I have been married for almost 11 years, therefore I am a marriage expert.
I totally looked that up in the Official Official Marriage Expert Certification Bureau Handbook. (Believe everything you read on the Internet.) My husband and I were together for six and half years before we were married, so we have logged several years together relationship-wise. Therefore, I do feel like I can impart a little bit of knowledge in this department.
There are many components to a great marriage, here are some:
- Agree on a division of labor. I personally believe this needs to be explicitly defined, because you both come from different households and have witnessed different divisions of household chores and responsibilities. It can be natural to assume that some of those are universal, but THEY AREN'T. Assuming your spouse will naturally take care of something (let's say vacuuming) because in your house one parent always did it (let's say your dad, for example, completely random example) can backfire, because that may not be the assumption of your spouse. So talk about it, work it out, make assignments, agree on them, shake on it, and then maybe make out a little bit.
- Be flexible about the division of labor. I know I just told you to make a contract, but the thing is your marriage isn't work, it is a holy union, and what binds that union is that you love and respect each other. AND, you are on the same team. That's what happened when you exchanged vows, you promised to be teammates. And I admittedly don't know a lot about sports and teams (except which teams' outfits I like best), but I do know that teams do best when they think about each other and work together instead of a bunch of people trying to be the star. So, hey, if your partner had a long week at work, and he is in charge of meal planning, maybe you do it this time. or if your spouse is traveling and gets home late Thursday night and garbage day is Friday, maybe you take the trash out to the curb for her, even if it is "her" job.
- Don't keep score. No one wins when we try to see who is winning. Truth alert: I sometimes feel like I do more than my fair share of parenting work in my house, even accounting for the fact that I am the parent at home and my husband works outside the house. I have resented this at times, and friends and I sometimes share this complaint. But, my husband absolutely carries more this his fair share of the providing role for our family. So, really we "tie." This isn't too say that we haven't had talks when things do feel out of balance, and now, after a decade of marriage, the talks actually are fairly productive. But, really, it has taken a lot of time and practice for both of us to try to stop winning individually, and instead win collectively. I believe this bit of advice came from my mother-in-law...Marriage isn't 50/50, sometimes you carry more of the weight and sometimes your partner does. Word.
- Go to bed angry. And happy, and sad, and content, and frustrated, and satisfied. Marriage is and should be a safe place to have and live in real emotion. To deny the experience of feeling is doing both your spouse and you a disservice, because it is causing you to lie to each other and sacrifice the beautiful intimacy (not that kind!) that comes with marriage. It has taken me a long time to learn and decide to stop my annoying and counterproductive habit of not telling my husband exactly how I feel. It helps no one for me to say something is okay when it isn't. It just breed confusion and resentment. So, now I tell him the truth even when it is uncomfortable, and expect the same from him. And it isn't sunshine and roses, my true feelings sometimes piss him off and vice versa, but we never have to guess. We trust in the for better and for worse bit. The worse parts suck hard and feel super duper yucky, but sitting in those parts and working through them make the for better sooooooo much better.
- Make each other laugh.
- Have sexy time.
- Make each other laugh during sexy time.
- Do things together, even sometimes the boring stuff that you don't really like but they really, really do.
- Do things separately. If you set aside time to spend quality time together, who cares if he watches all the sports at night in your bedroom, while you cry to Grey's Anatomy and gasp at Scandal in another room. It's all good, just high five when you pass each other in the hallway.
- Compliment each other and thank each other. Being appreciated and noticed is such a great feeling. You love that feeling, so guess what, so does your spouse. (I think I read somewhere that we should love others like we want to be loved.) Babe, the yard looks great. Thanks for mowing and trimming. Darling, you look so handsome with that hair cut. Sugar buns, nobody makes me laugh like you do. Mmmmmm, I love the way your butt and legs look in those jeans. Honey, you work so hard for our family. I admire your work ethic. Sweet pea, I don't think there is anyone else who sings as lovely in the shower and nails those rap lyrics like you.
So there are some ideas from an expert.
There are plenty more, I am sure you can think of some. Share in the comments, pretty please. But what you really want to know is...
The Secret to a Perfect Marriage (drum roll please)
The secret to a perfect marriage is to delight in the perfection of your imperfection. In your marriage there are three entities, You, Your Spouse, and Your Marriage. Each of you grows and changes and flexes and learns. The two of you are beautifully flawed and that is expected, so allow room for and marvel in the beautiful flaws of your relationship too. Learn and forgive and grow.
(Also, sexy time, lots of sexy time.)