Marriage: The Double Decade Meltdown

I have noticed something totally terrifying. For some reason, when marriages hit the 16-20 year mark, things change. And sometimes, it’s bad.

I love being married. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I want to kick Jason in the head, but when it comes right down to it I feel like I’m married to part Superman, part golden retriever. The guy is loyal, he works hard at being a good dad, rocks date night, and tells me when I look hot. Sure, we miscommunicate, and sometimes I feel neglected, and he occasionally gets yelled at for really stupid reasons. But when push comes to shove, I want him. Period.

Lately we’ve been talking a lot about the double decade epidemic surrounding us because, quite frankly, we’re both terrified by it. Last night, after a rather deep conversation regarding the Things That Make Couples Break Up, he actually wanted to cuddle with me, just because. If that doesn’t spell “I’M FREAKED OUT” I don’t know what does. He was like an old dog during a lightening storm.

Because at eleven plus years, we both want to prevent the terror of whatever virus seems to creep into apparently healthy marriages and wreak havoc. How? How can we make sure we don’t get complacent, bored, detached, or just plain nuts?

And so, being the list maker that I am, I’ve designed a sure-fire plan to keep the home fires blazing. I have no idea what the outcome will be: it might be brilliant, or it might be BS, but at least it’s something.

1. Make eye contact every day, at least once. If you find yourself feeling disconnected, focus on your mate’s eyes for a moment during dinner and really listen to what they’re saying, even if it’s just a minute.

2. Roll up the rugs and drag out the dust bunnies, because unresolved cracks in your marriage NOW will mean potential canyons in the future. Jason and I scoured our brains last night to make sure we weren’t forgetting to fight about something important.

3. Now and then, take a date night and close down the restaurant talking. Sometimes it takes an hour to talk through the incidental stuff, but it’s the only way to get to the meat–your goals and dreams and fears and plans. We did this last weekend, and it felt so good to really connect. It’s been way too long.

4. Never underestimate the value of QNT (quality naked time).

5. For crying out loud, pray together. Sometimes I don’t even know that Jason is worried about something until we’re having couple prayers; sometimes he talks to God more openly than he talks to me.

Wherever you are with your marriage, I’ve realized this week that we’re all vulnerable. There are a million and one traps out there waiting to trip you up and break apart your commitment. We need to be vigilant. Be committed. Be aware.

Just saying this out loud makes me feel way better.


  1. Love this post, Annie! There’s a certain fearlessness required in long-term relationships; the willingness to snoop in the dark corners where conflict lurks, haul it out into the light and stare it down (or give it a hug.) I think I like that last bit the best, which sums up your list so well: ” . . . be vigilant. Be committed. Be aware.”

  2. Absolutely true. Hubby & I have weathered some doozies in our nearly 20 yrs. Remembering that even though you look @ each other & sometimes wonder (not right now but we have in the past) it’s the whole we’re in it for the long haul. Period. Sometimes that is what keeps us going until we can turn that corner & then we turn that corner & it’s even better than it was before. It’s worth not turning our backs on the whole kit & kaboodle. It really is.

  3. As you know, we’re closing in on 26 years, and if our experience is any indicator, you’ve got some good ideas going here. I would add “never start a marriage-altering conversation after 10 p.m.” and “go somewhere alone together for at least 4 days, once every couple of years.” I know that it would be great to take a vacation alone every year, but for most of us, the first 15 or more years mean you’re broke, you’ve got a baby, you have no one to leave your kids with, and so forth. But some kind of getaway for at least 4 days every 2 years or so until the kids are older is really, really great.

    Also, develop a common interest outside your roles as parents. And develop an independent interest in which your partner can support you without having to participate. This keeps your conversations lively with new experiences and information, and helps each partner bring a healthier, more ‘complete’ self to the marriage.

    Works for us!

  4. Adam never underestimates the QNT time.

  5. Great list. Love DeNae’s thoughts, too. I think my parents are having a marriage crisis and I don’t know how it’ll turn out. I don’t know the details of their relationship, but I don’t think they’ve done most of the things on your list.

  6. I have one. You know that chore you hate, the one that you think they should help out with occasionaly, the one you stew you over sometimes and just makes you so mad. Stop, realize how much you love them and even though they may not show appreciation for what you are doing, they do appreciate you. You take care of them because you love them. Sounds corny I know but after reading this blog Its something that has stuck with me. And that chore for me? Putting away his laundry. We have been together since 1996, married since 2002

  7. These things would also be helpful at 4 1/2 years of marriage. One thing our therapist told us was you can’t possibly over-communicate. (Except for when tavis tells me I do, in fact, look fat in those jeans. Then, less is more.) (Tavis has never actually told me that. Because I don’t ask.)

    Another helpful thing would be: have a gazillion dollars.

    I think you’re right, though. It’s usually right around that 20 year mark. Right when your lives should start to get easy and fun. So many people bag it. Very sad.

  8. Annie! I live in Utah now…email me! Please. Sorry, I did read the article and loved it, but I’ve gotta run and I wanted to at least tell you I’m here and I want to see you! So, sorry the comment isn’t about the article…but it was definitely good stuff.

  9. Like Kristina P., my husband never underestimates the importance of QNT. And I agree with the comment about not worrying about over-communicating. Most don’t communicate nearly enough. I have a husband who likes to talk things out, much to my annoyance at times, but it has become rather helpful, especially because men and women definitely don’t think alike. Crazy, I know!

  10. Melanie Jacobson says:

    I decided to hang mistletoe somewhere interesting last night. And I don’t mean my cleavage. I mean over the bathtub. I think a little easy spontaneity helps too. Sometimes it backfires if you plan something huge and the reality is a let down. But little things, every day, mean a lot. To me, anyway.

  11. I have a feeling you guys will be just fine.

  12. lol @ Melanie. You know, the whole “marriage and family are under attack” thing is not just a cute little adage. It’s an all-out attack–intentional, destructive attack. I can feel it; and I can feel how hard you have to work to put up defenses around and withing your relationship. You have a great list, some things were great reminders.

  13. I’m sorry I can’t spell or punctuate correctly.

  14. One of my favorite quotes is, “We’ve been through a lot together, and most of it it your fault.”

    Loved your list. My husband and I promised each other when we first got married that we’d never purposely hurt the other one’s feelings. That way, when one of us does it on accident (and maybe doesn’t realize it), the hurt person at least has that promise to fall back on until we can talk about it.

  15. DeNae your comment was brilliant and added to Annie’s five ideas ——-no marriage should grow stale.

  16. Well I’d say you have your little blonde head screwed on pretty good.
    Great ideas………and great game plan/marriage plan
    Tomorrow is promised to NO ONE…neither is a good marriage……never neglect it.

    I like the QNT……play and have fun.

  17. Totally true. I think that Satan would like nothing better than to ruin families. When he can interfere in any marriage, I am sure he is happy. I think that we can so easily take our marriage for granted. We need to remember that love is a verb.

  18. I was wondering where Jenny shared my blog. 🙂 I love the list! QNT… yep, that’s one I need to work on. Surely.

    The 13 year mark is one that scares me. It seems like all these perfectly good marriages have broken up at that point. We are at 12 years. I don’t see myself going anywhere else. Ever.

    I’m saving you to my favorites!

  19. Excellent! We have been married 15 years and our #1 rule is, never leave each other without a 10-second kiss. Best advice we’ve ever been given & taken.

  20. You’re awesome! Thanks for all the great articles… and gotta love the QNT. What a code! Haha. Enjoy that hubby of your’s! 🙂

  21. thank you for this reminder. so true. love it.

  22. We are on happy year #17, and that list is right on. We have been very blessed in our marriage, it’s a little like a fine wine, just gets better with age…that includes that qnt, lol! After the first few years we remembered how much we need each other, how much we complete each other, he grounds me and I bring him life, the perfect amount of opposites. ✿

  23. three cheers for QNT!! hip-hip….oh nevermind, it sounds almost dirty. 😉
    but yeah, i’m a big proponent for QNT with my husband.
    when life gets in the way of that, i notice we don’t jive as well. so i agree.
    also, the praying deal is HUGE! makes a difference, majorly….as in earth-moving.
    good list, sugarfoot! 🙂

  24. Great post. Gives me some good ideas.
    I have to agree on the praying thing, that has been such a blessing for us 🙂

  25. …and of course so has the QNT 🙂