Fourteen years ago today, I married my husband.
Now, I won’t pretend it’s all sunshine and roses. Because, well, I am who I am, and he’s… a man. Which means that sometimes he doesn’t always “get me.” But I suppose that if he did, I wouldn’t like him nearly as much. After all, sometimes a girl just needs to fight.
But I have a friend who’s getting married on Saturday, and it got me thinking: what makes a relationship successful? After all, M and I aren’t so different from any other couple. We have our ups and downs. But when a friend of mine was getting divorced, at one point she looked at me (the old, married bag of the group) and asked, “The ex swears that happy couples never fight. We fought three times in our whole marriage, and one of those times was when he said he was leaving me.”
And I laughed, because honestly, if M and I don’t disagree (fighting is too strong a word) three times a month, we’re having a great run. And yet, after fifteen years of being together, we’re still plugging along when several of the “happier” couples who never fought are now divorced.
So here’s what I know (or think I do):
1. Things don’t have to be all wine and roses all the time, and you have to accept that. There will be times when you are so annoyed with your spouse that just the sight of him will make you grit your teeth. There will be days when you barely even like him. Suck it up, sister, and get over your bad self.
2. Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings, but seriously, don’t over do it. Because then you become like the teacher in Charlie Brown… And he won’t hear a word you say.
3. Don’t think that because you know exactly what you want, and you’ve been together forever, that he will know what to do. As much as I would love for the romantic gestures to be his idea, experience has taught me I’m way more likely to get what I need out of him if I don’t expect him to be Kreskin.
4. Common interests are good, but don’t lose yourself in him. Be your own person, have your own interests and a life outside of him. M and I are a team, and we love each other, but I’ve learned (the hard way) that we get along way better if I have my own things and he has his. There may be no I in team, but there surely is an M and an E.
5. Jealousy will get your nowhere… fast.
6. If you draw a line in the sand and give an ultimatum, be sure you’re willing to follow through with it. And seriously, don’t threaten divorce unless you absolutely mean it. Not mean it in the moment, but mean it for realsies. Because one day, he’ll call your bluff and give you the divorce you never really wanted.
7. Hookers and blow should be a deal breaker. Always. No exceptions.
8. Really, unless Number 7 is involved, there are very few instances where whatever you’re fighting about is all his fault.
9. Politics don’t matter. M and I are very divergent politically, but I listen reasonably to him, and he listens reasonably to me. Be respectful and agree to disagree. Leave it at that.
10. When you ask, “What are you thinking about?” and he answers, “Nothing,” believe him. It could be that–while you were contemplating the state of the universe, the kids’ soccer schedule, what to buy at the grocery store, and how much you’d like him to tell you you’re pretty–in his head, there was only the sound of crickets.
Alternatively, if you’ve been having a heavy political discussion and you’re still stewing about it after several minutes of silence, don’t automatically expect him to be. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been irritated and asked M, “What are you thinking about?” after a disagreement and seriously gotten this answer:
Because sometimes that’s what your argument boiled down to. Killin’ zombies.
What about you? What words of wisdom would you add to this list?