Have a Short Memory
He forgot to mow the lawn. He broke the dishwasher. The kid fell down on his watch. Everyone makes mistakes, and your spouse will make plenty. This gives you ample opportunity to catalog all of his errors and faults, if you so choose. But remembering every little thing your spouse does wrong—and throwing it back in their face when it suits you—is a near-guarantee that you won’t be as happy as you could be.
Live with Imperfection
No one is at their best 24 hours a day, and you will sometimes see (and hear, and smell) some things about your beloved that you don’t love, or even like. When your imperfect spouse starts to get under your skin, remember, everyone, from Bradley Cooper to Brad Pitt, has a few less-than-stellar qualities. Maybe more than a few—celebrities aren’t exactly marriage champions. In fact, they make less-than-perfect regular guys look pretty good, if you ask me.
Marriages are sustained by lots of small deposits of goodwill over the long run. In marriage, you need to put in a little more than you expect to take out (the same is true of bank accounts and careers). Give without expecting to be repaid immediately. Marriage is a certificate of deposit, not a checking account—it’s a long-term investment.
Sharing an interest—even something as simple as a favorite TV show—is a great way to ensure that you’ll spend enjoyable time together. Find a television show to watch together. Learn to enjoy a sport that he likes. Take up birdwatching.
Let Each Other Grow
Steve and I got married right out of college, and I knew that in order to succeed as a couple, we’d both have to do a lot of growing up, both together and as individuals. Today, people feel like they need to travel the world and “find themselves” before getting married. But no matter how many times you’ve circled the globe, or how complete you feel as a person when you say “I do,” you will still experience growth after marriage. Giving your spouse space to grow (and taking the space you need, as well) is one of the best gifts you can give your marriage.
Change Your Socks, Not Your Spouse
The man I married loves the Seahawks. He was born to be a coach. He values his high school friends. These qualities make him the person he is. And I try my best to let him keep the traits that make him the man I fell in love with—even when they inconvenience me. His personality is not mine to tinker with.
Be Your Own Person
Puh-lease—take some time “you” time on a regular basis. Don’t wait for your spouse to give you a gift-wrapped certificate for a spa day, because it may never happen. And don’t wait until you feel burned out and full of resentment before finally taking a girl’s night out or signing up for a Zumba class. You need time for yourself like you need air.
Steve is great at making me see the lighter side of things. And “forcing” me to watch shows like Tosh.O, “against my will.” Thanks in great part to him, I laugh every day. Laughing together has kept us happy through the highs and lows of life.
Men don’t like being bossed around. Trust me on this one. You may feel like you “run” your household, and you probably do. But if you want more household help from your husband, don’t simply hand him a list of chores. You are not his boss. Approach any problem as a co-collaborator, and give him shared responsibility for the outcome.
A wise family member once told me “Expectations are pre-meditated resentments.” It’s breathtakingly easy to develop lofty expectations for your mate without saying a word about what it is you’re expecting of him or her. These unspoken expectations can blossom into resentments faster than dandelions go to seed.
Never Worry Alone
Sometimes, after a long day wrapped up in your own concerns, it seems easier just to turn out the lights and say goodnight instead of sharing your worries with your spouse. One of my favorite authors, Edward Hallowell (he literally wrote the book on Worry) wrote something I think of often: Never worry alone. Sharing a life means sharing your worries, big and small. And being married to your best friend means that you never have to worry alone.
Older and (possibly) wiser: Steve and I at our 10-year vow renewal in Maui.