New Year, New Beginnings

happy new year!
New school year desk
Photo by Elements 5

Happy New Year! September 1, not January 1, is the true beginning of the new year. The year’s date doesn’t change, but the whole rhythm of life changes. For our youngest generation, those from age three to age twenty-one, it’s the start of a brand-new school year (Even in 2020 when most classrooms are virtual.) As the children head back to the classroom, their parents’ year renews itself as well. For the formative years of our lives, this was the month of new beginnings and by now the urge to “get going” in September is written in our DNA.

For thousands of adults, this is also the beginning of their professional year. Preschool teachers and graduate school professors are all welcoming a whole new set of students into their classrooms.  Even if they teach actually the same lessons this year as they did last (and most don’t), the new group of youngsters sitting in front of them will make this year unique.

Student, parent, teacher – I have lived all these roles over a period of sixty-Celebrating my birthdayeight years. That alone would be enough to ingrain a sense of September as a launching season deep in my soul. Add to all those years in classrooms or engaged with school activities, the additional detail that my birthday falls at the beginning of September and it becomes obvious why I’m shouting, “Happy New Year!”

new year, new-ish blog

That makes it time for me to review and renew this blog. When I constructed the website and began publishing the blog, I chose as my motif, “It Takes a Lifetime to Learn Love’s Lessons.” My intention was to focus the blog posts on life experiences that were for me opportunities to learn those lessons. In my stories, I hoped that my readers might find ideas, feelings, memories of their own that resonated with mine.

An unstated purpose I had in choosing this topic was to answer a question posed to me many times over the last forty years – ever since our tenth wedding anniversary. Since that time, my husband, Jay, and I have often been asked, “What’s the secret? How have you stayed happily married for so long?” The short answer is, “By accepting that a lot of the time we wouldn’t be “happily married.” But that’s not a very satisfying response.

possible pearls of wisdom

In this post, therefore, I’m offering seven tenets that show up pretty often when couples are asked how they’ve managed to stay together and be relatively happy over the years. From now on, I intend to weave the wisdom from these thoughts into my posts in a more deliberate manner. In my last post, I wrote that Jay and I have always tried to be “intentional” in our relationship, meaning we didn’t just assume it would take care of itself.

I’ve complied some thoughts from various authors that reflect what intentionality means to us .

Couple pulling in different dirctions
Photo by Emma Frances Logan

I’ll start with one that should be obvious, but wasn’t to my husband when we married. Be aware –even happy couples fight. What ever disagreements Jay’s parents had with one another, they managed to keep their children from seeing these moments of discord.  So, my poor hubby thought we were headed for the divorce court the first time we started shouting at each other. It’s impossible for two people to live in such close intimacy all the time without getting on one another’s nerves some of the time. Lots more could be said about this, but here I’m just listing tenets.

We found, however, that one way to steer away from letting the arguments

Focus on what you love
Photo by RMlogo

rule is to intentionally focus on what we liked each other, to recognize what they were particularly good at and give them their head in certain areas. This may be a bit too traditional for some folks, but it worked for us.

As much as you love and really like one another, we discovered, you can’t be everything for your partner;  there will be some part of their ideal where you fall short. Sometimes we completely disappointed one another in this area. I

couple back to back
Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde

thought all men were handy – not true! Jay thought all women put on make-up first thing in the morning – also not true.


Yet, even everyday chores and errands can be fun

Couple cooking together
Photo by Soroush Karimi

because you share them. So, we choose to do some things together that could be done alone, like the Saturday morning shopping. And, although it took me a decade, I learned to love opera as much as Jay does.


Older couple embracing
Photo by lotte-meijer

This one is hard. Sometimes, we had to choose to be attracted to one another. Familiarity can breed contempt, but it doesn’t have to. Staying faithful to one another has never been difficult for us, but staying passionate about each other has taken work.


Have a good time with one another. Everyday life can weight us down. We

Couple on bikes
Photo by Everton Vila

purposely go to movies with happy endings and watch really silly films that have us laughing.  That shared laughter strengthens our bond, helps us get through the harder times. We’ve also begged on street corners together. Was it fun? Yep. More about that in a future post.

Man comforts woman
Photo by Alex Bocharov

Remember your kindergarten manners when you are together. Please and Thank You and all that good stuff our teacher and our parents taught us about how to be kind to others gets good practice right in our own kitchen and bedroom. Charity begins at home. Sometimes you are the only one who might be kind to your partner that day.

Celebrate all possible occasions.  Jay and I even Couple on merry-go-roundcelebrated the 500th month anniversary of our wedding day. We know and celebrate the date we first met – Nov. 4, the date he gave me his Notre Dame class miniature ring – Dec. 6, the date, he asked me to marry him – April 19. We spent hours one steamy, day when torrential rains kept us locked down in a tent in the middle of the African bush, making a list of the best things that had happened to us each year since we had been married. We are a unique couple.  There won’t ever be another committed partnership just like ours. That’s really special and deserves to be honored more than once a year.

Here’s the “tenets” in summary:

Accept that even happy couples argue – and not just even not and then.

Highlight what you like about each other.

Don’t try to be everything for one another.

Wedding rings
Photo by Sandy Millar

Choose with intention to stay attracted.

Have good times together.

Be kindest of all to your partner.

Celebrate YOU whenever possible.


I promise to shine intentional light on these topics in future blog posts.  I will put my life experiences under a literary microscope, searching for those times when as we encountered both the ordinary and the extraordinary moments of our everyday life, we navigated them by paddling through the rapids steering our course with these seven tenets.

Watch for these themes to be front and center in my upcoming blog posts.

Some exercises I developed in working with engaged couples demonstrate how intentionality works. You can find them on this website.

Do you have some tenets of your own, you’d like to add.  Please, write and tell me about them.

“Thus, the critical dimension in understanding whether a marriage will work or not, becomes the extent to which the male can accept the influence of the woman he loves and become socialized in emotional communication.”

John M. Gottman, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.