My husband and I have been together for nearly ten years. Being that I am 30, this means that I have been with him for a third of my life. People say the honeymoon phase wears off, and I am honestly so thankful that it does. Sure, it is fun to have something new and exciting with all the shiny bells and whistles. New relationships are like chandeliers that catch all the light and throw it around the room, but a good marriage is like your favorite comfy chair: It is the place you fall into and feel safe. That one place where you are truly yourself with all your flaws and quirks. I am so happy to be married.
So, after all these years, how is it I still manage to get butterflies every time I see my husband’s name on the caller ID? I’m going to do my best to explain how even in a world where half of marriages end in divorce, you can make a marriage not just survive but thrive.
Basically, if you want a marriage to work, you need to know that it takes work. There will be rough patches. Maybe financial problems or stress from other family or work will try driving a wedge into your relationship. Maybe monotony eats away at the passion. Struggles will come in some form or another and it is important to have a strong foundation from which you face these obstacles. Here are some tools that have kept my husband and I strong through our hurdles:
Step one needs to happen before you ever say “I do.” Marriage is a commitment and it needs to be treated as such. Tying the knot shouldn’t be a “well, if it doesn’t work out, we can divorce” conversation. Tell yourself there is no such thing as divorce. Look at the one you love and honestly decide if you can look at that face every day for the rest of your life. What happens if one of you gets injured? Could you wipe their nose, bathe them, feed them? Would you feel the same about them if they gained 30 pounds? Discuss how you would raise your children, what your goals are and how you want to achieve them. Make sure you are on the same page from the very beginning. If your paths and intentions don’t seem to connect, find out before you promise forever that way once you are married, you can tell yourself divorce isn’t an option, and it will force you to work out your issues instead of running away. (Of course divorce is necessary in some cases, but I feel it could more often be avoided.)
One of the most important things my husband and I do for each other is probably the easiest. We tell each other all the time how we feel. Not just an obligatory “love you” as you are walking out the door, but an honest and sincere declaration. This doesn’t mean you have to live every day in a cheesy RomCom. I tell him I love him when I thank him for hanging a picture on a wall. He tells me he loves me when he saves my picture as the back ground on his phone. These are the things we do for each other every day that affirms we are valued and we are wanted. I never have to question where I stand with him.
We don’t live in a world where women are expected to stay at home while men bring home the bacon anymore, but each person does have a role in the relationship. Take time to find out what parts of the relationship each should be responsible for. Ultimately, you are a team but relationships work more smoothly when you aren’t always fighting over who should do what. Maybe one of you is better with money and works on creating the family budget while the other one is better at yard work. Each of you can give input into everything, but play to your strengths. For instance, in my house, I handle making sure appointments are kept and bills are paid. My husband does most of the repairs and projects around the house. It’s not that he doesn’t get to say how we spend money or that I’m not allowed to pick up a hammer, but trust me it works better if I stay away from power tools.
Next, avoid temptation. Temptation comes in many forms. The obvious kind is of course of the cheating kind. The general rule of thumb here is if you wouldn’t want your spouse to hear it, don’t say it (or type it). There is never really any reason good enough to risk being in an ugly situation. And, realistically, there are very few situations where a personal conversation needs to be had in a private message if it is truly innocent. But another kind of temptation that sneaks up on you is the venting kind. When things get rough (and they will, I promise) it is so tempting to go to your friends and bash your loved one. Then we all sit around talking about how awful it is when he won’t take out the trash or whatever other minor offense. This kind of negativity is like a cancer for relationships. You want to surround your marriage with positivity because those minor negative comments will build in your head until everything starts feeling worse and worse. It is almost always better to just talk-out your problems within your marriage. If you do need an outside opinion, just choose someone you know will be objective and not just lay it on thicker.
Along the same lines, it is really tempting to focus on their shortcomings rather than your own. A fatal flaw of marriage is to think about all the ways they aren’t meeting your needs while ignoring the ways you aren’t meeting theirs. If you truly feel like there is something you are missing in the relationship, be up front and honest about it (without being accusatory). If both people are focused on providing for the other, then both of your needs will be met. Think about what you can do to add value to your spouse’s life instead of what they can do to add value to yours. Love is selfless that way.
Last but not least, go on adventures. Maybe it’s a daycation or a week of travel. Or maybe your adventure is moving across the country. Don’t be afraid to shake things up. If you feel like you have to force your way through your day, then you aren’t living right. Life is too short for bucket lists, just go do the things you’ve always wanted to do. That is the wonderful thing about marriage really, you always have a safety net. No matter how bad things get—if that risky move to a new job doesn’t work out, if the house loses all its value, if you lose everything you’ve worked for—you will still have each other. I was just as happy living with my husband in a small one bedroom apartment as I am in our house. For us, it isn’t about the quantity. Because we knew we had each other, we were always able to make leaps that alone we would never have the confidence or courage to do. Being a team has allowed us to achieve more than I ever dreamed possible on my own. I hope we always find new adventures.
So, there it is. A very skeletal outline of how I’ve made my marriage grow into this whole wonderful new phase. Be committed, give affirmation, find your role, avoid temptation, fulfill their needs, and live adventurously. Make your marriage a priority and put in the work. It will all pay off in the long run.