I’ve been thinking a lot about love and marriage lately. Perhaps it’s the fact that my husband and I just passed our 20th anniversary of “going steady.” (13 years of that we’ve been married.)
Here’s what I’ve been thinking:
First, and this seems obvious, but it’s not, marry someone you love. Don’t confuse love and lust, and don’t marry for money or looks. Look at this person and think, “am I going to love this person even when he/she is old and wrinkly or laying next to me farting under the covers?” If the answer is yes, you’re probably on the right track.
Second, marry someone you trust. Look at this person and think, “do I trust this person to make end of life decisions for me?” And more importantly, “in the event something should happen to me, would I want to leave my children with this person?” Again, if the answer is yes, you’re probably on the right track.
Third, nobody said marriage was easy. You live with your parents from the time you’re born until your 18 (or in some cases 35…you know who you are). Just 18 short years and yet you can’t wait to get the hell out of there and live your own life. Then you marry. You live with your spouse THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Trust me that you didn’t do all of your personality development between the ages of 0 and 18. There’s plenty of personal growth that happens from 18 to death. And you’re not alone. Your spouse is changing and growing too. About every 3.5 to 7 years you’re going to look at the person you married and think, “I feel compelled to shake you vigorously…not in a good way.” THIS. IS. NORMAL. Don’t knee jerk into divorce. The only way to survive it is to grow together by communicating. OVER communicate…your goals, your needs, your frustrations, your fears. If you can’t safely share your deepest thoughts with the person you committed your life to, please go back and review the item above about trust.
….Oh, also, get a good marriage therapist. I know one if you need a referral.
Fourth, marriage doesn’t have to be hard either. Sure, it ebbs and flows. That’s how that growth thing above is accomplished. But don’t make it harder than it is. Have fun. Have inside jokes. Laugh. Act too young for your age from time to time. Sneak a feelskey in public. Chase each other around the house. Leave love notes. Practice random acts of kindness on your spouse. Snuggle. Treat your spouse the way you did when you were first dating. That’s how you keep it alive. And don’t sit around martyring waiting for the other person to light the spark. “He/she never does this. And he/she never does that.” Meanwhile what are you doing? You be the one to light the spark. Then you say, “follow my lead, honey.”
Fifth, and this might be the most important, pay your spouse some attention. When we have kids, or sometimes get caught up in our career, we get complacent about our marriage. You should know that the kid thing is pretty consuming from the ages of 0-7, and then it lets up…so keep your head up. You should also know that 80% of marital happiness is taking time every day, or at the very least every other day, to look into the eyes of your spouse and let them know that you see them. That you hear them. That they matter. Everyone needs to know that they matter to someone. Especially the person they love.
Try this exercise: once a day, take your husband or wife aside in the midst of the chaos, take his/her face in your hands, look him/her in the eye and say, “I love you, beautiful. How are you?” Then listen to the response. And then before you walk away, kiss him/her on the forehead and give him/her a hug. Yes, the kids are totally tearing your house apart while they’re unsupervised and you do this. Who the hell cares?
Fifth, have sex. Seriously. Loosen up. Initiate…both of you. Also, say what you do and don’t like. Stop cussing at your spouse in your head because he/she won’t stop doing _____ (fill in the blank), and you hate when he/she does that! Just say it. “Baby, I’ve wanted to tell you this for some time, but when you do _____ it really turns me off and it make me want to smack you.” And try new things too. Nobody likes dry toast for breakfast day in and day out (that’s an analogy…not a sex position…at least not one I’m aware of.)
Sixth, compromise. But be truthful. Don’t pretend to like things that you don’t. For instance, sports. I like sports. What I don’t like is hours of sports highlights. I used to pretend to like them, while bitching in my head. My compromise? I’ll sometimes watch the game with my honey. I’ll even watch SportsCenter. But I cannot watch the same catch, missed call, dunk, etc. Over and over. That’s when I say, “I love you and sports, but I can’t watch this again. You keep watching, baby. I’m going to go watch Honey Boo Boo in the other room.” Compromise applies to all areas: money, cleaning, etc.
Seventh, know when not to compromise. Don’t compromise yourself. If you’re being asked or forced to change things about yourself that you either like or feel are the very core of who you are, don’t do it. And if you find you’re the only one compromising. STOP. Because that creates resentment and resentment will tear a marriage apart.
Eighth, spend time apart. Do your own thing. Which means, cut the jealous/possessive bit if you’ve got that going on. People need time apart. Different friends. People need to gripe about their spouse to their friends. It’s O-KAY. You’re going to be together for life…how do you think you find things to talk about? That’s right, outside experiences. This is how married couples avoid talking about their bowel movements for lack of a better topic. Save yourselves. Plus, insecurity is the biggest turn off EVER.
Ninth, compliment…flatter. If you don’t. Someone else will.
Finally, be you. And love who you are. Oooh. That’s a tricky one. That one has nothing to do with your partner. But if you can’t be yourself, and/or you don’t love yourself, the people around you will find it hard to stay around you.
I don’t know. These are just my thoughts. It may not transfer to you. It works for me and the love of my life, and we have been through some mess I tell ya’. (I can refer you to a therapist because we’ve been there and done that and still take our marriage in for regular check-ups. I am unashamed.)
I guess if all else fails, my advice is this… strive to have the kind of marriage where 20, 30, 40 years down the road, every once in a while, on the way back to your office from a lunch date with your spouse you have to double check your clothes to be sure they’re on right side out.