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Meet More Than Halfway

Well before I ever got married, I received from a stranger on a plane what I still consider the best marital advice I have ever heard.

I was much younger then, single, and headed on a solo trip to Costa Rica simply for an adventure. Excited, of course, I was feeling a bit more extroverted than I typically do and began to chat up the gentleman sitting next to me from the moment we buckled our seatbelts for departure. As we learned bits and pieces about each other – why we were going to Costa Rica, where we’re from originally, etc. – the unnamed man told me he had just had his 35th wedding anniversary. That’s when the lightbulb of opportunity went off above my head.

I had been a skeptic of marital success. I grew up surrounded by divorce. My parents, my aunts, and uncles, my brother… all divorced. I had seen it and all its ugliness played out time and time again. Only my maternal grandparents had had a successful, lifelong marriage. Intrigued, I asked the man, “35 happy years?”

“Very,” he responded. “I mean, every marriage – especially one for that long is going to face ups and downs of all kinds, but yes, I still love my wife as much or more than the day I fell in love with her.”

“With respect, sir, how? How is that possible?!”

I will tell you the secret. You know how people say ‘always be willing to meet your partner halfway? Be open-minded and meet in the middle…blah blah blah?

“Yes.” I had heard this many times.

He said, “The real key is to be willing to go 60% or even 70% or maybe even more whenever there is need for a compromise. Whatever that halfway point is, be willing to go a little further. Whether it is a disagreement on which curtains to buy or something much bigger like how to collectively parent your children, if you have a willingness to give up more than just 50/50 ground every time, you have a real chance at being together for life. And it can’t just be one of you. If both partners are willing to go more than halfway – to at least consider going beyond an equal compromise, which ultimately means a willingness to sacrifice what you want – if both of you go into marriage with that mindset, you will have a long, successful, joyous partnership together.”

“Wow,” I said. “I had never even considered that point of view before. Thank you, sir, and Happy Anniversary.”

That conversation has stuck with me for nearly 20 years since that flight. I still think it might be the most sound marital advice I’ve ever heard. To this day whenever my wife and I need a compromise, I think to myself, “what would be the halfway point between our stances?” And then I go beyond wherever that is. And I know she does that for me too. It’s still working so far. Thank you, stranger, on a plane.


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Mark Reid
Mark Reidhttps://www.zensammich.com/
Mark Reid is the host of the Zen Sammich podcast. Previously, he was an English professor at Kanagawa University, Tokyo University of Science, and Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. He was also an attorney for 10 years, first as an Assistant District Attorney in New York state, and later worked in Securities Law for a large firm in Birmingham, Alabama. He now lives in the countryside of Japan and makes washi (traditional Japanese paper) for a living with his wife, Haruka. A graduate of the University of Alabama in political science and religion, with an MA from Florida State University in philosophy and ethics, and a JD from Syracuse University College of Law, he has a diversified background that through diligence and good fortune has taken him all over the world, including residential stints in Greece, England, and South Korea.

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