My youngest niece announced her engagement recently, which triggered thoughts of an appropriate wedding gift. I sent money, of course, to help with the nuptials, but that seemed inadequate.
Having navigated almost a quarter-century of marriage, it seemed more beneficial to offer something of greater value than money: experience. I outlined the humorous side of marital compatibility previously, so here’s the flip side. I have my own ideas of what makes a happy marriage, but also polled several long-time friends, all of whom either enjoy or have escaped marriage.
Their responses included the usual hilarity around “I asked my wife what she thought and then said, ‘yes, dear’ before sending the answers.” There was an intriguing suggestion to treat your spouse like a pet: pet them, feed them, and play with them. It sounded weird initially, but I’m beginning to like its simplicity. And of course, the fundamental recommendations for trust, compromise, communication, and respect.
But I finally boiled everything down to these three rules, presented in ascending order of importance.
Rule #3: Always look for things you can do together. A certain amount of independence is healthy, but when you find yourselves spending increasing amounts of time engaged in your own individual activities, it’s time to step back and find some things you can do together. It may be sports, it may be a television show, it may hiking, it may be dancing. In the spirit of the aforementioned compromise, one partner may need to try something new.
Rule #2: Don’t be afraid to start over. This does NOT mean splitting up. It means that when you find yourself wanting to divorce them twice a year and kill them once a year, sit down and remind yourself why you fell in love with them in the first place. And then do whatever you need to do to fall in love with them again. It could be a romantic vacation, it could be marriage counseling, or it could be just setting aside one night a week as “date night.” Repeat as necessary.
Rule #1: Never, ever, ever take the other person for granted. If I only had to offer one rule, this would be it. Nothing sours a marriage faster than the feeling that you’re no more important than the furniture. This covers a multitude of sins. If you bump into them in the hallway, apologize. If you’re late, call and say so. If they do the laundry or make dinner, thank them. If you fart in bed, say excuse me.
Simple, but effective. And no, I did not get my wife’s permission before posting these.