My husband and I recently celebrated a wedding anniversary. This gave me a natural opportunity to reflect on our journey together. We’ve traveled an amazing path, he and I. Together, we’ve overcome challenges we never could have anticipated while planning our lives, and suffered losses we didn’t see coming. We’ve had to redesign, re-evaluate and re-calculate every step of the way, in order to survive our increasingly complex world. I won’t lie–it’s been tough. So how have we made it? What things do we do to continually to deepen our friendship, despite the stresses and disappointments of everyday life? How do we allow our love to grow, in face of the world’s noise and ugliness?
Intentionally. That’s how–we intentionally work on our love and friendship. Every. Single. Day.
Many people, when reminded of our anniversary, sent us messages telling us what a great couple we are. It was nice to hear, honestly. Since our era seems so concerned with the rights and opinions of individuals, receiving praise for our identity as a couple was wonderful.
Then, a younger friend gave me pause. She asked, “What’s the secret?”
The secret is this: there aren’t any. None whatsoever. The marriage tips I have are all very common sense, because being a good spouse takes the same skills as being a good human. There’s nothing secret about it.
So in no particular order, here are some marriage tips I’ve learned over the years. I’m sure you’ll have advice of your own, as well–which I welcome.These are just things I’ve found helpful in my own marriage, and am happy to share them with you.
Here is one of the most important marriage tips I have: be honest with each other.
This seems so basic, it’s stupid–but really–you have to be honest. About everything. I don’t mean you have to bore each other with minutiae, just be upfront about worries, anxieties, problems and praises. I tend to be a quiet sort, and this is something I’ve had to work on: getting what’s inside of my head to come out so my husband knows what’s going on with me.
Be courteous to each other.
This is another basic one that tends to get overlooked. When you start dating, it’s easy to always put the other person first, because you’re trying to land your catch. When you’ve been together awhile though, and there’s just one serving left of coffee creamer, you have to remember that it’s better to leave it for the other person. Why? Because that’s what you hope they’d do for you. Kindness goes a long way when you’re in it for the long haul.
Remind the other person you love them.
Always–in big ways, and in small. Grand gestures are great, so carry on with the flowers and candles and special dates, and whatever else was there during courtship. Over time though, you’ll find that texting messages of support during a tough workday, tucking a love note into the bathroom drawer, or quietly filling a gas tank the night before a big interview all count as powerful expressions of devotion. It doesn’t take money to show you love someone. Promise.
Allow your loved one quiet time.
Even if your spouse is the biggest extrovert on the planet, there will be times when (s)he needs to be left alone. Respect that. This need may come from anger, worry, sadness, boredom–any number of things. But it should be acknowledged and allowed. It doesn’t mean you are unloved. It means your partner has to step away from the general noise of life for a bit. They’ll be back.
Allow your spouse to have ugly emotions.
This can be tough. No one likes to see anger, disappointment, sorrow or rage-our goal in life is to be happy and pleasant, right? Sometimes, though–life gets ugly. We lose jobs, bounce checks, have car accidents, get speeding tickets, and work with people we personally find hateful. All of these things can cause some dramas at home, because we can’t show all of our truly unpleasant emotions out in the world. So allow your loved one to express those feelings. Let your spouse share their anger, because you’re their safe zone. Don’t put up with abuse, or inappropriate hostility, but make sure (s)he knows that home is a place to process all of that unpleasantness, and find a refuge where problems can be sorted out together. Yeah–it can get rather messy. So can life. Let your spouse know you’re not scared, and dig into the mud–together.
Learn to accept what is.
No lie–this is tough, but magical. There will be things in your lives together that can’t be changed. Maybe it’s a medical condition, a tough in-law situation or an ex-spouse. Guess what? You can’t change these things, and they won’t go away. So accept them. Don’t waste time arguing about them. Fight getting bitter, resentful or ugly, or thinking that you can figure a way around things. Accept what is. Then move on.
Recognize that not everyday will be perfect.
Some days, you’ll wonder if you’ve made a mistake by marrying this person. Other days, you’ll be sure you have. Guess what–those are just days. Days are short, relationships are long. Realize that everyone has a bad day, and your loved one also wakes up occasionally wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into. Not everyday in your marriage will qualify as a home run, despite the ‘and they lived happily ever after‘ fairy tale we all grew up with. Try for a regular round of base hits in your relationship. Understand that a lifetime together can happen, because your marriage is a source of comfort, support and safety. It’s not going to be a place where everyday is magical. Work on an overall ratio of good times, and overlook the days that aren’t perfect.
Have fun together.
Don’t let the treadmill of life wear you down. Make sure to laugh, tease, giggle and even guffaw. A solid relationship is an endless source of inside jokes, back stories, and private memories. Remember to revive those, build on them, and create new ones. Close the front door against the angst in the world, and crack each other up. Laughter goes a long way when the world is up against you.
Be a team.
Once you say, “I do”, you are part of a team. From that moment on, you have a partner to work with. Share each other’s burdens, celebrate each other’s successes, and work from one script going forward. This can take some getting used to; it certainly did for me. Once you are comfortable with this new identity though, you’ll see that your power in the world is maximized, because you always have someone backing you up. More magic, Friends–promise.
Relax, and play nice.
The person you married will change over time. That’s okay. Not only is it okay, it’s human. Your loved one may gain weight, lose hair, or start needing glasses. (S)he may change careers, hobbies or goals. No worries, Friend–you’re probably busy doing the same things. Life is a journey, and sometimes it gets bumpy. Allow your spouse to try a new exercise class, start a new degree, or decide the job they’ve been doing forever is no longer where they want to be for the rest of their life.
Don’t get threatened by change–accept that it’s part of the deal, and let your loved one have that second piece of pie. Be nice to the person you love the most in the world, and relax about the changes you see. Wrinkles will come, waist lines and jobs will go. Memories and loyalty are stronger than any physical attribute a person has. Every single bit of it is okay.
My husband and I work really hard on having a safe and rewarding relationship, where both of us are free to grow.
We know that we are each backed up by the other, and safe within our relationship. Our marriage is a source of strength, support and friendship.
What marriage tips do you have? What would you tell a new couple just starting out? Please feel free to chime in below, by commenting. Also, feel free to subscribe, to make sure you get more great suggestions from our readers!
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**Chanler Jeffers is a woman who has seen many extraordinary things over her lifetime. An adventurer, survivor, overachiever and advocate of kindness in all instances, she has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), and is a member of their Circle of Champions. She has had the good fortune to live and travel all over the world, grew up as a military dependent, was a single parent for many years, has survived cancer and gently shaped countless people over her years on this little planet we call home. Follow along as she shares her knowledge, her experience and her love. Oh, by the way–one more thing. She’s married to a Bass playing rock star, lucky girl.