I remember when Brad and I first got married. We were so certain that we knew everything about each other and that our love was strong enough to ride out any strain to our marriage.
Brad's parents got engaged after dating for 6 weeks and were happily married for almost 46 years before his father passed away…so he knew what to do. My parents divorced before I turned 6 and went on to marry other people. One of them divorced again 15 years later and the other had frequent problems and separations with their new spouse (although they are together and happy now), so I knew what NOT to do.
See! We had it covered!
Except for one problem…Brad isn't his parents and I am not my parents and what worked (or didn't work) for them wasn't necessarily the perfect “roadmap” for our marriage. We were 2 people who had to navigate our personalities and ways of dealing with the world and with each other.
Because of that, I am not going to tell you that these lessons are true for every couple….but they are true for us.
- If someone tells you that marriage is hard work – believe them.
- Being in love is not the same as loving – “being in love” is an emotion. Loving is an action. Both are wonderful, but loving is better.
- Never compare your marriage to someone else's – sure he may always hold the door for her and seems to shower her with love and kisses, but you have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. He could be the same wonderful man – or a monster who beats her.
- Keep dating your spouse, even after you are married.
- Admit when you are wrong – he already knows anyway!
- Be grateful – if your husband cleans the kitchen for you, don't point out that he loaded the dishwasher incorrectly (unless, of course, it is part of a regular “fun fight” that you have).
- Do things that you hate – I am not an “outdoorsy” person at ALL, but I will go camping, hiking, kayaking, etc because my husband (and children) enjoy it and absolutely love having me with them.
- Side with your spouse more than your children – barring abuse and if you raised your children well, your children will be gone from the house in 18 – 20 years and it will be just the two of you again.
- Sex is important – even after you are done trying to have children. I mean it is REALLY important. And by the way – if you stay awake for 20 minutes arguing about how you are too tired to have sex…you really need to appreciate the irony of that!
- “Clean” is a matter of perspective – you may want to clean the toilet every day and your husband may put his flip-flops on the kitchen table. Neither one of you is right or wrong. Figure out the minimum acceptable level of cleanliness that you can both tolerate and always meet that. Anything else is just “gravy”.
- Assume honesty at all times – unless your spouse has given you reason not to trust them, always assume that they are telling you the truth (and if you feel like you can't trust them, then you need to IMMEDIATELY work on that until you get to a place where you trust each other….or else separate.
- Never fight with your spouse hoping to win – if you are the winner, that means that your spouse is the loser…and who wants to be married to a loser?
- When your arguments “don't go your way”, accept it and move on, or talk to a third party. If you really want a 3rd child and your husband is dead-set on 2, and you agree to stick to only 2 children – don't bring it up again. Don't use your “willingness” to compromise as ammo in future arguments.
- There IS no “Happily Ever After”, but with the right person and attitude, you can be Happily Married.
- Put your spouse before your parents – I am lucky enough to have absolutely wonderful in-laws and of course, Brad's in-laws are awesome. But I have seen too many people let their parents interfere with their marriage (criticizing their spouse, their parenting, etc) and that was a major cause of their divorce. You will always be their child….but it is time to leave your parents and cleave to your spouse.
- Go ahead and go to bed angry. Get some sleep. Things often look different in the morning.
- Apologize first – you won't turn to stone if you do.
- What was sexy when you were 20 may not be the same as when you are 40. Old definition – seeing Brad in a pair of Levi 501's and his Timberlands. New definition: him bringing me coffee in bed when knows that I stayed up late working on posts like these.
- If your spouse says that they are worried about you (or actions that you are doing) – listen to them. They may be wrong – or you might be in denial about something.
- Argue in front of your children – not “real arguments”, but ones like the one I mentioned in #6. We end up COMPLETELY exaggerating the argument for the benefit of our children, resulting in them usually doubled-over in laughter. It helps us to remind up that these are the petty things that really don't matter, while also showing our children that we aren't the perfect parents.
- Money is important – not how much money you have, but how what you have will be spent. Money is the leading cause of divorce, so figure out a budget and how you are going to stick to it!
Whether you are married or thinking about getting married, I hope this list gives you some new ideas. Brad and I aren't perfect, but we are happy.
Do you have anything to add?