Make this year the year not to get divorced.
You know those days when your husband has walked past the clean laundry basket you left strategically on the stairs for him to take up or piled all the dirty clothes next to (but not in) the hamper and you start fighting and you kind of sort of start to wonder really, how hard would it to be to live apart?
Yeah, me too.
We’ve all been there, but let’s face it: divorce is not a glamorous option and it won’t magically transform your life with sunshine and rainbows. So if you’re in this union for the long haul, pick a tip or two for divorce-proofing your marriage.
1. Let go of the "rules." You know the ones that say you need to have sex 'X' amounts a week and have regular date nights and leave spontaneous love notes around the house? Yeah, you can forget about those. There are no rules for marriage and as long as you’re both satisfied, who cares if date night isn’t happening? And as for the sex thing, quality over quantity can suffice in the season of parenting little kids, am I right? (Please say I’m right.)
2. Spend time apart. After having our fourth child, our marriage has been a bit, well, shall we say, "challenged," and in my husband’s words, it’s time for this mama to have some time away from everyone. The hubs claims that he’s booking me a night away, anywhere, all alone and who am I to disagree with the wisdom in that?
3. Choose happiness over winning. I love the story of Meagan Francis, a writer and mom of five who — get this — divorced and then re-married her husband. She’s shared her story online, saying that one of the key lessons she learned is that sometimes, even when you’re the one who’s "right" in a fight, it really doesn’t matter if you’re unhappy. "Deciding to be the first person to drop an argument, apologize, or give in doesn’t make you a pushover," she writes on her blog. "It just means you’ve made a choice to focus on the things in your relationship that bring you joy rather than frustration."
4. Get rid of the mental scorecard. I mean, honestly, we all have it. In fact, I have a pretty long running tally in my head of all the things that I do for our marriage and our lives vs. my husband’s efforts, but when it really comes right down to it, who is it helping to keep score? Aren’t we in this partnership together as a team? It’s time to clear that card, guys.
5. Be your own couple. The times that I am most unhappy in our marriage also happen to be the times when I start comparing our relationship to other couples. Becky and John work out together? Hmmpphh. Alyssa and John have the most adorable at-home date nights? Why can’t we do that? What’s wrong with us? It’s exhausting to try to keep track of what works for other couples, so here’s the tip of the day: Don’t. Focus on what makes you tick together and lose the rest.
6. Go to bed angry. Honestly, who ever came up with the rule that you should never go to bed angry? Maybe this tip is more applicable for parents, but I’ll tell you one thing — I say a lot of horrible things when I’m tired. So some of the best things I've ever done in my marriage have been to actually go to bed angry, because odds are I will save myself from saying something I would really regret the next day.
7. Marry a handy man. My husband is the type of guy who remodels our bathrooms, builds cabinets, fixes anything, plows the driveway, changes light bulbs, squishes spiders, and can still make the world’s best homemade pizza. Sure, he drives me nuts sometimes, but how on earth could I ever leave those kind of benefits behind? (This is a joke, guys. Kind of.) But really, maybe there’s a lesson on focusing on what your spouse does right instead of all the things he/she does wrong.
8. Focus on finances together. Many times in a marriage, one partner naturally takes the lead role when it comes to managing the finances. In my marriage, that person is me. In Your Tango writer Serge Bielanko's marriage, that person was his wife — now his ex-wife — and he claims that letting her do all the work on the financial front was one of the biggest mistakes he made in their marriage. So pair up and tackle those bills together.
9. Find your own happiness. One of the biggest fights that my husband and I have ever had went down when I was in a dark depression over my job as a night-shift nurse. While I was sleep-deprived and sobbing on the couch, my husband finally shouted at me to "find my own happiness" and slammed the door, leaving me alone with what felt like a light bulb of an epiphany, because he was so, so right. As soon as I stopped making my husband responsible for my happiness, life got a whole lot better.
10. Put yourself first. At the end of the day (but hopefully not the end of your marriage), a good relationship starts with self-care. Whether that’s being clear about what you need, instead of expecting your spouse to read your mind to losing the mom guilt over leaving the kids at home while you exercise, there is an "I" in marriage, mmmk?