Take it from someone who's been there.
It’s safe to say that when most people get married, they intend to stay married for the rest of their lives—otherwise, why even bother getting married in the first place, right? However, that only seems to work out about half the time—depending on what study or news report you believe.
With the odds of marital bliss hovering around 50-50, maybe it makes sense that Vegas has the most weddings of any other U.S. city at 114,000 per year? Given those odds, a happy marriage that lasts is definitely a “gamble” and not a guarantee.
In a few weeks, my wife and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary together and 25 years as a couple. The truth is that marriage isn’t for everybody, but if you think it’s for you and your mate—consider the following 20 common sense tips that might tip the odds in your favor and have helped my wife and I stay together for more than two decades.
In no particular order…
1. It’s not all about you.
We’re all selfish, but if you want your marriage to last and be a success you need to consider the needs of your spouse before your own needs.
2. Realize that you’ll both let each other down.
Neither of you is a perfect person, and if you think you are perfect—that’s probably a good sign your relationship might be in trouble. Once you both admit that you’ll make mistakes and disappoint each other, your expectations will be anchored in reality rather than fantasy.
3. You marry each other’s family too.
Make no mistake, each of you have dysfunctional aspects of your extended family and you’re both “marrying into” each other’s familial history. Side with each other at all times; otherwise the extended family inertia can drive a divisive wedge in your marriage.
4. The most important thing you can do together is communicate.
On-going, bi-directional communication will help build trust, set expectations and avoid conflicts. There is no substitute for it.
5. Speak kindly to each other.
Don’t curse, criticize or call each other names. Even though you’re adults, coarse discourse only tears each other down—you need to build each other up with your words first, kind actions will follow.
6. Understand that opposites don’t attract in the long term.
The strongest relationships require common interests and experiences to endure over time. While there are exceptions, most relationships require more commonalities that differences to succeed.
7. Go into the relationship with your eyes wide open.
My wife and I dated for five years before I proposed to her, so that we both had a good idea of what each of us was “getting into” for the long haul. Save yourself the heartache and avoid getting into a relationship with someone who has a pattern of abuse, addiction, or adultery.
If you choose that for yourself, you’ve increased the odds that your relationship will fail.
8. Be intentional about sex.
As time passes, as you have kids, as work responsibilities increase, as life happens… etc., it’s easy for sex to become an inconsequential afterthought. Don’t let that happen.
While it’s not the most important thing in a long-lasting relationship—it’s still an important and necessary consideration because it keeps you both connected, considerate of the other person and helps fosters intimacy as well as faithfulness.
9. Avoid accusatory absolutes.
Don’t accuse your mate of “Always doing such-and-such …” or “Never doing this-and-that …”, that type of universal language is rarely accurate or helpful.
10. Recognize that your marriage only has the value you assign to it.
Celebrate and honor your relationship because nobody else will if you don’t. Ultimately, if your marriage is valuable in the eyes of you and your spouse, others won’t be able to discount or devalue it.
11. Don’t keep secrets from each other.
While this might be difficult, I can tell you it’s better to share your secrets with your mate. Not only can it be cathartic—sharing difficult or damaging secrets can help you heal and draw you closer together as a couple.
12. Don’t cheat.
If you’re not going to be physically exclusive in a relationship, then don’t get married. Marriage mandates monogamy. Period.
13. Set ground rules for disagreements.
Every relationship has conflict, here are some ground rules that I and my wife use when we have arguments.
This is easier said than done, especially when you know that you’re right. Regardless, here’s a quick list of things to consider to help you deliver an apology that will move your relationship forward.
15. Fix yourself before trying to fix your mate.
This is one of the toughest tips to address and usually requires a trusted counselor or professional. The best book I’ve ever read on this topic was, Marriage Takes More Than Love.
16. Recognize that your relationship will evolve.
The heat, novelty, and passion that was prevalent early on will cool off over time. Keeping your marriage strong when those once-fiery elements morph into smoldering embers will require conscious work by both of you.
17. Don’t keep score.
If you constantly “keep score” and remind your mate of the things you do right and all the things they do wrong, I guarantee your relationship will not last. If you have to keep score—flip it—celebrate everything they do right and point out your own failings.
18. Align on big decisions before they’re made.
Nobody wants to be blindsided, especially in a relationship. Make sure you both agree on big issues such as job changes, big purchases, having kids… etc. Nothing torpedoes trust quite as quickly as a life-changing decision crammed down your throat by your significant other.
19. Small stuff matters.
I don’t care what anybody says, little things that go unaddressed become big things—that applies to both good and bad things.
20. Go all in.
Don’t expect or look for something better. Push your chips to the middle of the table and let your mate know that you’re “all in” when it comes to your marriage.
Obviously, a successful marriage takes more than a list of tips. The truth is there are many marriages that are destined to fail before they even start—no matter how much common sense, commitment, sacrifice, love … etc.
However, this list might help tip the odds in your favor if you want your marriage last. You can bet on that.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project . Reprinted with permission from the author.