My husband and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary this past summer and I think we have a pretty good thing going. While I’m no expert or therapist, I have been married long enough, as well as been a witness to the successes and failures of enough other marriages, to offer some thoughts about what can help keep a marriage strong. Here are a few suggestions that are probably less common than other marriage advice you may have heard.
1- Don’t bring up your mother-in-law during a fight. We all are a product of our upbringing and our parents and, as we get older, we may become more like them. But saying things like, “You’re just like your mother,” although tempting and possibly true, will never ever help your argument. However, if you want to piss your spouse off, by all means mention his/her mother and don’t forget to add in how they even sound like her.
2- Don’t let your kids come between you. This tip is a little tough because at times it can seem as if your children are trying to wreck your marriage, especially when they get to the teenage years. In all honesty, not having kids may be the best thing for a marriage (having said that I will disclose that I have three). You and your spouse may have different parenting styles and ideas on how best to handle a situation. But don’t let your children see that you are not on the same page because they will seize the opportunity to try to divide and conquer you. I often asked my children in what ways they thought they would benefit if they succeeded in getting their father and me to divorce? I told them they would have less disposable income and would likely be stuck with me most of the time, which, although a sobering thought, did not scare them into behaving better. While I believe it’s perfectly fine for your children to see you disagree, it’s best if the disagreements about them are conducted in private.
3- Don’t flirt with others. I believe that a person can be friends with a member of the opposite sex for business or for social reasons without any issues or cause for jealousy. However, there is a difference between conversing and flirting. If you are unsure what the difference is, ask yourself, would my spouse be okay with how I am speaking/texting/emailing with this person. If the answer is no, just don’t do it. It’s disrespectful and, ultimately, will affect your marriage. Save the cute repartee for your spouse.
4- If something is really significant to your spouse, be accepting even if you don’t understand it. A husband and wife cannot share all things or have the same opinions on everything. I try and defer to my husband on matters that are important to him and he affords me the same courtesy. I don’t enjoy soccer (or most sports for that matter) but it’s something which makes him happy so I don’t mind when he attends sporting events (or watches it on television or reads about it) and he in turn accepts and even encourages my handbag habit. I try and do little and big things I know will make him happy and he does the same (like making me tea). Support each other, have each other’s backs and know that you are on the same team (note my sports analogy). If your wife likes flowers, bring her flowers even if you think it’s a waste of money. If your husband likes brussel sprouts, even though they make the house smell, open the windows and make some brussel sprouts (which are so good with olive oil and Kosher salt).
5- Work on your bathroom etiquette. Someone once told me that the key to the happiest marriages is having separate bathrooms. I laughed because I grew up in a house with one bathroom and I don’t think it’s realistic to have his and hers bathrooms. However, if you are sharing the same bathroom, for goodness sakes, show a little consideration. Flush, clean, put the seat and lid down, return what you took out of the medicine cabinet or vanity to whence it came and close the door or drawer, and replace the toilet paper when the roll is done (although I admit that I’m not always great at that one).
6- Tell the truth. This one is big. I know women who lie about what they spend on things and men who lie about where they are because they don’t want their wives to get mad at them. But telling the truth means the person hearing the truth has to be a little flexible. Work together, compromise, and accept you may not always like what you hear. But hearing a truth is better than believing a lie. At least I think so.
BONUS— My husband, who is reading over my shoulder, asked me to add, “Before you go to sleep, give each other a kiss and say ‘I love you’— and even when you’re angry, try.”
In the end, I know that if two people aren’t all in, no tip is going to save a marriage. However, with marriages that are going pretty well, there is always room for improvement. Start each day anew, determined to do all you can to make your marriage the best it can be.