Top Ten Tips to a Great Marriage

So everyone thinks they’re an expert on something. I should know because I’m one of them. That said, I’ve been married for over ten years, so I think that’s gotta count for something. I bring this up because I have not one, but two close friends going through some marital difficulties (what a pleasant phrase, as if I’m talking about gastric discomfort)…let’s talk about what it really is….

They’re going through hell.

And of course everyone knows that when you’ve in the midst of a crisis, there’s nothing more inviting than unsolicited advice (ahem). But here it is anyway…

10. Rescue and Recovery

I know it’s like tres romantic to think that your spouse “rescued” you from a fate worse than death (for many, that’s remaining single past 30) – and that s/he will make it all better.  Let me clear this up for you, kitty-kat:

Marriage is not a rescue mission. At best, it’s a recovery expedition.

What’s the difference? To be rescued requires you need someone to save you. However, you  set your spouse up for a fall if you are constantly looking for him/her to swoop in and fix things.  To make you happy. To provide what you cannot.

Thinking of marriage as a recovery mission is probably more accurate because, unfortunately, Freud/Jung were right…we do work out all of our parental issues  from childhood through our adult relationships. A good match can help heal the wounds of the past by being here for you unconditionally in the present.

9. Show Me the Money!

Yeah, yeah…everyone marries for love (at least that should be the goal), but sooner or later you realize you’re also in bed with your business partner. I am constantly astounded over how many people I know that aren’t even sure how much their spouses earns – afraid to ask for fear of sounding like a money-grubber.

When I say “show me the money!” I’m not implying a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. I mean, you two should talk about money issues – in a proactive, planning way – often. And understand that people and needs change through the years, so you may need to keep “tweaking” the plan. Just don’t wait until you’re in a financial rat hole to start talking about this stuff. That’s the kiss of death.

8. Divide and Conquer

The household chores, that is. I don’t care if one of you stays home full-time…if you’re constantly leaving your stank underwear around or your dirty dishes in the sink, the other’s gonna get pissed off. Because no one wants to feel like someone’s maid. It’s completely disrespectful and bad roommate etiquette. Clean up your own shit. You’re a big kid now.

7. Hey Fredo, Don’t Forget the Familia

When you marry that one special person, you know you also marry their family. I mentioned this in my last post, but it bears repeating.

Think of your in-laws like the mafia: once you’re in, there’s no getting out. So you might as well drink from the party Kool-Aid and look for the best in them.

6. The Story is in the Telling

When I was in college and taking history classes, I fell head-over-heels in love with postmodernist theory (bear with me, I have a point). In a nutshell, history is in the telling – meaning, you could take any moment of history, and depending who is telling the tale, come up with a dozen different versions of the same event. Perception is reality, my friend.

So, what does this have to do with marriage? It means that sooner and later, your spouse will make some mistakes. If you frame such incidences like “S/he always messes this shit up. I don’t even know why I bother,” that’s not gonna build love and trust over time. Perhaps a healthier way of looking at it would be, “S/he really messed up, but they’re genuinely sorry, and I am seeing progress over time. At least they’re trying.”

Big difference.

Basically, always give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to the worst conclusion immediately (the exception being if they have some sort of addiction). You’ll both live longer and happier for it.

5. Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side?            

So you make this commitment to ONE person for THE REST OF YOUR NATURAL LIFE. Oy, it’s a doozsey to digest, ain’t it folks? Especially when you meet someone else who turns your head and heart sideways. And then before you know it, the grass really does seem greener on the other side.

Listen champ, unless you’re a troll, there’s always going to be someone out there who wants to sleep with you, seduce you – whatever. But that does not make for a lasting union. Plus, you’ve gotta ask yourself what kind of scruples is someone lacking to be going after someone who is already married? Usually it’s someone with commitment issues of their own – and I guarantee if you really made yourself available, the luster would fade fast.

So just don’t even go there. It’s not worth it. In the proverbial words of Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and sometimes Young), love the one you’re with….

4. Sexual Healing

 Have sex often. Enough said.

3. A Rose by Any Other Name

Never stop trying to romance and seduce your spouse. You don’t have to go all-out, but it goes a long, long way to have someone give you a backrub, or send you a love letter unexpectedly.

In fact, repeat step #3 often in order to ensure step #4 actually happens.

2. Is Right Always Right?

I don’t care who you are, everyone loves being right – feeling validated. In fact a long time ago, David and I were arguing – and he was insisting he was right about something that seemed important at the time. So I said to him, “Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be loved?”

Of course, in typical smart-ass fashion, he said, “I want to be loved for being right.”

Dream on, baby doll.

There’s a difference between being right – and being heard and understood. And trust me, the latter is much better for the both of you in the long run. You don’t always have to agree – but it’s crucial that both of you feel the other is genuinely trying to see your point of view. Which leads to…

1. Remember, You’re in This Together

So you might as well enjoy the snacks and the show…

10. “A Man and a Woman,” U2. [How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb]

9. “A Song for You,” Donny Hathaway. [Donny Hathaway]

8. “At Last,” Etta James. [Etta James: Love Songs]

7. “My One and Only Love,” John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. [John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman]

6. “You Were Meant for Me,” Spain. [I Believe]

5. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” Death Cab for Cutie. [Plans]

4. “Unsuffer Me,” Lucinda Williams. [West]

3. “I Walk the Line,” Johnny Cash. [Johnny Cash]

2. “There is No Greater Love,” Billie Holiday. [Lady in Autumn – The Best of the Verve Years]

1. “Grow Old With Me,” Mary Chapin Carpenter. [Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon]

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3 responses to “Top Ten Tips to a Great Marriage

  1. THis is great. God only this all of this applies to my lost and nearly unserviceable marriage. In 9 days I will be divorced and I dont think I truly want to be… I love this but how do I or him make the changes when you are so use to doing all of these mistakes. Easier said than done.

    THank you my friend. I am sending this site to all my friends. Bieng in the army it cripples a marriage so i know if you have more advise this will help

  2. First off, I am truly sorry you’re getting a divorce. It sucks – no doubt about it.

    To answer your question: how to make changes when you are so used to doing things the same ‘ol destructive way?

    You approach the changes you and your partner need to make the same way you’d approach any lifestyle change. Like a diet, small, incremental changes over time are usually more long-lasting than trying for hard-core change from day one.

    You set yourself up for failure if you think you can alter a lifetime worth of crappy traits in a short span of time.

    As far as being in the military – travel is a bitch on any relationship. My personal theory is that people can withstand up to a year of long-distance before things start to fall apart.

    So the solution? I can’t claim to know how the military works, but if you’re married to someone in the same branch as you, do you have a choice and get assigned together? Elaborate more on that part of the situation for a more thoughtful answer.

    Until next time…

  3. leftcornerofmybrain

    Love your blog, thought this one was particularly great. Thanks – keep them coming

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