7 Marriage "Tips" My Family Gave Me: The Good, Bad, And The UGLY

"Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth." -Baz Luhrmann

On the night my dad realized my future husband, Cody, was about to ask permission to propose to me, he stood up, took a deep breath and announced "I'm going to need another beer." A slightly humorous and somewhat condescending way to let us know that while he would go along with whatever made me happy, he clearly thought we were craaaazy. (And we sort of were.) After giving his approval for Cody to marry his youngest daughter, he took a swig of beer and said, "May as well get the first one out of the way now, the second one is better anyway."

Thanks, Dad.

Almost 14 years later and Cody and I are still going strong. Sure, we've had our hiccups (and disasters) but neither of us are headed anywhere anytime soon and I think my parents have finally accepted that one marriage will be enough for both of us. Even when I left my husband, it wasn't marriage I was leaving — it was him. I still desperately wanted to be married, in fact I love being married — at the time I just didn't want to be married to my husband. After months of working through our issues, I'm quite happy to know that the man I married when I was 19 will still be the same man I'm in love with at 79. My grandparents have been married forever, and from the outside I always figured they were miserable and sticking it out until the end because that's what their generation did. But having loved an imperfect man, and being loved in return as an very imperfect woman means that there's so much that goes on behind the scenes of a marriage that most of the world will never see. Even if I wrote out every moment of our lives together, I would still never be able to put into words the comfort I feel when our toes touch under the covers at night or how giddy I feel when I hear him walk through the door. When we were young kids getting married, it seemed everyone had relationship advice for us — some of it was really good, most of it was terrible. What follows is the advice more "experienced" people in my family once told me about marriage & relationships - it ranges from great to good to totally horrible. 


"Whoever gets out of bed last makes the bed."

I like this advice from our wedding because it came from a couple I admire that had been married for over 60 years. The best part is they didn't just offer it up like everyone else who suddenly becomes a marriage expert at weddings, they suggested it only after being asked. While most of the room was probably expecting some secret to unlocking long-lasting love, they just suggested we take turns making the bed. I like it.

"Take care of him."

This was whispered to me by a tiny Italian woman who was simply adored by her husband (although she may have adored him more in return.) It wasn't a suggestion to cater to his every whim and desire, but rather encouragement to love him and care for him the way people should be loved and cared for. They are the couple I believe both Cody and I model our own marriage after, recognizing the weaknesses in ourselves and each other and stepping in with our own strengths to fill in the cracks.

"Recognize that love is not always sweeping romantic gestures, sometimes it's your spouse doing the dishes because they know it's your least favorite chore in the world."

There's a lot to be said in the simple action of doing something for someone else that they hate. Every Sunday Cody sweeps and mops the hardwood floor and let me tell you, after 14 years together, watching him work that mop is better than any cocktail.


"Any word a husband says after the wife declares a fight over is the start of a new fight."

This one is funny, in a very sad sort of way. It's the type of joke anyone who knows what marriage is would probably chuckle at. I've never liked it as advice however because I don't like the idea of being a harpy wife who uses manipulation to get her way. I've witnessed relationships where husbands back down out of fear rather than respect, and wives demand using threats rather than cooperation and it never goes well.

"Marry your best friend."

Nope. My best friend is a girl. My husband is a boy. My best friend is my best friend. My husband is my lover. I would gladly do anything I'd do with my best friend with my husband, but there are things I would never do with my best friend (or anyone else) that I do regularly with my husband (and this evolves way past sex, people.) My husband wrote about how I'm his best friend, but he's not mine, and it's true. Friendships are very different things to both of us and the title of "best friends" has no relevance in our relationship.


"Don't go to bed angry."

Sure, we got this advice; doesn't everyone get this advice? What I liked was my mom's response, "That's bull***t. Sometimes you go to bed angry because you're tired and you're pissed off and you have to get up in the morning and once morning comes you usually realize how stupid your argument was in the first place." My mom was right.

"Be grateful for what you have."

Sure, we should all be grateful, but not to the point of belittling the feelings of others because they have something that is desirable to others. When Cody was in law school, I was told many times to be grateful to have a husband that was in law school and working so hard, which I was — aside from the fact that I was being ignored, neglected and emotionally abandoned. Being told to suck it up and "be grateful" felt the same as "Don't value yourself too highly, you're not really worth it."


No marriage is ever going to go through the same trials and life experiences in the exact same way, but believe it or not, almost every marriage will go through the exact same stages and growing pains as every other marriage out there — which is why there's so much advice on marriage to begin with. It would be next to impossible for me to boil down all the things I've learned from my own marriage to a single bit of advice to hand out at wedding receptions but if I absolutely had to, I would look into the camera, smile and say "It has been hard as hell, but it has been worth it."