Having now made it successfully through 5.5 years of wedded bliss (and breezed through the 1st and 3rd year “itches”), I feel qualified to post my own personal rules to what makes a marriage work – and last. Fortunately, the only true hard “rule” that I have come to observe is this – forget rules. Throw any rule book out the window. If you try to follow rules in your marriage, you might just fail miserably and end up thinking that there is something wrong with your relationship, when in fact, it’s just that a marriage is a living, breathing thing that will not be boxed in and controlled by expectations. It is important in marriage, as in life in general, to be fluid and go with the flow. Roll with the punches a little bit. That’s not to say be a pushover – just be more open-minded and trust your gut instincts. When faced with something that makes you wonder if it’s right or not, don’t start measuring it against all the societal/cultural/family standards that are out there – just ask yourself “does it feel right to me?” and “am I happy with this?” Because you are the one experiencing your marriage, and you are the ruler by which your marriage should be measured.
With that said, I do have some suggestions more of a philosophical than an instructional nature.
– If you are each looking out for the other’s happiness, then neither of you will ever be lacking in it. If you are mutually taking care of each other, then there will be no need for selfishness or defensiveness.
– Men and women are different. Too many couples make the huge (and sometimes fatal to a relationship) mistake of thinking that if the other person doesn’t think or feel the same as they do, then that must mean they don’t care or don’t love you. We have not only anatomical, but biological, mental and emotional differences in how we process everything. Learn to embrace and respect those differences. That means, girls, don’t drag your husband purse-shopping with you and then be hurt that he doesn’t seems interested. There is no reason why he should be. And guys – girls feel the need to be complimented often and randomly – we just do, so just do it.
– Pick your battles. Arguments can be healthy and constructive. Just remember that it’s not about proving who is right, but about coming up with a mutually satisfactory conclusion. Think of your arguments as being more like debates.
– Do something crazy and out of character together every now and then. Boredom and complicity can mean the death of a marriage. Our hearts, minds and bodies require a little dose of adrenaline and excitement every now and then. Take a trip to someplace you’ve never been. Eat a weird food. Do some karaoke. Jump on trampolines, no matter how old you are.
– Have an inner life. Read books, take up new hobbies, have interests and goals for yourself as an individual, and not just one half of your marital union. You don’t stop changing, growing and improving as a person just because you now carry a title of husband or wife.
– Don’t take everything so seriously, including yourself. Have a sense of humour about things. A couple that laughs together, stays together!
– Marry your best friend. Notice that you never run out of things to talk about or do with your friends – nor should you and your spouse.
– Maintain some mystery. By that I do not mean clandestine texting with your ex or a secret profile on a dating website. I just mean that there is no need to share every waking thought, feeling, and plan with each other. Social media has made it so we feel that if a thought is not registered anywhere other than our head, then it didn’t exist. Keep some things to yourself so that there is always something new to discover about you.
In general, don’t expect your marriage to fit some cookie-cutter mold or worry that it doesn’t. Listen to your instincts – they will tell you if things are headed in the right direction.