The 10 Commandments of Modern Relationships
I married relatively young. We married in April -- I had been 21 for about 4 months, and my husband-to-be was 19, turning 20 in two months. We also married relatively quickly -- we were good friends in August 2000, dating by November 2000, engaged by January 2001, and married by April 2001.
By all modern measurements, we were/are doomed to failure. To make it more interesting, in the nearly 10 years we've been married, we've faced the sort of stresses most people deal with over a 30 or 40 year span. I managed a surprise honeymoon pregnancy (lucky us), and we had a child within our first year of marriage. In that same timespan, my husband was seriously injured on the job and was out of work for a time. We lived with in-laws for several months, always a treat.
We've had parenting disputes; disagreements on how to celebrate certain holidays; communication issues; financial/ employment disagreements; parental death; lingering family illness; serious depression; in-laws interfering with well-meaning relationship/ parenting "advice". . . the whole gamut. We've also dealt with a serious natural disaster and the resultant cleanup, which hugely impacted our life and relationships.
I'm not saying we dealt with it all perfectly or beautifully or calmly or maturely. There were difficult, hard, painful times. We even separated once. We've come out in the end stronger for it all, and I am daily amazed and grateful for the wonderful relationship I find myself in.
Now we're nearing our 10 year anniversary. Shortly after we married, I saw a film entitled, "Just Married." It's cute and funny, but a surprisingly accurate and true-to-life piece of advice came from that film: "Some days . . . [you] love each other. Other days, [you] have to work at it. You never see the hard days in a photo album . . . but those are the ones that get you from one happy snapshot to the next."
I have found that to be true in our own relationship. It's the trust and patience that grows from the difficult times, the knowledge that you can rely on this person above all others, that gets you to the good times.
With that in mind, I would like to share some pieces of knowledge I have gleaned both from personal experience and from observing the relationships of my friends and family:
- Do not complain about your partner to others behind their back. It will only come back to bite you in the ass. If you must complain about a behavior, keep it light-hearted and infrequent.
- Do not complain about your partner online (blogs, social networking sites, twitter, etc.). That is seriously just begging for a fight in less than 24 hours.
- If you have a problem with something your partner is doing, the quickest and most effective way to address it is by talking to your partner openly and honestly. Sniping, back-biting, and complaining doesn't get anyone anywhere.
- Going to marriage/ couples counseling is not an admission of failure, it's a commitment to working out ongoing issues that are too difficult for you two to address rationally.
- Do not complain about your finances to others. This is (whether you mean it to be or not) an indirect attack on your partner's ability to contribute and/or provide, and you're upping the humiliation factor by airing your complaints publicly.
- Do not request charity, even from family members, unless your partner is comfortable with it. This ties into the finances thing. Accepting a gift is one thing, outright requesting assistance is another thing altogether. Don't do it unless everyone is on board.
- Do not undermine your partner with others. If you love and respect them, you do not mock them, snipe at them, or degrade them around other people. More than that, airing relationship problems around other people, even close friends or family, is rude. And it will always come back to bite you in the ass.
- Treat your partner's family as you would like to be treated. If you're lucky, you'll end up with a wonderful extended family of close friends. If not, still remain polite. They are your partner's family and deserve to be treated with the same respect and love your partner deserves.
- Unless you are in a mutually-agreed upon open relationship that both of you are comfortable with, don't sleep with other people. If you absolutely must, (as in, you're with the person of your dreams but your sex life is dead and all efforts to resuscitate it have failed miserably) have the common courtesy not to friend your piece on the side on social networking sites or leave sexts and e-mails where your partner can find them.
- Respect each other's individuality, privacy, and values.
- Bonus #11 -- If you have children, put your partner first. Arrange datenights, schedule sex, just make sure they're first. Eventually the kids will grow up and leave -- your partner is supposed to be for life.
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