I’m not an expert on marriage, but since C and I have been married for 29 years this month, I think I’m qualified to have a learned opinion.
So, here, in no particular order, is some of what I’ve learned about marriage:
1. Marry the right person. Character counts. There are things you need to talk about, honestly and in-depth before you marry someone. But before you do that, you need to be honest and in-depth with yourself about who you are.
2. Listen. Try to spend more time listening than talking. You might be surprised by what you learn.
3. Talk. Don’t be a martyr. Say what you need to say when you need to say it. Important word here is “need”.
4. Be polite. I’m always amazed at how many couples don’t say the simple words “please” and “thank you” to one another. If you would say it to a guest in your home, you need to say it to the person with whom you share your life.
5. No name calling. Not even if it’s a “joke”. Words hurt and they stick long after the flash of anger or annoyance has passed. Also, name calling is just a bad habit and it should be reserved for use on politicians and criminals.
6. Neatness counts. Messy living goes hand in hand with messy thinking which goes hand in hand with messy being. Honestly, it’s just an irritant, so grow up.
7. Enjoy each other’s company. Your spouse should be your best friend and the one with whom you look forward to spending time.
8. Make and keep good friends. You need a variety of people in your life and sometimes you need time away from your spouse.
9. Get rid of dumbass friends. They are never worth the time or energy. Especially the ones who denigrate your marriage because theirs is crappy.
10. Honesty is your friend. We all need some secrets, but ultimately the level of trust between the two of you should be so solid that you are able to fess up to stuff. It makes your relationship stronger and makes you a better person. Isn’t that part of the reason you chose a life partner?
11. Be a team. Life has ups and downs. Stop keeping score and stop competing with one another. Sometimes one or the other of you has to put your needs second for the short term so that everyone is better off in the long term. Negotiate the terms. Then renegotiate and renegotiate again and again as often as needed. You should have learned and changed some over the years and so should your relationship.
12. Don’t be a jerk. We can all be jerks and we can also do the best we can to not be jerks. Pay attention to when you’re being a jerk and stop it.
13. No cheating. Ever. None. Not at all. Does this even need to be said? You made a commitment and if there comes a point when you can no longer adhere to it, be honest with yourself and your partner. But be honest before you act out.
14. Really think of the money as “ours” no matter who earns it. The way you handle money as a couple can predict a lot about your relationship. Get on the same page with how to handle money.
15. Divide and conquer. No matter what you are doing or how you are living, a division of labor makes everyone’s life easier. Stick to gender rolls if it works for you, if not, figure out how each of you is going to learn a non-gender specific skill that will benefit the household.
16. Learn to pivot. Routine is great, but shit happens. Learn to be adaptable and you just may create good laughs and good fun.
17. Actions speak louder than words. Prefer to be and be with someone who acts lovingly toward you instead of just saying “I love you”. The behavior is the sustenance, the words are dessert.
18. His family is his, your family is yours. I’m sure you love your in-laws, but each of you needs to handle your own family issues yourself. Your spouse is there to help you through the issue, but you have to take the lead with your family.
19. Sex is not a chore. This one should actually be first but I didn’t want our kids to get the wrong impression. On the other hand, how do they think they got here? I’m shocked to find out that most married couples don’t enjoy an active sex life. You can’t have an intimate emotional life together if you don’t have an emotion-filled, satisfying sexual life together.
20. Laugh often . This is the great tonic of life.