No, I’m not bad at punctuation. What I’m referring to is the secret to a good marriage.
This weekend, my husband and I are celebrating 12 years of marriage. I should probably say some Instragram-ish BS about how it’s been the 12 most amazing years of my life, and I am #blessed to have the most amazing partner. Truth is, it has been 12 years of incredible happiness, fear, joy, pain, successes, and failures. Like anything in life, marriage isn’t easy, and is subject to the good, the bad, and the ugly. Despite these truths, I can honestly and truly say that I could not imagine a more amazing partner. While 12 years isn’t much compared to many of the couples we look up to, married anywhere from 25 to 50 years, I still think I have a thing or two to say about what makes a marriage amazing.
Mutual Goals: Dreaming together has been one of the most fun things we have done in our 17-year-long relationship. For the most part, few of these dreams have come true, but dreaming together has helped us learn what the other wants out of life, and how they intend to get it. At the same time, we have found it so important that when we have a concrete goal in mind, whether buying a house, starting a family, or running a business, we ensure that we are clear and honest about what we want, and sometimes more importantly, what we do not want. One of the hardest parts of this has been the vulnerability that comes along with these disclosures, but we have found it has made it that much more important to hear what the other is saying.
Mutual Respect: Any couple that says they don’t fight is either lying, or not talking enough. Those who know me best won’t deny that I am opinionated and passionate when I care about a cause. The same rings true when it comes to marital conflict. Do we argue? Of course. Do I want to win? Yeah, totally, but what we have learned over time is that we would rather be happy than right. This isn’t to say that we cower away and let the other walk all over us, but what I mean here is that the way in which a couple fights and resolves their conflicts is likely one of the most important factors in a harmonious marriage. Fighting fair, being respectful, and listening to what the other is saying are key.
Fun: Every couples therapist will tell you to make sure you go out on date nights. While I totally agree that spending quality time together is important on a regular basis, equally important is finding moments in your day to have fun. Fun doesn’t have to mean an elaborate trip to Disney World (although, have you been? It’s amazing); fun can come in simple moments like sharing an inside joke through a text message during your workday, or watching your favourite funny movie in your PJs after the kids are in bed. It’s all about creating positive connections with one another.
Talk. A lot.: One of the craziest things about a great marriage is that it’s like having a sleep over with your best friend every day. After 12 years of marriage, we still manage to stay up late most days and talk about anything under the sun—work, parenting, society, politics, you name it. Similar to the other points in this list, talking often and about a variety of things allows us to truly know our partner, their hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes, and about the weird guy they saw at the grocery store yesterday.
Be a Team: I think that I can speak for both of us in saying that nothing has made us work as a team more than being parents, and owning a business. This is not to say that those without these elements cannot work as a team, but these have been the two stand-out experiences for us thus far. During year one of marriage when we got into a fight about ketchup, man, I thought our problem solving skills as a couple were pretty sweet. Fast forward a decade or so, and add in some serious stress—a kid in the hospital, changing careers, not being on the same page about serious stuff—makes me wish we could fight about ketchup again sometimes. Being a team means a lot of things for us; problem solving as a team, working towards our goals as a team, and sharing our joys as a team
So, I feel like I can go on forever with tidbits of wisdom, but you’d probably stop reading to barf over me talking about how much we love and respect each other. Suffice to say, I think that these 5 are a great start for most couples. As a therapist, however, I can wholly appreciate and understand the impacts that things like trauma and abuse can have on a relationship, and for those situations, there isn’t checklist to follow; these ideas are for couples who feel like they can’t quite get it together. To sum it all up, the best way to get it together, is working on it together.