This summer we celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary. Twenty-eight. If you just did the math, you know that we were married in the ’80s, hence the gargantuan puffy sleeves on my wedding gown.
In the ’80s, that was a thing. Really.
We are at the point in life where marriages around us are showing signs of wear, and decades of annoyance and grudges can eat away at the foundation of even a good marriage. So I decided to try and summarize what I think has kept us happily married—through thick and thin, through two babies, two puppies, two apartments and two home purchases.
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I know, I’m ripping that off from someone who actually took the time to write a book, but hear me out. If you don’t like how he hangs his towel, either ignore it or rehang it yourself if it’s that important to you. If he leaves his shoes on the floor, he’s not doing it to drive you crazy or make a statement. People are people, and not everyone will do the exact same thing the exact same way. If you waste all of your energy on small stuff, you won’t have any left for the big stuff that will come. And it will come, trust me.
2. Share when it makes sense. If you can find a common toothpaste brand, then share a tube! Same mouthwash? Share a bottle! But some things aren’t meant to be shared—like bath towels, underwear, nose rings and shoes.
3. Have a money plan. Yours/mine/ours works well for us, and keeps me from demanding, “Did you really need that wrench/fishing pole/kayak?” and keeps him from asking, “Didn’t you just buy a new pair of sandals last summer?” It’s good to have a little mad money for yourself—not enough that you are running off to Vegas on your lunch break, but enough that you can splurge on a MAC lipgloss once in a while or a secret stash of Dr. Pepper.
4. Never take each other for granted. For every relationship that lasts and lasts, there is another one that didn’t. Some people leave for work and never come home. Even on the worst, most boring days, my heart skips a beat when I see my husband come home from work, and I tell him that. I appreciate that he can fix the water pump on our car; he was amazed when I slip-covered the sofa and love seat without a pattern.
5. Go your separate ways. We spend a lot of time together, and my husband doesn’t travel for work as much as he did when our kiddos were little. When we are apart, whether for a girls’ night out, having a beer after work with the guys or a business trip, we have more to share when we are together again. His voice sounds different, he has stories to tell me, and we make more eye contact than usual. Maybe there is something to that whole “absence” thing.
6. Set some goals together, even if they are silly. Having something you are aiming for together—whether it’s to own your own business, potty train the puppy, paint the house, vacation in Italy, retire on the beach someday or just start a family—brings you closer.
7. Take a look at your honey and pretend it’s the first time you’ve ever seen him, or that it’s the last time you will ever see him. I read this somewhere, and it really stuck with me. It’s amazing what you notice when you look at someone this way. Diapers, credit card bills, stress at work and the daily grind have a way of making you forget what it’s all about.
8. Touch. Well, yeah, of course that, but I mean other kinds of touches that aren’t expected. Run your fingers through his hair while he’s on the computer. Put your arm around his shoulders and give him a squeeze at the grocery store. Give him a peck on the forehead when he’s watching television. I don’t know how it works, but it helps keep us connected. I guess it’s magic.
9. Humor is the key to my marital happiness. Even when a situation seems overwhelming, there’s always something to laugh about. My husband makes me laugh at least once every single day, and he always has. I don’t always think his potty jokes are funny (though the kids do), but it makes me laugh that he thinks they are hilarious. He does impressions. He sings and doesn’t know most of the words, but this doesn’t stop him. He is afflicted with a sort of odd musical syndrome, and the mere mention of a word causes him to break into a song with the same word in it, which usually has nothing at all to do with the conversation we were having. And I laugh.
10. Respect each other. It’s the most important thing. I may not agree with everything my husband thinks or says, and he most certainly doesn’t agree with me all of the time. But because of our commitment to each other, we respect these differences. I respect that he likes Bob Seger and Johnny Cash and will eat mushy bananas. He respects that I like Lady Gaga, love broccoli and enjoy a Dr. Pepper now and then.
Okay, maybe he doesn’t respect the Lady Gaga part so much.
But somehow we have managed to hold on to our marriage–and I would venture to say even made it stronger–by paying attention to these simple things.
Or maybe it was the puffy sleeves.