In a week the husband and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. That’s right … 10 long years of wonderful marriage. Thank you. Thank you. You can stop the clapping.
Each year I have my own little tradition. I break out the wedding video and a bottle of wine and allow (some might say “force”) the husband to revel in all the beautiful memories that happened that momentous day. Every time I watch the video I smile at all the people that were there, the jokes that were made, the speeches that were said; but then I pause. I realize that after taking an accounting of all of the people in attendance with a significant other, the majority of those couples were no longer together. In fact, some of those couples didn’t even make it a year or two. That’s kind of disheartening, no? Especially considering that the husband and I had our fair share of nay-sayers who thought we would have been divorced way before that first anniversary.
Okay. I admit I lied. I don’t actually watch my wedding video every year. I tried to, but after the second anniversary it got a little old. :-/ But the part about the couples, that part is completely true. We had invited to our wedding couples who were dating, engaged and even married and the majority of those couples had split up by the time the husband and I reached our fifth wedding anniversary. So the fact that the husband and I are approaching 10 years is a commendable achievement. At least I think so.
So I’d like to share with you some of the things we’ve learned along the way to keep our marriage strong and successful. You may not agree with any or all of them; you may have your own formula that works, but these are my tried and true rules for a happy, healthy and successful marriage.
1. The Golden Rule. When people found out that I got married when I was 19, their first question usually is “what was that like?” That’s a really vague question, but through conversation I usually determine that what they really want to know is how was I able to make it work given my young age. My answer is always the same and it’s my golden rule for marriage: Acknowledge the fact that you are married to your best friend and worst enemy. The husband knows me better than anyone and he’s always there when I want to go on an adventure (from trying out that restaurant down the street to visiting Italy for the first time). He lets me chat his ear off after work and holds my hair when I’m spending the night in the bathroom thanks to some bad take-out food. He is and always will be my best friend. But by the same token, despite his claim to the contrary, he knows exactly what to do to push my buttons. He can make me angrier than anyone on earth and our biggest fights over the years have resulted in some broken kitchenware. (I miss those glass bowls.)
The reason this rule is so important is because you can’t expect every day to be perfect. You have to accept that fights will happen and that a fight* doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed. Work it out, talk it through and get past it. Or do like I do, and agree to disagree and move on. The husband and I will always disagree on Hooked on Phonics no matter how many fights we have, so we have the all out battle, go to bed and wake up like it never happened.
*It should go without saying that a fight should never involve one person laying their hands on the other in anger or attempting to harm the person in any way. If you ever fear for your or your child’s safety during a fight, please safely leave the situation as soon as possible and seek help.
2. Don’t expect Prince Charming. This goes along the lines of the Golden Rule in accepting reality. Your husband or wife isn’t perfect. Lots of people get married thinking that their spouse is the only person in the world for them. Scientifically speaking, however, there are hundreds if not thousands of people who would be compatible with your personality and beliefs. Your chosen spouse was just one of those people and while they are compatible with you it doesn’t make them a perfect match. Accept that you will fight and disagree and argue. Embrace that.
3. Fight and bicker, especially over little things. You may think that these acts of aggression are signs that your marriage is doomed but that doesn’t have to be the case. Fighting allows you to vocalize how you feel. Couples who don’t fight are more likely to just pretend like there’s not a problem, bury their feelings deep inside and then those feelings fester until they explode and that’s never good. Instead, fight over the Hooked on Phonics. You both know it doesn’t actually matter how your child learns to read as long as she does, but at least you both know where the other person stands. And when it comes time to argue over something bigger, like say, whether to send your child to a religious school or a non-denominational one, you both know “how” to fight. By fighting and bickering, you learn to determine when your partner is really passionate about an issue and when it’s something less important (on the grand scheme of things). If you’re comfortable fighting, you’ll be less likely to bury your feelings and more likely to just say “honey, I’d rather shoot myself in the face than watch another episode of Jersey Shore”. And most important, when you fight over the small things, you won’t throw in the towel when a big fight rears its nasty face.
4. Marry your best friend. I can talk to the husband about anything and I do mean ANYTHING. He knows if I think the new guy at work is attractive and I know exactly what happens on his men-only nights out. (As I’m typing this, I realize you may think I’m going in one direction with this but I’ll stop you. The husband and I don’t have an open relationship and we aren’t swingers. Sorry to disappoint anyone.) We have open lines of communication no matter what. It’s not just communication that’s important though; having similar interests helps too. The husband and I have started over in new cities multiple times during our relationship and knowing that I had at least one person who would be interested in exploring what each city had to offer made each move that much more bearable. And should we make it to 50 years together and my boobs are sagging to the floor and the husband’s lost his hearing and his teeth, and the passion has all but fizzled away, we know we can still stay together. Because … and sorry for my crassness here, our relationship wasn’t founded on … erm … physical intimacy alone. So when that’s gone, we’ll be left with what? A best friend to talk to and explore the world with.
5. Take it a day at a time. I mentioned above that the husband and I had many nay-sayers in regards to our marriage. They said I was too young; that we were both in school and still needed to grow as individuals; that we came from backgrounds that were incompatible. That was tough to hear and in the beginning we just wanted to prove everyone wrong, but in the back of our minds we weren’t even convinced we would last five years. At that point, we were still infatuated with each other but we both knew that infatuation ends and the butterflies in your stomach eventually settle down. And I was young. At 19 years old, I still had a lot of growing to do (as did the husband); who’s to say what I wanted at that point would be the same thing as what I wanted at 29 or 39 years old? As the years went by, would we still want to be with each other or would we say “adios, it was good while it lasted”? So rather than set the bar high and commit for life, not knowing what life would have in store for us, we committed to a goal more attainable. As we stood up at the altar and mouthed the words “till death do us part”, internally, we actually meant “for as long as we can”. That first year went by in the blink of an eye and it was great. We were in newlywed bliss for the majority of the time. The second and third years were tougher as we experienced growing pains, and truth be told, we almost didn’t make it. But we stuck it out and next thing we knew we had reached five years. Then seven. Then nine. And now, we’re approaching ten. All because we took it a day at a time.
There’s a theme to my list here. It’s REALISM. In everything you do with your spouse. Be realistic. Don’t romanticize anything and just roll with the punches (again..that’s figuratively speaking, punching family members is bad). If you set unrealistic expectations, you risk facing a high failure rate. On the other hand, if you set realistic expectations you may just surprise yourself on how much you surpassed those expectations.
The husband isn’t perfect and neither am I, but there’s no one I’d rather spend my time with. He’s stubborn and a jerk sometimes, but he’s also smart, loving, and patient. He puts his family first all the time. He’s helped me grow as an individual. He teaches me new things all the time. He’s a wonderful father to our daughter. And he’s one of the few people in the world who can put up with my sass.
Here’s to 10 years of marriage! Let’s go for at least one more!