it.
• Be curious about who your partner is – don’t assume you know exactly what is going on in someone else’s mind.
• Plan special moments for you to look forward to together.
• Try new things – if you’re bored, you have to take responsibility and initiative.