First and foremost, let me start by acknowledging that ten years of marriage in no way makes me an expert on the subject. It’s quite possible that in another ten years I’ll look back at this and dismiss it as total bunk, but (for now) here are some things that I’e learned:
- Go to bed angry. I think we are too quick to think of anger and love as mutually exclusive. The idea of sitting up into the wee hours of the night trying to hash out a disagreement seems totally ridiculous to me. The absolute worst time to have a serious discussion is when you are exhausted. Go to bed. You’ll wake up with some perspective and one of two things will happen: a) one of you will realize that you were overreacting, or b) the two of you will be able to have an actual productive conversation about the problem.
- The money thing. Talk about it. Preferably before you get married, but if you’ve already taken your vows and never had this conversation, then stop reading this now and go do it. Really, right now. Go! And yes, I know that credit card balances and 401Ks (or lack thereof) aren’t sexy, but being open and honest about them up front will avoid the majority of the need for tip number one.
- The children thing. Ditto on the above. Talk about it now and be honest. Don’t pretend you do or don’t want children thinking the idea will “grow on you.” It’s not like picking a paint color.
- Do things together. Theatre, concerts, food and travel are ours (not necessarily in that order). Find yours and make time for them.
- Do things apart. I write books that my husband has never read. He is super enthusiastic about my writing career (and has probably sold more copies of my book via word of mouth than I have), but he prefers non-fiction to romance. Similarly, whenever someone comments that “our” beer is great, I’m quick to acknowledge, that aside from the occasional stir of the pot, I have nothing to do with it. In the same breath I’ll be certain to tell you how awesome it tastes.
- Be grateful. This is the one and only time when It’s helpful to think of your partner as a roommate (at all other times avoid this). But think about it, if you had a roommate and they did the dishes you’d say thank you. If they cooked dinner you would be most appreciative. If they made you a cup of hot tea or brought you a soy milkshake when you weren’t feeling well, you would thank them. Marriage doesn’t erase the need to express gratitude.
Those are my lessons learned, I’d love to hear about what you’ve learned from the long-term relationships in your life (your own or others). Let me know in the comments below.