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How to Have a Happy, Strong, and Successful Marriage
I’ve been with my husband for 21 years and married for 16 of those. We’ve moved multiple times, including once across the country, changed jobs, adopted pets, had a son who has been diagnosed with autism, and gone through job loss. If there’s a stressor, chances are, we’ve encountered it. Yet we’re still together, and happy to be so. What is the secret to our success? Well, it’s more than one secret, but I’m here to share them with you.
Actually, do compromise. But don’t look at it like it’s a compromise because it shouldn’t be, and it really isn’t. You’re not giving in; you’re agreeing. Marriage shouldn’t be about making deals and trades. Change how you look at it, and change your perception of what you’re doing. You are doing something to make your partner happy. That isn’t a compromise; it’s a solution.
Are you happily married?
Have lots of sex – or don’t
Having a matching sex drive is important. It doesn’t matter if that means you have a lot of sex or a little sex. The most important thing is that both of you are happy with what you’re getting out of it. And remember that sex isn’t sex. Someone once said that foreplay is what happens between sexual encounters. Consider everything you do together as foreplay building up to the next time you have sex. If sex isn’t possible due to any factors, remember that intimacy is just as important. Try to find time every day to be intimate. It could be taking a bath together, or even taking turns taking baths (if the bathtub is too small) while talking. It could be lying in bed together for half an hour, letting the stresses of the day go. It could even be taking a walk around the neighborhood holding hands. As long as you’re interacting and sharing personal details, you’re making a connection that will keep you together.
Enjoy doing things together
I’d like to think this goes without saying, but a lot of couples I know don’t have many things they like doing together. Now, it doesn’t have to be something major that you enjoy, but it has to be something that you can do together and that gives you something to talk about or bond over. Watching bad movies, volunteering at soup kitchens or animal rescues, reading books (even if they’re about different things), and even working out all give you something to share and something to enjoy together.
Enjoy doing things apart
Just like it’s important to enjoy doing things together, it’s good to enjoy doing things on your own. Spend some time alone or with friends, and be happy that your significant other does the same. Maybe there’s a movie you just don’t want to see, but your spouse does; let them go. Maybe you really want to see the new exhibit at the museum, but it’s impossible to get there at the same time due to work schedules. Go by yourself, then get together and compare notes.
Speak your own language
I don’t mean to speak baby-talk or romance-talk or whatever you want to call it when you see people on Facebook making sweet entreaties at each other. What I mean is, have a language that means something to you. In my case, we both love certain television shows and books, and we will quote lines from them in appropriate situations. We both also love music, and so we can quote lyrics to each other. Being able to have those in-jokes helps to cement you together.
Indulge each other
You can indulge someone in a lot of different ways, and it isn’t a bad thing. In this case, it really just means to know what the other person likes and then find ways to give them things they like. It doesn’t have to be material objects, like guitars, although those are always appreciated. It can also be time. Especially after children, time can be a precious commodity, so being able to give someone an hour to go do something they enjoy or cooking them something that they enjoy eating but don’t always have time to make for themselves are excellent ways to indulge each other without spending anything.
One of you wants to learn to ride motorcycles. One of you wants to go back to college. One of you wants a dog. These are all great changes to learn and grow and change together. Why not both learn how to ride by taking a class together? Why not both go back to school, even if one pursues a degree and the other one takes continuing education classes? Why not learn all about the types of dog you may want? Don’t think of these things as ways to grow apart; consider them as ways to grow together.
Talk a lot
If you looked at my cell phone bill, you would notice that of the hundreds of texts I send a month, the majority of them are to my husband. Why? Because we like to talk. Even if it’s just quick updates (just got home from the store – it was mega crowded) or little things (the mail sucked today!), they are still ways to keep in touch. If you’re going to be married to someone, you better like them enough to want to talk to them, and they better like you enough to want to hear what you have to say and you better like them enough to want to hear what they have to say! Communication is key in any relationship, and spending the time to stay connected will help strengthen what you already have.
What is the greatest struggle in your marriage?
Deal with conflict
I like to fight. Well, not really, but I prefer it to the alternative. If you let things fester, they will only get worse. Spend the time to communicate and talk (see how important that is?!). If it’s something serious that is causing a conflict and you’re worried about how to talk about it, think about written mediums. You can send e-mails, write notes, and even text. You can sign up for an IM service and “talk” through the computer. These are all ways to help disconnect a little from the issue and let you talk about it without having to feel defensive. You have time to consider what you want to say and how to say it. Being quiet doesn’t make things better. Only by dealing with conflict can you resolve anything.
Deal with money
One of the most common causes for divorce is fights about money. Figure out what works for you in your relationship. In my marriage, I am in charge of the checkbook. That doesn’t mean I decide where the money gets spent; it just means that I know how much we have, how much we expect in every month, and what the budget is. It means that I can say, “Yes, we have enough money for that,” or, “No, we don’t have enough money for that.” Once you can decide on who will track the money, then you can decide where and how to spend it. Remember what I said about compromise? Here’s your chance to live it.
Seriously. Everything. Well, okay, don’t share toothbrushes if the thought grosses you out, but share as much as you can. Share the shower in the mornings. Share the bed at night. Share lunches when you eat out. Share the responsibilities you have in life. Share the happiness you have. Don’t consider anything “mine” and “yours” – it’s all “ours.”