Alright, I may not be a veteran of marriage. And I sure as heck don’t have all the answers. But I think I’m a pretty dang good wife, and I know I married one darn good husband. So I thought I’d impart a little bit of advice to newlyweds or those soon-to-be-married. Below are TEN things I have learned from my first year of marriage about how to be happy and successful 365 days in a row!
1. Don’t be Afraid to Disagree
Some newlyweds are so afraid of becoming a statistic that they never want to fight in the first place. News flash: fighting is healthy. Now, any physical violence is unacceptable of course. And name calling or yelling should never enter the equation. But a normal, healthy, disagreement is good for the soul. If you don’t talk it out, you’ll bury it somewhere deep inside until it eats at you from your very core. Then one day, when your spouse spills the cereal, you’ll explode on them and remind them of every bad thing they have ever done since the day you met. If you haven’t already figured out a healthy way to resolve differences, do it now. Talk about which is better: chick flicks or action movies. Argue about it. Resolve it. Find a pattern that works for you, then stick to it. You’ll be glad you maintained your own identity while allowing your partner to do the same.
2. Avoid the Deadly C’s: Comparing, Competing, and Complaining
“But Jim and Nancy have a Range Rover and I’m still in my ’96 Honda …”
“Well, if Stella and Ted are making that much money then I have to find a new job …”
“I wish we had a house like that.”
“They are already expecting their first kid? Well, maybe we need to think about having kids …”
I’m convinced the chief cause of unhappiness in marriage is the perpetual “window shopping” of other marriages. Quit scoping out your neighbors and people at church, or your coworkers and trying to measure your life against theirs. Guess what? You’re not them! Don’t try to one-up your Facebook friend by rushing to have a kid that is cuter than theirs. Don’t bother complaining about the fact that you don’t have everything your parents do. They’ve been married A LOT LONGER THAN YOU! Be patient. Keep your eyes on your spouse and on your future together, and ignore all the tabloid/TMZ/blogging/instagramming/tumblring couples along the way.
3. Forget Expectations
Everyone has expectations going into their marriage. Why? Because you hear it all from people around you.
“We have sex every day!”
“It’s like a permanent sleep over with your best friend!”
“We just can’t keep our hands off each other!”
“We went to Hawaii on our honeymoon.”
“Our parents gave us a house when we got married!”
“Our grandparents bought us a brand new car!”
“He’s landed his dream job.”
“She’s getting more beautiful every day.”
It’s like ohmygosh!gag!whatever! The reality is, it doesn’t matter where you got married, where or when you honeymoon, what kind of place you live in, if you have sex once a week or three times a day, you need to drop the image of whatever you think your marriage is supposed to look like and get ready for what it is really going to be – which is unpredictable, ugly, messy, mundane, tough, and awesome. You’ve been friends and lovers and now you’re adding business partners into the mix. Let your marriage be yours and quit trying to make it mold in to some dream you saw in a movie once.
4. Enjoy the Struggles
So what? You’re broke? Join the club! Enjoy the tiny apartment, the Ramen noodle dinners, the date nights watching Netflix and the shopping trips to thrift stores. The fight for financial freedom in marriage can either drive a wedge between you and your spouse, or bring you closer together. Choose the latter. Be creative. Get thrifty. For example, electric bill costing too much money? Turn the AC off in the summer and wear less clothing around the house. Not only does it save you money, but it promotes healthy marital flirtation.
5. Be Forgiving
Seriously. There will be some stuff that undoubtedly arises, no matter how long you have been together, where you just sit back and ask yourself … “WTF?” It can be frustrating and downright infuriating at times to live with another human being, make choices together, and consequently make mistakes. Sometimes things will happen that are just a consequence of living life, but you will want to blame your spouse. Other times, they will blatantly do stupid, idiotic things and you have every right to blame them. But remember, if they were perfect they certainly would not want to be with you, because you are not perfect. Be very very forgiving, quickly too, and you will be glad when they return the favor when it’s your turn to screw things up.
6. Keep Your Marriage within Your Marriage
It can be tempting, especially for us women, to gossip about your marriage. I mean, we’re used to our girls nights and talking things over with sisters and mom, and when something goes wrong we want to vent. Possibly the most important piece of marital advice any newlywed can receive is to keep fights, arguments, hardships, or doubts between you and your spouse. If you want to vent, vent to them and work it out. Too many marriages fall apart because a couple has a fight over what to eat for dinner, one of them goes running to their parents who are far from impartial, and comes home believing they have married a servant of Satan. Keep the private things private. And when in doubt – it’s private.
7. Start a New Hobby
Do something together that is fulfilling, inexpensive, and creates unity. You can start running together, reading together, collecting Steampunk merchandise together, or maybe just get a pet. You each have your own unique talents and hobbies but you need something that can unite you and break up the monotony in the relationship. (“But our relationship isn’t monotonous” you say? Oh, it will be. Trust me. Get a hobby.)
8. Find Faith Together
Whether you’re church going folks, or you’re spiritual individuals, you need to find some sort of belief system that will unite the both of you. The single greatest key to peace in a marriage is faith. You’ve got to believe that you’re working for something more, that you’re living for a greater goal. If you both are like “well, I guess we live this thing out until we kick the bucket. Work sucks and then you die …” you’re not going to have a very happy marriage. Find the meaning of your lives and pursue it together. Study scriptures, pray together, visit sanctuaries or temples — whatever you believe in, believe in it together. And if you differ in some of your beliefs, ensure that you support each other’s positivity and hope regardless of differences.
9. Continue Dating One Another
There’s not much to say about this other than the obvious. You can’t stop dating each other just because you’re married now. Don’t become the fat lazy couple that stays at home and plays video games and eats Twinkies all day. Take your spouse out on a Friday night. The next night, switch it up. Take turns planning date nights. It can be simple, from an indoor campout to making homemade pizza. But you can be more complex or creative. Take in an opera or a play for the first time, gentlemen. Your lady probably wants to go to something cultural. Ladies, take your guy out to the ball game. Don’t get stuck in a rut and think you don’t have to impress your spouse because you’re hitched now. Impressing, wooing, courting — that stuff should never end.
10. Take Advice with a Grain of Salt
Yes, even this advice. Maybe I’m full of crap. Who knows? Find what works for you and stick to it. If you listen to all the advice you receive, you’ll probably just get more stressed out than you already are. Find a groove, settle into it, and enjoy the journey!