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My husband I have been married 25 years, a quarter of a century, this week. Amazing, huh, since I’m only 24 years old? I remember anniversaries being a big deal back in my parents’ day – the 25th anniversary was called the “Silver Wedding Anniversary” (your 50th, if you live that long, is called the “Golden Wedding Anniversary”, BTW). There were parties, gifts, pomp and circumstance. It seems that wedding anniversaries held a lot more social clout back in the day. I can remember the “official” list of what was an appropriate gift for each anniversary, by year. Wasn’t the 1st Anniversary gift “paper” or something? We don’t seem to take wedding anniversaries as seriously or as importantly as we used to, which is kind of odd because they are rarer now than they’ve ever been.
With 25 years under my marital belt (with the same man, I might add), I guess I’m feeling some sort of moral obligation to share some insight into marital success with the younger crowd. The pressure! Well, first of all, there is no secret to staying and being happily married. That would be too easy, and marriage ain’t easy. Heck, it’s only even fun about half the time. But, I do believe in marriage – it beats watching TV alone (just kidding!). So, here I offer my suggestions – based on 25 years of work experience – of how to make a marriage not only last, but thrive. Most of my suggestions are from a female’s perspective, since I am one, but I would contend that most, if not all, of these points would well-serve both spouses. In honor of the 25 years, I’m offering “25 Tips to a Long and Kinda Sorta Healthy Marriage”:
The Bedroom and Beyond
1. Anybody that says marriage isn’t about sex is lying. It keeps you connected emotionally and really makes a difference in the tone of the marriage.
2. If he ain’t getting sex from you, he’ll get it somewhere. Maybe he shouldn’t, but he will. Either that, or he will be so cranky there will be no living with him. And if he wants to be kinky, as long as it’s not degrading or painful, do it. Who knows, you may like it, and the man will be your lap dog for life.
3. Never assume nobody else would want your husband. I don’t care if he’s nearly bald, has gained 30 pounds, and/or farts a lot. Some other woman will take him – readily. Don’t kid yourself.
4. Kiss every day. Every day. It keeps the intimacy and the connection alive. Do it even when you don’t feel like it – especially when you don’t feel like it. Commit random acts of horniness. Pinch his butt in the kitchen, or stick your tongue in his ear while he’s brushing his teeth. Then, run, because you know what he’s going to want to do next!
5. Tell him he looks hot every morning before he leaves the house. This way, when some other woman tries to tell him that day how good he looks, he can reply, “I know, my wife already told me that”
Communication and Climate
6. Home must be a sanctuary. A place where no one is judged and peace is the priority. The world will treat us badly enough, so the home you and your spouse share has to be a refuge from all that. Make it a place your spouse can’t wait to get home to every night.
7. The qualities and characteristics that attracted you to your spouse in the first place will be the same ones that drive you crazy 20 years later. Back up and embrace those things.
8. Nobody changes just because they’re married. People do change for the better sometimes, but only because they decided to.
9. There are other ways to get him to do what you want besides telling him what to do and without, God forbid, nagging. Men hate to be told what to do. Learn the art of “positive manipulation”. There’s no shame in it, it's for a good cause.
10. Always think “Bank Account”. Deposit/Withdraw. Treat him better, he will treat you better. Do things for him, he will do things for you.
11. Pick your battles. I certainly didn’t coin this phrase – this is a well-known marital tip because it is a good one. Before you pick a fight about anything, first ask yourself “does this really matter?” “Will bringing this up be helpful in the long run?” I would say that about half the time, you will find that it really doesn’t matter and decide it's not worth the cost of a fight.
12. Related to picking battles, remember: You don’t always have to say what you’re thinking, there’s no rule written somewhere that says you have to.
13. On the other hand, don’t neglect to say the good things you think and feel about your spouse. Say them out loud to him, and often. People still want to hear what they already know.
14. It’s OK to lie a little sometimes. Be your husband’s support. Tell him you understand even if you don’t really. Let him know you are there for him, no matter what. And no “I told you so’s”. Ever.
15. You don’t have to have an answer for everything. He just wants you to listen and be supportive. Did you know that most affairs start because the “other” person was willing to listen?
16. Ask yourself, “Would I rather be right, or be loved?” I read this in a book a while back, and I thought it was just a profound statement. The book is called “20 Communication Tips for Couples: A 30 Minute Guide to a Better Relationship” by Doyle Barnett. I have it listed in my “Allie’s Top 24 Favs” if you want to take a look. I highly recommend it. It’s a very quick read in a handbook style, and written rather humorously and fun. I have actually given the book as a wedding gift and people love it (it only costs around $9 so, yes, I give something else with it).
17. Be glad if he wants you to go places with him. If he didn’t want you to go, you’d have reason to worry about where he’s going. Make the time and go along. Even if it is to the gun show (I’m getting dinner out of this!)
18. Allow your husband to share his dreams and ideas with you, even if they are crazy and irresponsible (“You wanna do what?”). Just listen and nod your head a lot. He’s not really going to become a test pilot or join a rock band. Give it a little time, he’ll move on to something else.
19. Don’t assume your husband knows what you want. Yes, it would be so romantic and cool if he could just read your mind – not happenin’. And the philosophy that “Well, if I have to tell him, then it’s not the real thing” is a crock of bull that will just leave you resentful, angry, and still without what you wanted.
20. Respect is HUGE to men. Maybe it’s their fragile male ego, I don’t know, we could argue that point all day. But, I’m a realist, and I’m just telling you, your man has got to know you respect him. Say “thanks” for working so hard for the family, or tell him that the project he (finally) finished looks awesome. Also, really big -- Let him think he makes the decisions in the house (yes, I said “let him think”).
21. Accept that keeping your marriage together is a commitment to the union, not just to the person. I’m telling you right now, there are times when you have to find some other reason to stay married besides “I love him”. Because “he” will get on your last nerve (and you on his) to the point, sometimes, that it would definitely be easier just to “walk”. But you don’t, because you don’t walk away from anything that is important to you.
22. Don’t compare your marriage to anybody else’s. Nobody’s marriage is perfect, no matter what it looks like on the outside.
Yourself as a Spouse
23. Keep in mind: “Everything’s not about me”. That’s true in all aspects of life. And, in a marriage, this applies not only to the idea of compromise and sometimes placing your spouse’s needs first, but also in the sense that you are not responsible for your spouse’s actions. Nobody “makes” anybody do anything.
24. Trust yourself in order to trust your spouse. Probably in no other social relationship is trust more important than in a marriage. But, how do you know if you can completely trust your spouse? My answer to that, while it may seem cynical to some (I prefer to consider it proactive and realistic), is “you can’t know”. You can never know for 100% certainty what somebody else, including your spouse, will or won’t do. But, here’s what you can do: Keep yourself emotionally strong and healthy, so you know that you will be OK no matter what your spouse does. Then, you can just relax and enjoy the relationship.
25. Which reminds me…… Never allow yourself to get involved as the “support person” in the personal (i.e., marital) problems of someone of the opposite sex. Slippery slope to your own affair.
And now, I must close with a joke my dad always told about marriage.
Dad: “Yes, my wife and I have been married 15 happy years”.
Mom: “Excuse me, dear, we’ve been married 30 years”.
Dad: “That's what I said – 15 HAPPY years”.
My parents were married 54 years before my dad passed away.