How to make a marriage last until death do you part (without wanting to kill each other).
When you really think about it, the idealistic concept of marriage doesn't make much sense.
I mean, what are the odds that two people who stumble across each other’s paths somewhere along life will be able to tolerate each other indefinitely? That they won’t lose their shit completely when their significant other chews their food in that super annoying loud way again?
Of course, everything would be super easy if we could all marry sexy billionaires, a la The Italian’s Deal For I Do, but most of us aren’t that lucky. We love and fight for each other through the unique combination euphoria and monotony that is marriage … right?
But then again, I’m a romantic at heart, and I have to admit that when I chose to take the plunge down the marital aisle, I knew I would be in it for the long haul.
To ensure that my husband and I don't become just another divorce statistic, I combed the Interwebz to find the best of the best golden rules for creating a marriage that will stand the test of time.
1. Talk your face off.
Communication, by far, is the #1 rule that couples cite as the key to a lasting marriage. And truthfully, I believe it, because I’ve seen the importance in my marriage.
I know that I have the tendency to shut down and keep my emotions and frustrations bottled up when I’m really upset, so to counteract that, I hash out everything to death with my husband instead. I would even say I over-communicate, because it’s just that important to me.
We both might get sick of talking everything out, but it makes a huge difference in keeping a rock-solid relationship.
2. Banish TV from the bedroom.
I’ve always had a hard and fast rule about banning the TV from our bedroom. Now that TV is everywhere, of course, this one has gotten a lot harder for us. This goes for Netflix, too! (Who doesn’t enjoy a little late night video in bed with their phone?)
But for the most part, I think our marriage benefits when we have at least one area of our house that is “screen-free,” and let me assure you, you might stumble across other ways to keep yourselves entertained in the bedroom. (Pillow fort, anyone?)
3. Pick your battles.
"My grandparents’ 61st anniversary is today," said one wise wife. "She always told me to pick your battles, and just listen when you know you’re right and bite your tongue."
With a marriage than has seen everything from the moon landing to Kanye's live television meltdowns, I’m going to just go ahead and say that that’s a woman has the experience to know what she’s talking about.
4. Learn to let go of the little things.
Raise your digital hand if you’re guilty of holding a grudge like no one’s business.
For the wives (cough, me, cough) who keep track of how many times their husbands miss the laundry basket, forget to pick up the one thing we asked for from the grocery store, or somehow didn’t notice the baby’s explosive poopy diaper, it’s time for a change.
Make like Elsa and let go of all of the little resentments, because if they don’t matter in the long run, you’re only hurting yourself.
5. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
"When things are easy, we can get by on the basics — respect, humor, and communication," says Joanna Schlaud, who has five children with her husband, Ted.
"When things get tough, we have to reach deep down and think about the big picture: the qualities that the other person brings to the table, who would be affected by following your feelings, and how life will look better later if we give up a little if what we want now."
Bottom line? Marriage is about the long haul, not just how you’re feeling right this minute.
6. Be selfless once in a while.
I’m super guilty of thinking that because I’m a working mom and a wife, that somehow marriage revolves around me and my needs, like my husband is just there to help me keep life running smoothly.
So whenever I start feeling stressed or just “out of synch,” I know it’s a signal to get the heck out of my selfish head and do something nice for him.
Nothing fancy — just making him his favorite breakfast or making sure he has a cup of coffee in the morning usually does the trick. It's the little things that can mean the most.
7. Accept that you can’t control your spouse’s actions.
How many times have you thought, "Well, if my husband would plan date night once in a while, I'd be more than willing to do some of his favorite things in return."
"If you’re waiting around for more love from your partner first, you might wait forever,” explains Lauren Hartmann on her blog, The Little Things We Do.
“If you want to have a good partner … BE a good partner. And honestly, if you are being loving to your husband, there’s a pretty high likelihood he’s going to reciprocate."
8. Work out your own issues.
According to Megan Bishop, one of the keys to a lasting marriage is a willingness to work on your own individual issues that could affect your marriage. If you’ve got some work to do on yourself, do it not only for your own personal well-being, but also for the health of your marriage.
Therapy, party of one anybody?
9. Don’t rely on your spouse for your own individual happiness.
If you’re waiting for marriage to complete you, you’ve fallen victim to the great fairy tale lie of marriage.
Your husband will not make you happy if you’re not happy alone, period.
10. Assume the best in the other.
"For us, the key is to assume the best in the other person," says Leigha Campbell.
"You're upset much less when they just get it wrong, but still tried. I never intend for him to feel disrespected, and I know he never intends for me to feel unloved. It just changes the perspective (which for me, changes everything)."
Imagine how much marriage would change if we started every disagreement with assuming the best from our partner instead of the worst.
11. Act like he’s your boyfriend.
It sounds trite, but it matters. It’s kind of silly when you think about how the rest of the world gets the best version of ourselves, while our spouse gets the exhausted, Netflix-marathon-in-our-sweatpants version.
"Act like you're still dating," suggests wife and mother of two, Anne Dziekońska, who runs a photography business with her husband.
"Do things you know will make your spouse happy, especially when you're exhausted, don't feel like it and don't think you have the time."
12. Touch frequently.
You're thinking, "Duh!" Clueless style, but I included this rule because even I quite often forget this one.
I’m not a touchy-feely person in general, and add in the fact that I have four kids constantly needing me and a breastfeeding baby, and by the end of the day I can feel totally "touched out."
But making that effort to connect in small ways physically can go a long way to staying in touch with each other (pun totally intended).
"A simple touch to hand or a hug can change moods," says wife Andrea Chupa, who has four children with her husband.
13. Don’t disrespect your spouse.
In my call-out for marriage advice, one reader didn’t take kindly to my look for help.
"Don’t put your marital issues on the Internet!" she chided me. I chuckled, but she has a point. For many years, I did put a lot of our marriage’s dirty laundry out in the open — maybe not necessarily on the Internet, but in talking with my girlfriends?
Um, all bets were off. These days, I make a much more conscious effort not to bash my husband in public, even to my closest friends.
I’m not saying I never vent about occasional small things, but if it’s big enough to get me complaining, I take that as a sign it’s big enough to address — with my husband, not anyone else.
14. Remember, love is a choice.
You know that warm and fuzzy feeling you had when you looked in your spouse’s eyes and recited your vows on your wedding day?
Well, I guarantee you that they will face a burning fury and perhaps even a bitter rage over something incredibly stupid at some point in your marriage. But fear not, because luckily for all of us mere mortals, love is a choice, not just a feeling.
15. Be on the same team.
This rule applies especially to spouses who are also parents, because they fall into the trap of pitting against each other in the midst of stomach bugs and sleepless nights.
I have to remind myself that, even at 3 in the morning when we are shouting at each other and the baby is screaming, that we are on the same team here.
And let’s hope we stay on that team together. Forever.
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