It’s my anniversary, and I’m feeling philosophical.
I love being married. I think it’s because I chose the right guy. So in honor of my 11th anniversary, I’m offering up my 11 best marriage tips.
1. Marry Your Best Friend.
From the beginning, I have loved spending time with my husband. I knew he was “the one” when I would rather go renew my car tags with him than go for a picnic with anyone else.
Turns out, this is a recipe for success. The most important factor for a good marriage is a strong friendship.
2. He’s the One. Really.
When things are tough–especially in the first year–the tendency is to abandon all sense of proportion (say, after he’s put the empty milk jug in the fridge, again) and wonder if you’ve made some epic mistake and married the wrong person. You didn’t. He’s the one. Don’t waste your energy on this.
3. Marriage is Hard. But Not in the Way You Expect.
I married a really great guy. Which, oddly enough, made for a frequently painful first year of marriage for me. It was a good year, but suddenly I was partnered with another human being–with his own needs, desires, plans and schedules. Living with my husband that first year made me realize for the first time how selfish I really was. Discovering your own glaring faults is not fun.
But, as my husband said repeatedly during Year 1, if this is what “hard” looks like–bring it on!
4. It’s What You Do Every Day That Counts.
Before I actually got married, I thought that a relationship was defined by its Big Moments. The Romantic Proposal, the Night on the Town, the Major Crisis, the Big Fight. I was wrong.
It turns out, a marriage is made of a million little moments, and comparatively few Big Moments. The everyday things matter more. The kiss good morning, the smile hello, the what-can-I-get-you-dear, the casual touch on the arm. Or the lack thereof. It’s the mundane, day-to-day moments that set the tone for the relationship.
5. Sometimes You Will Want to Wage War. Learn To Get Over It.
I have become blindingly infuriated with my husband over things so petty I wouldn’t dream of enumerating them here. It happens. Learn to deal with it.
Last time my husband and I were gridlocked over an issue that was minor but loaded with significance all the same, I happened to sit down to sort through some old papers. My pile held a poem I’d saved that my sweet friend had written me for a bridal shower way back when, complete with goofy rhymes and (mild) potty talk. And a sweet sentiment along the lines of “he’ll do really stupid things sometimes, but remember–he’s crazy about you.” The combination of humor and perspective brought me back to my senses.
6. The Strangest Things Will Be Wonderful for Your Marriage
An example: our marriage has benefited enormously by my going back to work part-time. A few hours a week, my husband watches the kids while I go to the office.
I never foresaw the positive effect this would have on our relationship. Now I know what it’s like to come home from work to a waiting family. And he knows what it’s like to stay home with the kids. This deepened empathy for each others’ roles has been great for our relationship. And navigating the logistics of two working parents keep us attuned to the day-to-day flow of each others’ lives.
7. People Change–So Will Your Marriage.
You both are living, breathing, evolving people. Your marriage will also evolve. Things may have to be constantly re-thought and re-engineered. The important thing is that you do it together. I love Lisa McMinn’s pithy quote: “A strong marriage is one in which the husband and wife say to each other, ‘I am highly committed to your growth as a person.'”
This is our favorite time to talk, and it’s good accountability to go to bed on time.
9. Timing is everything.
This one took me the better part of a decade to even begin to learn. When we were dating, I thought my man immediately wanted to hear every fascinating thought that popped in my head. Reality check: there’s not much you can’t talk about with your spouse–if you choose your timing with care.
10. Create Good Boundaries.
Your marriage is the most important relationship in your life. Protect it. Work, friends, parents, in-laws–these things are all good, but don’t let them crowd out your husband.
Your spouse needs to be the most important person in your life. And he needs to know it by your actions.
11. Plan–But Know You’re Not in Control.
My husband and I have had so much fun planning and dreaming about our future over the years. But it’s laughable to look back and compare our reality with those grand schemes! Make the plans, dream the dreams–but you don’t know what’s coming next. You may get a great job offer; you may lose your job. You may carefully lay out your plans for starting a family–but you can’t force a pregnancy (and you can’t always prevent one, either).
You don’t know what surprises are in store for you, so you can save yourself a lot of frustration by tacking this caveat onto your grand schemes. You are not in control.
What are your best marriage tips?
To all you married ladies out there–especially if you have more happily married years under your belt than I do–what’s your best tip for a happy marriage?