I am ten years into my third marriage. Maybe that qualifies me to advise others, maybe not. But this third time is definitely the proverbial charm. What I learned over the past thirty-three years since my first marriage is simple. The getting along thing begins with me and my choices. Choice one is marrying the right person in the first place. Choice two is being mature enough to be honest with myself and the other person. Choice three is marrying FOR the right reasons. Once you’ve made these choices correctly, the rest is a matter of the following ten suggestions.
1. Admit (at least to yourself) when you are wrong.
There’s nothing worse than to carry on with an argument or ruin your entire day because you refuse to be wrong. That’s really just plain stupid. Always look at your own part in the situation…and if you’re not wrong at least attempt to understand why your spouse thinks you are.
2. Know that certain events in life will affect you differently.
Births, deaths, money issues, etc. affect women differently than they do men. Men tend to look for comfort during trying times and need more sexually charged physical contact, while women want to be comforted and cuddled and have no interest in sex. Becoming a mom is usually the beginning of this scenario. It is natural for a mom to become absorbed in the child and its needs versus the husband’s. A new dad will score much more often in bed if he recognizes this and talks openly about it, giving mom some time to just be appreciated. But the new mom needs to remember that hubby is feeling a bit neglected and do what she can to make him feel important in this new baby thing (and that doesn’t mean just changing diapers!).
3. Be respectful of each other’s pet peeves (even if they are ridiculous).
The toilet seat can quickly become the object of tension in a household. The best way to solve the problem is to make a rule that EVERYONE should close the toilet lid. This means that even the women in the house must open and close to use it, and finally the men will feel equal in the bathroom. Other suggestions are clean up your own stuff (sounds simple and silly, but think about it). Do you leave your socks all over the house? Do you leave your shoes all over the bedroom floor? Do you use all but the last little sheet of toilet paper so you don’t have to change the roll? Do you only wash the clothes you need because you “don’t want to mess up anyone else’s” or only dry the shirt you need and leave the rest in the washer? Oh the tension and fights we can avoid if we only take one minute more!
4. Marriage means everything is shared…even money (yes it’s true!).
Does your spouse work the same hours each week but get paid less? Does that make you feel like you earn more and therefore should have a say in how money is spent? Does your spouse stay home with the children and that means you budget an “allowance” for that spouse? Do you spend what you want without letting your spouse know but want a discussion first for anything else purchased? Perhaps instead of an allowance it should be referred to as a paycheck for domestic duties. Remember that each spouse contributes to a marriage in his/her own way, and each should be respected for that contribution. If you are a stay at home spouse your contribution should include a clean environment for the family. If you are the working spouse your contribution is not only financial but also showing a mutual appreciation for the person that makes your house a home. Seems so simple…doesn’t it?
5. Having a social life is important and necessary.
Just because two become one is no reason they cannot have friends. It also does not mean that they cannot have separate activities. Individuality is important in our lives. We need to be free to express ourselves in order to feel human. Of course, there are those activities that may cause friction. If you are going out to a bar with your friends after work every day while your spouse is home alone then you are not getting the point. If you and your friends take off every other weekend to hit the casinos without your spouse something may be off a bit. Healthy activities and the occasional “out with the guys or girls” is perfectly fine, but when your activities become an escape from your family instead of a fun outlet you may have a problem.
6. Resentment and hanging on to past battles or hurt is a true marriage wrecker.
If you bring up old stuff or wallow in the pain of the past you are really only destroying yourself. All that ugliness will eat you up and keep you from enjoying the things about your spouse that you fell in love with in the first place. Do you know how to forgive? Are you free from any mistakes or screw-ups? Can you look at yourself in the mirror and honestly say that you’ve done nothing hurtful or have never betrayed the trust of another? Unless you can look in the mirror and see perfection then holding on to past stuff is hypocritical.
7. Someone’s got to be the grown up.
Yea, it’s true that your spouse lets one fly and blames it on you but at least you know who the mature one is between you. Then again, isn’t it nice that your spouse is still playful? One of you needs to loosen up and the other really should try to set a good example for the kids. But a balance of grown up and child like behavior provides for a healthy environment for children. Besides, when your spouse blames you for the obnoxious sound and smell you can smile proudly and say “I learned it all from you.”
8. So you had a hard day…maybe everyone did.
When you come home from work and your spouse or kids want a bit of your time do you brush them off and say you’re tired and want some time alone? Do you get annoyed when your spouse tells you what a rough day at home it was because the kids were fighting all day? Does your spouse come home wanting time with you, but all you want to do is talk about the things around the house that need to be fixed? Can’t we all just get along? Everyone has rough days and everyone needs to feel like they have a shoulder to cry on. However the opposite is also true in that everyone needs some kick back time after a long day. When we respect both of those very real needs and allow some settling down time, then our together time can be much more pleasant. Kids however, are another story. Give them five minutes to say anything they need to say and then they will happily move on once it’s out of their system.
9. Dreading social obligations can fester into a blowout.
Your spouse does not like your mother because she is a know-it-all and thrives on making you look bad. Your sister-in-law brags about her great job and how perfect her children are then cuts you off every time you want to talk about your own. These are every day issues that each couple has to deal with. Yet, family is important so you must be the bigger person. Your spouse may complain and put down his or her own family members but you should never cross that line. Be sympathetic but do not agree…it may be held against you later. Just go to the holiday dinner with a smile on your face and imagine them all in clown makeup making complete asses out of themselves.
10. Don’t go to bed mad, just go to bed.
We’ve all heard this one, but it is easier said than done. If you broaden its meaning we should not leave our spouse with anger at anytime. Whether to go to sleep or to go to the store we never know when it may be our last time together. Life is full of surprises and the more we forgive and forget the more joy we allow into this life. Be willing to make the first move toward peace. “I’m sorry” is not always the right thing to say. Something like, “I never realized I was acting that way let me know next time if I am starting to do that again.” Or maybe, “I know you didn’t do that on purpose, I was just angry about it and took it out on you.” These little words can make all the difference. If all else fails do something stupid and silly…laughter can sometimes break anyone’s anger.
In the fast-paced, ever changing and demanding world we live, do we really want to do it all alone? Having a best friend to spend your time here with seems like a good idea to me. Forgiveness, respect, loyalty and support are really what love is all about.