Huff/Post50 editor Shelley Emling and senior writer Ann Brenoff have both been married to their respective partners a total of 36 years, collectively. During that time, they believe they've learned a few things about how to make a relationship work. Below are 11 lessons the two have learned along the way. Of course, Huff/Post50 would love to hear your ideas as well!
1. Not every fight is the Big One. Don't go to the mats on everything.
This is probably the biggest difference between living together and tying the legal knot. When you are living together, the door is always unlocked. When you've had enough of his dirty socks left on the floor, you give him the boot and let his mother pick them up for a few more years.
Marriage? Well, marriage is for grownups. Not every injustice is worth a fight. In the early years, my husband and I would make a monthly dinner date to discuss the petty small stuff that was driving us nuts. He used to call it Grievance Night. Others may say it isn't wise to let things build up. Grievance Night worked for us.
2. Don't use the "D word" unless you mean it.
Divorce is a solution of last resort. You are undoing not just your marriage, but your entire life. Finances, children, friends, property, lifestyle -- everything is on the table and vulnerable. Before you go there, you seriously need to have tried absolutely everything else, at least a 100 times.
3. Revenge isn't a dish best served cold. It's a dish best not served at all.
A marriage is based on love and mutual respect. It isn't based on who is right and wrong. Getting even doesn't make the hurt go away, although sometimes an apology does. Evening the score just results in a tie with everyone miserable. Revenge is for the kid who hit you in the sandbox, not your marriage.
4. Who you marry is important, but your commitment toward the institution of marriage is just as important.
News flash: You won't always get along. There will be times when the sound of the other's breathing will drive you nuts. You will one day look over at your partner and wonder why you ever agreed to spend your life together. This happens to everyone. And then you just fix your breakfast, gas up the car and be on your perhaps not-so-merry way.
It gets better. But it is never perfect, so stop expecting it will be.
5. Jealousy isn't a measure of affection; it's a measure of insecurity.
I know a woman whose husband thought it was OK to pinch my ass and press up against me while I rinsed glasses in the sink. That was the last time they got invited to dinner at our place, but the incident still hangs in the air every time we see them at community events.
I think theirs is one of those marriages that lives on make-up sex. He cheats, she catches him (because frankly, he isn't all that discreet), he says "sorry," and their lives go on. Not for me, but I'm not feeling judgmental today.
6. Affection can take many forms.
In my house, it's displayed best by the little things -- getting the oil changed on my car without a reminder is huge. So is not calling from Ben & Jerry's to ask me which flavor I want (and thus giving me an opportunity to decline because I'm dieting) but just bringing home mint chip because you know that's what I want and you're willing to get yelled at about "sabotaging my diet" while I ask you to please hand me a spoon. Hey, how we love each other isn't a uniform thing.
7. When things get off track, as they inevitably will, this is the one surefire thing that works.
You both must wake up in the morning and ask yourselves "How can I make him/her happy today?" I offer a 100 percent guarantee this will get you back on track.
8. Make your marriage -- not your children -- your top priority.
If there is trouble in your marriage, it will ultimately hurt your kids. I've had many a friend who refused to go away with her husband for a long weekend because she didn't want to leave the children. In my experience, that's a big mistake. After those kids leave home, you'd better hope you and your spouse still have things to talk about.
9. Shocker: Sometimes it's a good thing to go to bed angry.
Yes, sometimes you just need to get some sleep. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to bed angry -- vowing to myself that I'll never get over something that just transpired -- only to wake up refreshed and barely able to remember what I was so angry about the night before.
10. It's best not to get into the habit of calling each other mommy and daddy.
I know. It's easy to go from saying "go ask your daddy" to "go ask Daddy" to "Daddy, can you help little Emma with her homework." But, truly, it diminishes, you two as a romantic couple and can put a damper on your sex life. I know I don't want to walk into the bedroom and to start getting it on with the guy I've called "Daddy" all day.
11. Whatever you do, don't stop kissing your partner hello and goodbye.
I made this mistake. For awhile, when I left for work in the morning, I felt too rushed to take the time to walk over and kiss my husband goodbye. It's so easy to get into that habit. But this sort of thing ultimately makes your partner feel less special. It can be hard enough to keep romance alive after many many years of marriage. Don't let go of the little stuff like kissing and hugging.
What do you think? What are your tips for making a marriage work? Let us know in comments.
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