After we'd been married about five years, people started asking me for marriage advice. I found this hilarious at the time, and I still do. Even after ten years I thought to myself, "We're just getting started! We're still figuring this out!" Now we are at sixteen years (almost twenty if you count the time dating). I have stories. I have examples. I still think we are just babies at this though. I still think we have so long to go, so many years, so many miles.
So here's how we did it. It might work for you. It might not. But here's what we did.
1) Marry someone you actually like.
This sounds really stupid, right? Of course you would like the person you were marrying, right? Why would you marry someone you didn't like?
Guess what? People do this all the time. Seriously.
"I love him, but I don't like him"
"I love her, but I hate that she does XYZ"
Or my personal favorite:
"He's an ass"
I mean, everyone's an ass sometimes. There are moments I've looked at my husband and thought, "You are a fool with a double side of nonsense". I'm sure he's thought the same about me.
Overall though, I genuinely like my husband and he genuinely likes me. There is nothing that he does that I consider a deal breaker (like, kick dogs or be mean to little old ladies or whatever). Even when he does something boneheaded, I still know he's a good person. He knows I'm a good person.
2) Don't do everything together.
Jason and I do a lot together. Based on conversations with my friends, I think we probably do more together than most couples. That being said, we also have completely separate hobbies and activities. I could not get him to do half the stuff I do on my own (if you ever see Jason running, you should start running too because there is probably a bomb about to explode) and he could not ever convince me to do some of the things he enjoys. That's okay. We don't have to do everything together. We don't want to do everything together.
3) Agree to disagree.
There are many topics that Jason and I debate. There are many topics on which we agree, fully. There are several other topics that we disagree on. We are both respectful of one another's points of view. That being said:
4) Never marry someone who disagrees with your Hill to Die On.
Everyone is going to have a different Hill to Die On. Personally, I have a few and mostly they involve children. If Jason did not feel the same way about my Hills I would not have married him. Full stop. We might disagree on the way to execute certain things, but if he ever said something to me like, "I don't think my tax dollars should go to make sure school children have lunch during the day" or ever used the term "boot straps" when it came to children, I absolutely could not be married to him. (Also, not at ALL the topic of this blog, but I pay an absolute asston of taxes every year and I would gladly give even more of my hard-earned dollars to make sure that every child in this country had good food and good schools, because children are our future, dammit. Anyway. Moving on)
5) Before you get married, talk about really hard things.
Do you want children or nah? If you do, how do you want to raise them? Where do you want to live? How are you going to earn a living? What about religion? Politics? Family crap? Talk about it. Talk about it again. Talk about it some more. Think up every single what-if scenario you can think of and TALK. ABOUT. IT.
Jason and I were mere babies, only twenty-seven years old, when we said "I do". I've admitted this before, but I honestly didn't think about things like the logistics of having two kids in college at the same time and what would happen if one of us got an incurable illness. These are shitty, difficult, painful conversations and you absolutely must have them. You must. Even when they hurt, even when they are hard, even when you would rather curl up in a ball and cry instead. You have to talk about this.
7) You have to change.
The biggest concern it seems that people (okay, mostly men) have about marriage is that they don't want things to change. They say, "I'm happy with how things are! I don't want things to change!"
I mean, people change. You can't stay the same. You cannot remain stagnant. You are not the same person you were at 22 when you are 42 (God, let's hope not anyway). You are going to change. Period. The end. If you want to stay together you have to change together.
(Now, if your spouse decides they want to change into a Nazi or bring in a Sister Wife or something, then feel free to reject that change and walk out the door. I'm talking about like normal, growing up, getting older type changes, not being radicalized or whatever)
8) Be insanely stupid with each other.
Not a day goes by that we don't make up a ridiculous song and loudly sing it to each other. We're considering starting a YouTube channel for which we'll record ourselves watching videos from the 1980's and reacting to them. We talk to the dog like she's a person.
These are all good. I can't be nearly as stupid with anyone else. It's nice.
9) Say yes as often as you can.
I tell my husband, frequently, he is the neediest person I've ever met. I say this lovingly, of course, but he does ask for whatever he'd like from me whenever he would like and frankly sometimes this is exhausting. However, it also makes me happy because he feels 100 percent comfortable in communicating what he wants and needs to me. (Even after this many years, this is something I'm still working on, not just with him but with everyone). He knows he can be open to me. If I say no, he's fine with it. He's never, ever made me feel bad about saying no.
So if he says, "Will you rub my back?" or "Can we get coffee?" or "Will you get me the special ice cream with the chocolate fish in it?" I try to say yes. Sometimes I'm tired and don't feel like rubbing his back. Sometimes I think to myself, good God his coffee costs $5. Sometimes the ice cream that's his favorite is way more expensive than the other ice cream.
Sometimes I just say no.
But for every time that I say yes, he says, "You're the best wife ever!" and he does things like leave me love notes all over the house, and send me text messages in the middle of the afternoon to say he loves me. He tells everyone how proud he is of me. He genuinely, sincerely appreciates everything I do and I know it. I feel it.
So I say yes whenever I can.
10) Dream the biggest, most stupid, most impossible dreams together.
Last year Jason and I were out on a walk and we were talking about our careers and our future. I told him, "It's my goal to make X amount of dollars every year". He immediately said, "That's a lot" and then immediately after that he said, "I believe you can."
This year, I will make that amount of money I said that day on that walk. He is so proud of me that when I opened my offer letter for my current job while we were standing in the Einstein Bagel in the Seattle airport that he started crying (so did I!). Here we were, two hillbillies in the middle of Seattle, crying in the line of the Einstein Bagel and we couldn't even stop it. He kept saying how proud he was of me and I knew it. I felt it. He believes in me the way no one ever has, and I believe in him the exact same way.
We have goals. We have dreams. They sound dumb sometimes. Ridiculous, especially for two people who grew up as poor kids. We work together though and believe fiercely in each other's abilities.
Plus, it's just fun to dream about living on the side of a mountain or owning a restaurant or whatever crazy thing you can come up with. Even if it never happens it's okay!
So you have the goals and you have the dreams and you have the plans and you've talked about everything, so you're good right? Well, hopefully. Sometimes though, life has a different plan and comes along and knocks you on your ass.
Someone is going to lose their job at some point, or get sick, or get depressed. Your dog is eventually going to die (and oh, how I wish they could live forever). Your parents will get old. Your kids will grow up. Things are not always the way you plan, no matter how carefully you plan.
So you pivot. You don't fall off course completely, you keep going. Together.
Jason has said to me several times, we are in different seasons of our life. Things change, and a lot of really unexpected things have happened to us. It's okay. Someday we'll look back on this as just another season of our life. We can't let everything fall apart because of the unexpected.
12) Do not talk to anyone in your extended family about your problems.
NO GOOD CAN COME OF THIS. JUST DO NOT DO IT.
You know what happens when you tell your mom about the problems with your husband? She gets pissed at your husband and even when you get over it, she doesn't. Next time you all come over to dinner and you've made up and you're sitting there making goo-goo eyes over the mashed potatoes, she's thinking to herself, "That son of a bitch".
Just don't do it.
Andalsoplus, you are grown people. Resolve that stuff with each other. Don't tell your mom. Don't tell your dad. Don't tell your sister or your brother or your grandma. Tell each other.
If you ABSOLUTELY MUST tell someone when you are pissed at your husband and don't have a good friend, a priest, a therapist, a parakeet, your dog or cat, a houseplant, or your pet rock then tell his mother. She will forgive him anything he does and she doesn't believe you are all that great anyway.
(I'm just kidding about that last part and have literally never told my mother-in-law anything private about my marriage. She doesn't think I'm that great anyway though, that part is actually accurate.)
13) Laugh all the time.
We laugh about the most stupid things. These are the best things to laugh about.
Watch funny shows together. Go see comedy (we LOVE to see comedians live). Read funny things online to each other. Text each other memes. Have inside jokes (ours is Dennis Franz and I literally just laughed typing his name). Laugh about EVERYTHING!
14) Say I love you as much as you can.
I told Jason when we got married that I never wanted to get complacent about that. That, yes, he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that I love him, but I wanted him to hear it every single day for the rest of his life.
So I say it. I text it to him. I tell him I love him before he falls asleep at night, before he goes to work, just for no reason whatsoever. He never doubts how I feel. I never doubt how he feels. It's just really, really nice to hear it, even when you know it.
15) Believe that you got a catch.
People used to tell me all the time how lucky I was that I met a man who was accepting that I had two little babies.
They were correct.
Also, he was really lucky to get someone as nice and smart and hard-working as I am. People didn't say that as much, but it is just as true.
So he's a catch. I know this. He thinks I'm a catch too. He tells me this. I tell him this. We both think we are the lucky one. We both ARE lucky.
I tell him all the time how handsome he is. How hard-working and gentle and kind and loving he is. How lucky I am. How much I appreciate him. He does the same for me (not handsome, that would be weird, but the rest).
16) Give 100 percent, even when you don't feel like it.
People sometimes say marriage is 50/50. I think those people are wrong. Marriage is 100/100.
Now, in case it's not obvious from this list, I absolutely adore my husband. Also? He exhausts me sometimes. Wears my ass out. Sometimes I just want to sit on the bed and watch endless episodes of the Teen Mom program, and here he comes asking my opinion on things or wanting to tell me about his day or whatever. Sometimes he wakes up me up earlier than I want to be woken up. Sometimes, I'm just cranky as Hell. Let's be real.
He's more important. Yes, even more than Teen Mom or extra sleep.
So I give 100 percent. Sometimes I don't want to listen or make dinner or buy the special ice cream, but he's more important. Sometimes I talk about my day and his eyes start glazing over and I know he has absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, but he listens. He asks questions. He cares.
He gives 100.
I give 100.
It's as simple and as complicated as that.
So that's marriage. So far. We still have so much to learn. I know this.
I can't wait.