I remember saying “I do” like it was yesterday. Literally, every detail, like it was only 24 hours ago. The happiness that consumed me. How I got butterflies while walking up to Doug during our first look and couldn’t think of anything else to say besides, “Hi honey”. (Way to go, Em.) Walking down the aisle with complete confidence that this was the person I was supposed to be with the rest of my life. Twirling around the dance floor, gazing into Doug’s eyes, singing our song to one another. (If you’re thinking I’m a major cheeseball, it’s because it’s true.)
The beginning of marriage is a sweet time, indeed. It’s roses, sunshine, and perhaps even rainbows. Ideally it’s a time where you can foresee nothing – not even a disastrous life event – rocking your unyielding love for one another.
…And then reality sets in. Ohh yes, it sets in, and when it does, you may look at those lovely rainbows and sunshine that you once idealized and say, “$&%* off.”
What type of reality, you ask? The everyday kind. The, “Can you please do your dishes instead of leaving them in the sink!?” kind. The I-just-tripped-over-your-annoying-pile-of-clothes kind. (I’m the guilty party there.) The kind where sometimes you need to go on a loooong walk. The kind where you get into a fight so big, you want to just…SCREAM. We’re all human, after all. Ya?
As much as we all wish happily ever after was really a thing, it’s simply not. A happy marriage requires work. Hard work. And while I know that the 2.5 years under my belt doesn’t make me an expert, I have learned a lot so far. Things that I could never have known while dating. Things that only experiences can bring. Things that I’m about to share with you here – the good and the bad – because life is filled with both. And despite the ups and the downs, I’m proud to have what I consider to be a very happy marriage with my hubby. Any hard times have only made us stronger, and the good times have been plenty. I truly believe that the principles that we’ve developed together have helped to make this the case.
After you’re done checking out the below, be sure to swing by Sequins and Stripes for Liz’s list. Liz is a dear friend of mine, and so is her husband Dave. I can personally attest that as a couple they’re amazing – they’re always so real and laid back, and have fun together. I personally can’t wait to read her advice! (Be sure to also check out Secrets of Motherhood I Only Tell My Girlfriends – a post Liz and I did together almost a year ago – that helped to inspire this series idea.)
Without further ado, here are my Secrets To A Happy Marriage.
Secret #1: Celebrate the good.
Life is full of little wins. Celebrate every single one of them, even if it’s in a small way. Your tendency to highlight the positive will not only make your significant other smile and feel appreciated, but it’ll keep what truly matters at the forefront of both of your minds.
Did your spouse get a compliment from their boss? Dramatize that high-five. Enjoy that delicious dinner they just whipped up? Pour a little extra wine in both your glasses and say “Cheers!” Did they tell a funny joke? Laugh, for crying out loud. Love a new song? Play it, grab them, and dance.
Give your spouse good vibes and I promise they’ll give right back.
Secret #2: Be nice.
Seems so simple, right? But, this is actually one of the areas that I find hardest to keep in check for myself, not because I’m not nice, but because it’s so easy to take your significant other for granted. If I’ve had a bad day, or am overly stressed, guess who gets the brunt of it? Yup, poor Dougy. I have a tendency to smile to others, but come home and blah all over.
It’s far too easy to fall into the habit of not being nice to one another in everyday moments, simply because you’re around each other all the time. But I’ve found that keeping kindness at the top of mind, even when I’m not feeling super kind internally, has made a big difference. And, since practicing this in a very conscious way, I’ve noticed that Doug reciprocates this same niceness to me, even in times when I can tell he’s straight up annoyed or wants to be alone. Thanks, boo.
Secret #3: Take It Elsewhere
We all know couples that constantly bicker. I’ve noticed that happens after lots of time getting used to not practicing said kindness above. They make snide comments, which sound annoyed, which turn into daggers, and all of a sudden we’re all left wondering if they even like one another. Sometimes I don’t think those couples even know that they’re doing it, because they’re so accustomed to talking to each other with hostility. Doug and I have literally made it our goal to not do that, and to keep one another in check with honesty when and if we falter a bit.
You know said couple above? They are the ones who have no issue fighting in front of the group like it’s a reality tv show that we all want to watch. News flash: The rest of us aren’t interested. Not only does fighting publicly embarrass you, but it embarrasses the other person, too. It can escalate things beyond where they’d normally go, and can cause severely hurt feelings over bruised egos. Do your relationship, and everyone else, a favor and take it elsewhere.
Secret #4: Fighting is healthy. As long as you fight fair.
Though I highly recommend fighting in private, I don’t recommend not fighting. I’ve actually found fights to be very healthy, but there’s a caveat. You have to fight fair. No name calling, no blame throwing, no talking without listening. Cool off if you need to. When you’re ready to address the issue, lay out your point of view as rationally as you can, explain how things made you feel, and talk it out. Take turns sharing your points of view, until both of you are able to come to a resolution. Secret #5: Have fun.
Again, seems simple. But I can’t stress this enough as it’s the holy grail of my secrets to a happy marriage. Having fun with your spouse is the best way to have fun in life. Make a list of places to see, and plan trips together. Dance. Embrace one another’s playful side. Go on dates. Hang with your friends. Talk about your dreams. Get wild with your imagination. Play with your kids. Go on walks.
Really, truly enjoy them. The goal is to have more good times than bad. If you do this, you will win, in marriage and in life.
Secret #6: Scratch their back, and expect them to scratch yours.
If you ask Doug, he’ll tell you this one is biased because there are few things I love more in life than a great back scratch. But I digress. After all, I don’t mean this literally.
Here’s the thing: Marriage is a complete partnership. Financially, logistically, emotionally, you name it. It’s important to know and recognize not only what the other person wants in your relationship, but what they want out of life. Equally important is helping one another to the best of your ability.
Scratch their back, and expect them to scratch theirs. By this I mean, fully support their hopes and dreams, and do whatever you can as a unit to make those dreams happen. In return, expect them to do the same for you.
This give/take results in creating a strong support system for one another, and helps to establish the very necessary certainty that your spouse has got your back, no matter what. You believe in them, and they you. Support for one another is not a question. No matter what those dreams may be, you are in it together. Whether you accomplish that dream or not is not important in this mindset. What’s important is knowing that you have the unyielding belief of your best friend that you can do it. Which makes all the difference in the world.
Secret #7: It’s Never 50/50
My dad gave this advice once, and I think it was so spot on. If you expect things to be equal, you’ll always be struggling with balance. Things are often off center in marriage. And that’s okay.
The wrong way to look at issues, favors, or happenings is to count them, meaning that if you do something, the other person owes it to you right back. Wrong. Do things out of love. Don’t expect anything in return. Don’t tit for tat your partner. Some weeks — some years, even — one person may need to step up and do a bit more. This could mean financially providing, doing more household work, helping with kids, or even providing emotional support. Life is (hopefully) long and full of twists and turns. It’ll all even out eventually.
What are your secrets for a happy marriage? If you’re not married, do you have secrets for happy relationships in general? If you’re open to sharing, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Also, be sure to swing by Sequins and Stripes for Liz’s post and more secrets on this topic!