I've been married for 38 years... but not to the same person the entire time. Still, with one union lasting 24 years and the other at 14 and climbing, perhaps I can be permitted my opinion on this question.
Somehow I see these as less secrets than 'lifehacks'; these seem all the rage and I feel less dated using this description, so Lifehacks to a Happy and Healthy Marriage it will be henceforth known.
Lifehack #1 Choose Wisely
Yes, yes, this seems like a no-brainer, a reasonable assumption... but you know what they say about assuming, don't you? (Aside: perhaps you don't and that's OK; no judgement here. It used to be more widely used: "Don't assume! When you do you make an ass out of u & me." It's a dismantling of the actual word assume, you see?)
So, choose wisely, and here are some criteria to consider:
- Like them the way that they are. Be excited and content (both are important) at the knowledge that you will live with this person, with these habits, and their quirks, for the rest of your life.
- Don't try to change them. Ladies- we hardly change our bras once we decide which one the 'good one' is... and if we won't change the thing that touches us the most in a day, why would we think that our partners would want to change anything about themselves. (That's a way bigger deal than changing a bra.) No one, no matter how many times the HR team cheers enthusiastically about it: NO ONE likes to change because someone tells them to do it.
- Be prepared for them to change. You are not the same person you were at 13 years old, thankfully. (Unless you actually are 13 years old, in which case why are you reading this? Shouldn't you be creating a TikTok, scrolling through Temu, or at band practice?) Your partner will change, often when you least expect it, so expect it.
- Decide right now that you will be their biggest cheerleader. This is not hard to decide right now, so start flexing that muscle, start building that habit. You will, (and I know it's hard to believe it of your snuggly wuggly cuddle bunny right now) you will get some wild ideas and "what if...?" tossed your way. What ifs are part of life, are part of growing.
And; do you know what? What ifs don't always happen. Your partner may be the kind that likes to try out ideas using words instead of inside their head where those words don't terrify those around them. While that is sometimes (read this as 'often') alarming, get used to it. This type of wondering out loud is them involving you in the creation of their future. This is a good thing. Cheer them on, don't overreact, and celebrate the things they try.
Lifehack #2 Communicate
Another obvious point? Maybe. Just know that communication is more than words.
Communication is looking at your phone/watching TV/playing one more game/ instead of them when you are talking... or eating...or during sex... or; well you get the picture. Be present when you are present, because not giving them attention is not only disrespectful it makes them feel like crap.
Everything we do communicates something: it signals our attention, our truthfulness, and yes; it signals our love and commitment. Part of the time you will be communicating with yourself and asking the difficult questions, like:
- Have I heard this story before? If you are wondering that the answer is always 'yes. yes you have.' But the rest of the answer is likely 'they don't remember telling you', and also possibly 'it's not resolved for them and they still feel angry/happy/confused/puzzled/sad and need to talk about it some more.’ Try not to solve whatever the story is about: listen and be present unless they ask your advice.
- OMG- we aren't going to really do that, are we? I am sorry to tell you but sometimes the answer to that will be 'yes', but most often it will be 'no'. (See the previous section regarding cheerleading.) Sometimes they just haven't verbally explored whatever it is enough and they need to bring it out and toss it around - and around- and around a few more times.
- I already told you the answer.... Yes, I believe you, you likely have answered this question several times. You've probably also revealed the mysteries of the extra toilet paper/how to change the vacuum cannister/and your preference for ice cream, too. But they either didn't hear you or forgot. They love you and don't mean to drive you over the edge. (And you probably do the same thing to them without realizing it.)
Lifehack #3 Savor the Moments
We think this is going to last forever and if there is any secret we collectively don't want to hear it's this: This will all end someday.
We don't know when we will reach across the bed to take their hand as we surface from a nightmare only to realize that they are gone. That they have been gone. That is wasn't a nightmare, you were just remembering they aren't there anymore.
We don't know when the person that knows you are being sarcastic when everyone around you thinks you are being kind won't be there to look at you with a sigh and a twinkle in their eye.
We don't know when we'll only fill our baskets with one kind of coffee creamer, won't add a bar of the dark chocolate with hazelnuts to place in the second shelf of the pantry for late night snackage, need to learn how to take out our own splinters, and when we'll only set the table for one.
Savor the moments you receive and the moments you create. Each day is a page in the scrapbook of the life you are building. Here's some entries:
- Kiss hello. Kiss good morning. Kiss 'I'm home', and 'your eyes are blue today' and 'thank you for making the bed', and 'I love you on Tuesdays!'.
- Dance. Dance when your music plays, and make the music play if it's been a while. (Pro tip- now is a good time for the phone, I know you have music on there) Sway in the kitchen and hum against their neck. Twirl around wearing a towel (or not) after a shower (and shower together, too). Dance in parking lots, your backyard, as you fold the laundry.
- Cook together. Try the simple stuff you loved as a child. Explore a Reel or TikTok trend. Download something extravagant and complicated. Portion things for the freezer or jar them together (use a recipe and be careful). Or maybe just nuke/air-fry/get it from the deli and surprise them with a pain-free I-already-have-dinner ready evening.
- Laugh often. Find a movie that makes one of you laugh and watch it together (for some reason I get the ones that think Monty Python is hysterical....) even if you don't find it funny enjoy their reaction. Be your own self and share the things you think about, ask the questions you want to know, and don't be afraid to laugh at yourself once in a while.
- Touch each other. Hold hands when you walk from the car into a store. Rest your hand on their leg, their shoulder, across their shoulders. Let your legs gloriously entwine under the blankets before you scooch off into your own climate controlled spaces. (ok: I still use top sheets, I'm a Boomer. sorry/not sorry) Nuzzle their cheek, nibble their neck. Hug them and feel your heartbeats synchronize as you listen to that familiar thump thump in their chest.
- Listen to them. Hear them say your name, follow the change to their breathing as they slip into sleep, go there with them as the words tremble on their lips while they tell you bad new and when they leap out with the joy of happiness. Hear the rumbling of a deep voice, the chirps of a falsetto or soprano sounding in excitement. Listen and savor the song they sing.
So- Is there a secret/lifehack or not?
I think the secret is in BOTH OF YOU knowing- deep in your heart and with every fiber of your being- that you are the most fortunate person in the world to be with your partner. And then let your action show more than your words do.
This was written in response to Jazzy's piece. I hope you check out her real and practical wisdom.
I write poetry about my love:
and this one for a couple whose marriage I officiated:
I hope you leave a comment and let me know: What are your thoughts about my lifehacks? What secret or advice would you give regarding marriage?
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme