Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ingredients for a strong marriage or relationship

Yahoo featured "10 Unspoken Marriage Rules You Must Follow," which made me think about my own rules for a successful marriage (or relationship). Here are Yahoo's rules (for more detail, follow link):

1. Don't criticize your partner's parents or friends.
2. Tell your spouse about any ex encounters.
3. Keep unsolicited advice to yourself.
4. Don't take charge all the time.
5. Don't bring up past arguments.
6. Choose your battles, but don't stifle your feelings.
7. Don't post private thoughts or photos publicly.
8. Log off. (We need to do this more often!)
9. Don't use the "D" word (divorce, that is).
10. Be each other's number one.

I agree with all of these rules, but I want to add a few more of my own, after 22-1/2 years of marriage. These apply to any kind of relationship, be it straight or gay:

1. Be affectionate. When Mike and I first started dating nearly 26 years ago, we were embarrassing to be around because we couldn't keep our hands off each other. The passing years and our maturity have changed that, but I still love to hold his hand and snuggle with him every night in bed. We say "I love you" every day at least once.

2. Be supportive and respectful. This is SOOOO important. I can't imagine being with someone who did not respect me and show me respect in public and private. This means no put downs, insults, criticisms, or eye rolling. It means treating the other person the way you want to be treated. It means cherishing your spouse and honoring your wedding vows every day, and supporting each other at all times.

3. Laugh together. I love the way Mike is silly with the kids. We both come from families who liked to be silly together, thank goodness. I've discovered one show that consistently makes Mike laugh out loud: "Modern Family." I have always loved to see/hear him laugh out loud so hard he can't stop. The first time I witnessed this was watching "The Milagro Beanfield War" when we lived in Japan. I never tire of it. I LOVE to see him laugh!

4. Don't undermine your spouse's authority with the children or say yes to something your spouse has said no to. Unfortunately, our kids have learned that if they ask Mike's permission when he is on the computer, sometimes he says "yes" when he is really not paying sometimes that can be a challenge! But our kids know that if they ask each of us separately, we will not be happy. One of their least favorite responses is "We're a team." If one of us doesn't agree with a parenting decision we have made, we do our best to discuss it later, not in front of the children.

5. Be forgiving. I know some couples who have forgiven each other for serious transgressions and grown stronger because of it. It's important not to hold grudges and to be able to move on with your life. If you can't forgive and instead will carry around your grudge or anger for the rest of your life, it's not worth it in the long run. I believe it's more important to be happily married and fulfilled than just to be married.

5.5 On a connected note, never go to bed angry. When we had our first big fight, Mike discovered that I couldn't go to bed angry. (He was ready to do so.) Even if we have to stay up late to discuss a conflict, it's worth it. Going to bed angry only adds to the chance that the conflict will not be resolved and it could fester. Talk it through and get it resolved so you can move on, if possible.

6. Have couple time. This is especially important if you are parents. Before we had kids, we went to the movies two or three times a month. We went away for every anniversary, and we frequently had dates. Now it needs to be planned more in advance, but every time we get away (even for a few hours), our relationship is renewed and strengthened.

7. Find shared interests. Fortunately this has never required any effort for us. As English majors who met while living in Japan, we both love reading, the arts, theater, and travel. We like the same movies and are perfectly compatible travel partners (as we found out when we traveled together for 3 months, just the two of us, through Asia--the best test for a couple!). We often think the same way or come up with the same ideas...even such mundane details as yesterday, when I suggested we stop at Trader Joe's (for New Year's Eve fixings) after my post-op appointment with my surgeon...he had the same thought.

8. Encourage each other to pursue friends and interests on his or her own. Just as important as couple time is friend time. Women tend to be better at this than men. I love having overnight getaways, lunches, and dinners with my girlfriends. I can never get enough of that! This, too, strengthens my marriage because I'm feeding a different part of my soul. Mike's now got a number of groups he participates in, too, although he has yet to have a boys' overnight activity! He was invited to one this spring but is having a hard time making that happen. The other activity I enjoy is spending time with Mike with other couples--it gives me a different perspective of him.

9. Be flexible and easy going. Make sure you focus on the important stuff and let go of the little things. Marriage requires flexibility every it really that important that he does silly things such as leaving the honey in the bathroom because he's absent minded? (True story--it happened this morning!) Being a great husband and dad is so much more important than being absent minded. (And I have a long list of stories I could tell about that, many of which happened during our first year of marriage!)

10. Let your partner vent and don't jump in to solve his or her problems. Some dear friends of ours, a lesbian couple, gave us this gem that they use when one of them is complaining: "Do you want sympathy or solutions?" We have tried to use that ourselves. Because both of us are oldest children, not only do we need to remind ourselves to be flexible and easy going, but we also need to realize that the other person might just want to complain and not want directions on how to solve things. I remember when I was managing staff and every time I would complain to Mike about an employee, he'd tell me to fire them! Pretty funny considering the fact that if he were a supervisor he'd be way less likely to fire people than I was.

We are far from perfect, but we've learned these tips along the way. Do you have any to add?

One final tip: find a partner who will take care of you
 if you have to have brain/ear surgery (or any other health ailment!)
Thanks, honey!!

1 comment:

  1. Nice. Paddy just left so I can say laughing is the best of the lot.