My husband and I have endured thirteen years of marriage. Endured because in thirteen years there have been plenty of moments when we’ve thought, “I really got it right. I am with the person who gets me.” We’ve also thought, “Who is this person I chose to spend my life with? Doesn’t he/she know me at all?” Mostly, though, there have been variations in-between. I'd like to share my marriage advice with you.
During our thirteen years as husband and wife, I have learned thirteen lessons about marriage.
1. Very quickly, the person who used to only see the best version of you will become the only person who is allowed to see you at your worst. Whether it’s fever, vomit, cramps, or diarrhea your spouse is the one person who will see you in this very unflattering state and still be around the next morning.
2.Your spouse doesn’t always do the right thing. I had the naive belief that the longer I was married, the more well-known I’d be. My husband would know me. We’d have established a short-hand within our thirteen years of matrimony. Not always the case. My husband still doesn’t always remember to order my hamburger with pickles, doesn’t always put as much ice in my water as I’d like, and still buys me red roses for Valentine’s Day when I’d prefer a mix of colors.
3. Marriage isn’t easy. Not much in life is. Marriage requires persistence, patience, and passion. And life sometimes makes the practice of those 3 p’s challenging.
4. You take it for granted. I shamefully admit that I don’t always give my husband and my marriage the attention and energy that I give to my son or my students.
5. Touch is important. Hugs and kisses. A back rub, a hair brushing, or a foot rub. They all bring us closer to each other. They slow things down, help us connect in the moment.
6. You create romance, where and when you can. Life isn’t always romantic. Flat tires, an over-flowing toilet, and electricity bills are not romantic. It’s up to us to create moments of romance - a sweet kiss in the kitchen during dinner, a bit of candlelight, a note left on the front seat of the car.
7. Teamwork is absolutely essential. By definition, a marriage requires two people. You enter into this relationship as two, you have to continue working on it as two. It takes two to make it work, it takes two to maintain it, it takes two to improve it. Anything else, the scales tip, the marriage is off-balance and off-kilter.
8. Respect. Aretha Franklin sang about it back in the 1960’s, and it’s just as necessary now. Respect for each other as individuals. Respect for each other’s strengths and shortcomings.
9. Surprises mean different things to each partner. Just because you and your partner are referred to as “Mr. and Mrs.” doesn’t mean you have the same opinions, or share the same likes and dislikes. My husband would be surprised and delighted if I brought home a new electronic gadget. I would be surprised and delighted if my husband brought home for me a bunch of radiant sunflowers.
10. Silence isn’t always golden. Sometimes silence is comforting; it snuggles you in like a cozy blanket on a cold day. It’s the shorthand that develops from two people who have spent a lot of time together. Other times, silence is looming, attempting to mask anger and hurt. Then, silence is dangerous.
11. Laughter. Life is absurd, unpredictable, nutty. It’s also exasperating, frustrating, and sobering. In certain instances, there is a choice to laugh or to cry. Laughing won’t solve the problem at hand, but it may put it in a different light. Laughing in a cramped doctor’s examining room while the doctor ran hours behind schedule is the only thing that kept my husband and I from starting to count the holes in the ceiling tiles.
12. Little things are really big things. Anniversary celebrations, a trip to Paris - those are the big things. They’re momentous and special. But they’re the once-in-a-while. It’s the little things that matter. Did I remember to buy more coffee when I went to the market? Did he remember to put the seat down? Did he stop by the drug store to pick up my prescription? Did I set aside the newspaper article about video game music for him?
13. You never stop trying. Trying to please your partner, trying to do the right thing, trying to maintain harmony. Trying to balance it all, trying to rekindle the excitement when you first got together, trying to be happily married.