How I Do It: Linda and Richard Eyre

Family and relationship experts Linda and Richard
Eyre have co-authored more than 30 books,
including New York Times best-selling Teaching Your
Children Values
and The Book of Nurturing, and are
frequent guests on Oprah, Good Morning America
and Today. Married for 40 years, they have raised
nine children. They describe each year as “better
than the last.” SUCCESS sat down with the Eyres to
learn how they keep the magic alive.

Is there a secret to a lasting marriage?
Yes, and it is one word: commitment. The stronger the commitment,
the better the chance a marriage will have in enduring the
challenges and buffering the conflicts that all marriages experience.
The commitment must be strong enough that bailing out
is never an option.

How can couples keep the romance alive with
the frenetic schedule of
kids, work, upkeep of the
house and errands?

Two thoughts on this one: First,
continue the courtship. We try to
go on a date every Friday night. We
have done it since we were married.
If something else is scheduled on Friday, we shift it to another
night of the week. We go alone, we talk, we share, we express
love in the same romantic ways we did when we first fell in love.
Things like flowers, poetry and spontaneous surprises should be
involved. Once a month, our date is called a “five-facet review”
because we go to a restaurant and spend the entire evening
brainstorming about each of our kids. How is Josh doing physically?
Mentally? Emotionally? Socially? Spiritually? We take
notes. We always hit on a couple of key areas to concentrate
on during the month ahead, and we nip problems in the bud.
Working together on our greatest stewardship—our kids—
draws us closer together as a couple and as a partnership.

Second, we have a weekly Sunday session, as we call it. It’s
our planning and scheduling time when we work out the week
ahead, and it also includes what we call testimonies, when we
both take five minutes or so and
express our feelings for each other,
for life, for the kids. It’s like a weekly
formal declaration of our love and
commitment to each other.

How can married couples improve
communication?

Sunday sessions and weekly dates help a lot, but we are both
amazingly strong-willed and opinionated. It is at times when we
disagree, which is frequently, that we need
our best communication. We have what
we call the paraphrase-back rule—before
one of us can make the next point or argument,
he or she must first paraphrase or
repeat back the point just made to the other
person’s satisfaction. Then we can make our
point. This defuses disagreements pretty
fast, and hones the quality of empathy, which is
the most important tool in a marriage.

It’s not about never disagreeing; it’s about how
we handle disagreements. A marriage counselor
we met on a plane said, after 35 years of practice,
she had discovered three kinds of marriage that
were conflict-free. The first, she said, was where
one of the parties had died. The second was a
marriage where one partner was so totally dominating
and the other such a complete doormat
that there could never be disagreement. And the third was where
the two lived such totally separate lives that there was never enough
overlap for a conflict. Disagreement, well-handled, is what produces
marriage synergy.

What are some of the common ways couples
begin to drift apart, and how can they get
back on the same path?

If there are not regular, scheduled
times to be together and to communicate
and plan together, drifting is
guaranteed to happen.

Another way we try to stay on
the same page is to think of our
relationship as two very important
and equal general partnerships. The
inner partnership is all about the kids, the house and all that
goes on inside. The outer partnership is about the businesses,
the finances and the causes we are involved in outside the home.
In our case, as we write books together, additional coordination,
communication and synergy always take place.

By the way, it is not a bad idea to do a little writing together
in any marriage—to write up a little document of your
parenting philosophy and of your communications techniques.
Co-authoring things, even private documents, draws
people together.

Money is one of the most argued
topics in marriages. How can couples
harmoniously manage money in
a marriage?

Share everything. Have no secrets. Do joint, not
separate, accounts. Plan together. Make finances a
part of the Sunday sessions and the weekly dates.

What are the best ways couples can keep magic
in a marriage?

You have to work at magic! The best way we
know is to actually set relationship goals. Most
people set goals only for their achievements and
accomplishments, such as career goals, money
goals and weight-loss goals. It doesn’t occur to
us that we can have relationship goals because
relationships are too hard to quantify or to
measure. But, in fact, a goal is a clear vision of
how you want something to be in the future. So,
we both write a description of our relationship
five years out. We each do this separately, and
we do not share the descriptions with each other.
These represent our ideas of what our ideal relationship
could be, and instead of waiting for the
other person to do something about it, we both
work at it in our own way, reading the description
or relationship goal often, as each of us unilaterally tries to bring the
relationship closer to that ideal.

If a couple is contemplating separation, how
would you advise them to reconsider?

View separation as a last resort. Think of
it as amputation—something to not even
consider until all other options and remedies
are tried. When you have an infection or
some kind of a dysfunctional malady, you
try to heal it or cure it first. You cut it off only
when all else fails.

The first thing I would prescribe is a relationship restructure,
wherein proactive steps are taken to rebuild the relationship from
the ground up. The tools would be the five-years-out relationship
description, the weekly Sunday sessions, the Friday date night and
the monthly five-facet review discussed previously.

Too many relationships just become what they are through neglect
and reactivity. Make yours what you want it to be through attention
and being proactive. Bottom line: The magic comes from hard,
mental work.

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