I spent a good deal of time studying what it is that makes a “good marriage”. Then, I went out and actually got myself married. I took that handbook, that was so well-written and painstakingly researched, and tossed that puppy out of the nearest window. Marriage is not about theory or research. It is about getting in, rolling up your sleeves, and digging in your heels for life. Because one thing I know for certain about being married: if you sit around thinking that there are hard and fast rules…the last argument that you will ever have will be inside of a lawyer’s office.
Notice that I never used the “buzzwords” in the title that you normally see when discussing marriage advice. I will never use the words: successful, happy, or loving to describe my philosophies. Just practical, real-life stuff here. Happy is all about perspective, this is just to keep you from ripping each other’s throats out.
Because fairy tales usually end right after the wedding and that is when the real work truly begins, right?
Tip #1– Do not be a nag.
Nagging sucks. Men, women…it doesn’t matter. It’s not attractive, it’s annoying, and your spouse will not take your complaints seriously when you make a big deal out of every single thing under the sun. Is it aggravating when he leaves his shoes in the middle of the floor? Yep. Does it make your blood boil when she leaves the lights on for the umpteenth time? Sure. But before you go all “full metal jacket” over these things, ask yourself a question.
Is this so important that you cannot imagine not saying it? If it happens again are you gong to pack your bags and walk out of the front door forever?
If the answer is no, take a breath. Walk away. Talk about it when your blood pressure is not elevated. I have learned that making a joke about it later yields more results since it is done in a funny way than high-pitched nagging and whining ever does.
Tip #2– No one lives in a Rom-Com.
Stop comparing your spouse to books, movies, or other couples. Books and movies are fiction. Stories. Life is not a fairy tale. And remember, the couples that you know are like icebergs. You only see the tippy top of their life together and there is a whole lot more going on under the surface. They may be all cuddles and pet names at the dinner parties but, I promise, they sit up fighting about money, too. All couples fight. All people have flaws (including you). Unrealistic expectations are the number one reason that people end up in marriage counseling.
Know your spouse is going to irritate you, push your buttons, and make you cry at times. You will make up and are a stronger couple for it.
Worry about the day that the tears won’t come. Until then, as long as you still feel emotional and not disconnected, there is still time to get up and work on it. The vows never said that you would be happy all of the time.
Tip #3– Go to bed angry over fighting until dawn.
Look, I do not know who came up with this “never go to bed angry” adage, but they are bananas. Having an argument while you are all riled up and ticked off is a recipe for having an even worse fight. Walk away and compose yourself. There is a reason that people say to sleep on a big decision. Because it causes you to have some clarity to do so.
If you sleep on it and you still feel justified in the morning, then by all means, have a calm discussion about it then. If going to bed angry means that the fight does not escalate because you are tired and frustrated…well, go to bed.
Going to bed angry is not a failure in marriage. Sometimes it is just a smart move.
Tip #4– Stop trying to change your spouse.
If I had a nickle for every time that a girl’s night turned into the ladies bashing their men I would buy a car. Look, face a cold, hard fact here: you picked them out of all of the men that you have ever met. You fell head over heels in love with them at one point. You stood in front of all of your friends and family and took vows to be there for better or worse.
Stop trying to change them now. Telling someone that they need to change is like telling them they are not good enough. Who wants that?
Most fights in a relationship come from attempting to change the spouses behaviors, attitudes, and opinions. Just knock it off. They are who they are. If you want to be married to them, accept who they are, embrace it, and find little tricks to make that work. People are not “fixer-uppers” -like low mortgage housing- and the sooner that you come to terms with that the happier you will be.
Tip #5– Being totally honest is highly overrated.
Communication is cool but this brutal honest approach does not work for everyone. Especially if one of the partners is highly emotional. White lies are acceptable as long as they do not hurt anyone and are not intended to deceive in a negative fashion.
“What? I did not even notice that you gained 20 pounds!”
“Yes, I can totally tell you’ve been working out.”
“Oh, you bought that shirt in 13 colors? Yeah, it looks great on you.”
“I think this is your best chicken yet, dear!”
Anything associated with infidelity. Period. Saving someone’s feelings is one thing. Being a douchebag is another animal completely. And yes, emotional affairs, internet flirting, inappropriate texts, and even getting a number that you “don’t intend to use” is cheating. If you think that there is a loophole, you shouldn’t be married.
Tip #6– Sticks and stones may break your bones but words cause resentment and trauma.
Avoid obvious things like name-calling. Stupid, dumb, idiot…all of these. The minute you take it to that level you immediately lose the argument solely for acting like a child. Whether or not you think you won based on every other point that you made, you didn’t. You lose by default. That is fighting like a ten-year-old and they never win arguments with adults, now do they?
But also don’t use words like “always”, “never”, or “all of the time”, either. See tip #1. Those words only come out while nagging and/or whining. Fact.
Tip #7– Keep your personal business private.
Don’t be that couple that bickers at a party. Or the one pointing to your spouse at a social gathering like, “this moron does that all of the time”, while rolling your eyes. If your husband has another drink at dinner don’t smack his hand in front of his friends.
No one likes to be embarrassed. No one gets married to feel like a child again. You are partners and don’t ever confuse that– especially not in front of company. Talk about things in private and not make every flaw and issue a public spectacle.
Tip #8– Give selflessly or not at all.
If you give in the hopes of receiving something in return…that is not giving, it is a manipulation. Give because you love to, because it makes you happy, because it makes your spouse happy. Never because if you think if you give more, you will get more.
Sad fact: you probably will not and then you will be consumed with resentment. Which brings me to the next tip…
Tip #9– Unless you are married to Miss Cleo, don’t expect your partner to read your mind.
This is the most ridiculous thing that people do in a marriage but also one of the most common issues addressed in counseling. Yes, your spouse knows you better than anyone. Yes, they are most likely the closest person to you in the world.
But they are not actually you.
Do not expect them to know what you are thinking, how you are feeling, or what your needs are. And, if you are crazy enough to expect such an asinine thing, you cannot actually punish them for being incorrect. No crying, no whining, no yelling that they did not even notice that you are sad yet you never bothered to say that you were. No pouting about the fact they did not ask you about your day when you could have just as easily said, “Hey, I had a crazy day today.”
Be realistic. People have a difficult enough time processing and working through their own emotions without being responsible for cracking the code to yours. You have a mouth, use it. But please reference tip #1 first.
Tip #10– Be grateful.
Like I mentioned above, everyone has flaws. No one is perfect. And yet, even with your imperfections, someone chose you out of every other woman in the entire world . Thank your lucky stars. Tell them thank you for loving me, thank you for all that you do, and thank you for the little things that made me fall in love with you to begin with. Focus on the positive whenever possible.
Because, believe you me, all of those little quirks that get under your skin about your partner? Well, I am sure that they have a list of their own about you.
So, be glad that someone has the fortitude to love you, to come home every day to you, to make a decision to spend the rest of their lives with you. Be grateful for their presence.
There are millions of single girls that would kill to trade places with you.
I'm just living minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.