I am writing this piece in honor of my friend, Samantha, who just got engaged last night. Samantha and Mitch are young. They have their whole lives ahead of them. They are at the beginning of their journey as life partners. They will experience everything together: joys, sorrows, excitement, successes, hard times and great times. They will learn together. They will grow together. They will make memories. They will hopefully be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary together, surrounded by their children and grandchildren. And I hope that for them.
Here is my engagement gift to Samantha and Mitch: I am going to offer four tips on how to have a good marriage and keep it that way. The reason I have such credibility is ironically because I am divorced! I made a lot of mistakes in my marriage, but I did a lot of things right, too. One thing I can say about myself is that I am a very happy, hopeful, NON-bitter divorcee, who still believes in the power and great joy of true love.
So, if I had something to say to my little sister, here’s the advice I would give:
1. Respect each other: I have a friend who has been married to her husband for 12 years. I spend a lot of time around this couple because our children are all friends, and so I’ve seen the way they speak to each other. They are just really, really genuinely nice to each other, and there is a very obvious respect thing going on. For example, if I ask the husband if they want to come over for dinner, he always says, “Let me talk to Kate about it.” And if I ask Kate, “do you guys want to do something on Saturday with us?”, she’ll say, “Sounds good, but let me run it by Matt.” It’s really nice to see. The two respect each other’s professions, their opinions, and they treat each other with courtesy and a politeness that’s so refreshing! As time goes by, it’s hard to keep that. Unless you are aware! (which you are now.)
2. Water each other: I always tell people, relationships are like plants, or dogs or babies. You have to nurture them. You have to make an effort to keep the fire and excitement alive, and to let you other person constantly remember that you love him or her. If you stop watering your plant or stop feeding your dog, they will die. If you stop watering you husband or your wife, your relationship will get sick and then it will die. Buy her a nice card just to tell her how much you love her, seduce him at the doorway when he walks in from work from time to time, scratch each other’s backs just because. All these things will make your spouse perpetually know how much you appreciate them. And on that note, TELL them you appreciate them now and again. People aren’t mind readers. You think they know it, and maybe they do, but they need to hear it, too!
3. Date each other: I don’t care if you guys end up having 6 kids, you need to date. Don’t ever stop going to football games, don’t ever miss your favourite band when they’re in town because you’re too tired to go out because your kid was up in the middle of the night last night and wouldn’t go back to sleep. Go out for romantic, candlelit dinners, have dates at home after the kids are asleep, have TV dates, where you watch certain shows together! My ex and I used to have “a date at 8,” which was after our kids were both asleep. It really worked. So, why am I divorced? I’m not gonna go there, but trust me, it wasn’t for lack of dating! That really helped.
4. Communicate with each other: Can I tell you what I absolutely love about my boyfriend? If he’s in a bad mood, he will say to me, “I am in the worst mood, please ignore me, I’ve had a crappy day and it has nothing to do with you.” Bingo. He just saved tension and a potential argument, which would start off with me saying, “What’s your problem? Why are you so grumpy?” and him saying, “I don’t want to talk about it.” Talk!!! Say what’s on your mind, because once you get something off your chest, you can heal. And say nice things too! If he’s on his way out the door to a business meeting and he looks hot, say, “You are hot!” He will love, love, love you for that!
Look, I don’t claim to be a know-it-all, but at 46, having been married, and now in a very happy, healthy romantic relationship (probably the first one of my lifetime) I’ve learned a thing or two about what helps a couple stay together. Trust me, if you do these things, you have a WAY better chance of a successful marriage. AND, even better, you’ll just plain old be happy!
Congrats to Samantha and Mitch!