Rules for Happy Marriage
My husband and I have been together for over a decade. We have been happily married now for going on 5 amazing years. If there’s one thing we hear time and again (and gratefully so), it’s that we make a great couple. I’m sure people say this lightly, a general nicety, but to me it’s the best compliment possible. Why? Because marriage, all relationships really, is hard! It just is. There are ups & downs, fights that feel like the end of the world, annoyances so intense you can’t remember what you’re doing together in the first place, and a plethora of other hiccups and stumbling blocks dotting everyone’s version of happily-ever- after.
The flip side of that coin is the millions of warm memories, the comfortable silences where a look says it all, hundreds of cuddles & snuggles & forehead kisses. But these wonderful moments don’t happen by accident. All relationships share a common thread- they take work! Below, you’ll find my “rules” for a happy marriage. All relationships are unique little snowflakes, and I certainly won’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, but I thought I’d share a few of my own personal rules for a happy marriage.
Remember why you feel in love. This one is so simple, yet so important. It’s an unavoidable fact that throughout marriage you will annoy the bejeezus out of each another. One or both of you will commit such horrid transgressions (pile of dirty clothes NEXT to the hamper?! Sink full of UNRINSED dishes?! ::Gasp::) that some days you will need to physically close your eyes and harken back to the days where he or she literally made you swoon. Think about all those little things that made you love falling in love. You’ll be surprised how quickly it can diffuse rage. Really.
Pick your battles. This one is especially challenging for me…. I love a good fight. Not my proudest truth, but a truth nonetheless. In a lifelong commitment, however, there simply isn’t room for epic battles on a weekly basis. When you feel a situation escalating or feel your blood beginning to boil, ask yourself a few simple questions: “How upset am I really? Is this still going to be important in a week? Will our relationship suffer if I choose to let this go?” More often than not, answering these questions gives me great perspective. And, at the very least, if I decide this is worth a battle I’ve taken a few seconds to breath & gather my wits before (calmly?) going to war. I am by no means telling you not to speak your mind; if it’s important to you, let him/her know. I am simply saying that picking fights over every little thing means no one is winning.
See him/her in a positive light. This one ties in nicely with the previous rule, because if you are seeing your significant other in the best possible light, you are far more likely to give him/her the benefit of the doubt. Assuming that he/she had the best intentions at heart > assuming the worst about him/her. Even when we live with someone and are a huge part of one another’s lives, we can never truly know the mind of another person, or what their internal struggle looks like. When you fell in love, you were likely focused on all of the very best attributes they had to offer, rather than highlighting their flaws. Why stop that practice? You’ll be surprised what a big difference this can make.
Accept & expect the ruts. Its inevitable when you spend your life with someone- the ruts will come, oh they’ll come. Why does that have to be a bad thing? Every cycle in life has ups & downs, ebbs & flows. Newsflash: your relationship is no exception. Take the ruts as a good sign- you’ve been in a successful, meaningful relationship long enough to reach a lull. Whether it’s a rut of sexual nature (who’s never hit a dry spell…no pun intended), or simply a period where you aren’t feeling as connected as you’d like, just accept it. It’s temporary, it will pass, and there are plenty of ways you can help it pass more quickly. When the ruts come, take matters into your own hands & move past them gracefully.
Be each others’ best friend. Yep, you’ve heard that before. It’s tried and true for a reason, and guess what? It’s the perfect follow-up to my previous point. If you are best friends who truly like each other in addition to loving each other, there are few storms you can’t weather. Who cares if your sex like hits a rut, you’re perfectly happy to just binge watch old episodes of Parks and Rec together all weekend. Best friends who can laugh together, travel well together, and find the joy & humor in any situation have a foundation that makes marriage so much more wonderful. Nurture that friendship the same way you do other friendships in your life.
And speaking of friends…..
Be careful when speaking badly about him/her. Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I cherish my candid female friendships. There is nothing I value more than those close friendships where we know everything about open another and can talk about anything! That said, be careful. We all know, a best friend never forgets. Remember that next time your venting about annoyances or recalling every word of an argument to your BFF. While you may be willing to forgive and forget his transgressions or name calling, she/he may not be. They are, after all, your best friends and thus fiercely protective, which is great! But while talking smack about your significant other may make you feel better for the moment, it can do permanent damage to his/her opinion of your spouse. SO yes, go to your best friends when you need an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on, just remember that what you say will most definitely impact their opinion of your spouse.
Compliment him/her. You know that feeling you get when someone lose to you pays you a wonderful compliment on that great new haircut, or the wonderful paining you finally finished and hung over the couch? Why not spread that feeling to the person who matters most to you? We all know that a kind word complimenting our efforts can truly change our mood, if not our whole day. Paying each other compliments is such an easy way to inject great moods and glowing pride into the environment of our marriage. Make ‘em count- notice and appreciate when he takes the time to dress up for date night; mention it when you find out he’s been killing it at work lately; remind how proud you are of his parenting/ handyman/ scrabble skills. Bonus: a person whose mood has been lifted is much more fun to be around- the positivity is contagious!
Last, but most certainly not least…
Keep choosing each other. Once upon a time, he/ chose me by deciding to commit to me & propose. I chose him by saying (screaming!!) “yes”. It’s the greatest compliment we can give each other, telling someone we love them enough to spend our whole lives together. That’s not where the love story ends though. You will face an infinite number of opportunities to keep choosing each other. DO IT. Every little choice where you hear his side of the story, or give him/her the benefit of the doubt, or choose to rise above & forgive is you choosing him/her all over again. The phrase “every big decision is made up of a million little choices” seems apt, doesn’t it? Keep choosing each other.
Well there you have it folks. A few simple “rules” that govern my happy marriage. Some days these are easy to follow, while others every ounce of self-control is required. I fail an awful lot at following my own advice, but I keep trying. The decade of smiles & perseverance & love behind us tells me we’re doing something right.