I’ve known my husband for 21 years, and this September, we will celebrate 17 years of wedded bliss. When we first met, sparks flew and I knew the minute I looked into his blue eyes that we’d get married. Back then, before a mortgage, two kids, and a dog, strong marriages meant romance, friendship, and exactly zero arguments about money. Seventeen years later, however, my definition of a strong marriage goes well beyond flowers and romantic gestures. These days, it’s all about shared chores, a united disciplinary front, and exactly zero arguments from him about my need to watch the Real Housewives.
But while the honeymoon may be over, our union is stronger than ever. Cleaning up vomit together at 2 a.m. will do that to a couple. And though we no longer measure our marriage success on the number of date nights we have or the number of times we have sex per week, there are some pretty strong indicators that our marriage is built for the long haul.
Here are 25 real ways that you can tell your marriage is strong, and spoiler alert: not one of them is “He brings you flowers every day.”
1. You won’t binge watch House of Cards without the other, and you feel guilty if you watch your favorite DVRed shows alone.
2. He brings you coffee after he’s done an early school drop-off. And he remembers the extra sugar.
3. You don’t mind the feel of his feet touching yours in bed.
4. He understands when you hand him the toddler when he walks in from work and isn’t miffed when you say, “I’m leaving” as you sail out the door.
5. You no longer ask each other for permission to spend money.
6. You’ve gotten over the fact that he’ll never, ever put his dishes in the dishwasher.
7. He’s gotten over the fact that you will never take out the garbage, mow the lawn, or dispose of bugs.
8. He’s long since stopped buying you lingerie and knows flannel pajamas are the way to your heart.
9. The sight of him folding laundry makes you horny.
10. When you hear him say, “Mom already said no,” you realize he’s on your side in the “Us Against Them” war.
11. He has seen you poop and still wants to have sex with you.
12. When he runs his hands over the battle scars of childbirth on your body, he still feels the young woman he fell in love with.
13. You have smelled his farts and still have sex with him.
14. He never says a single word when you buy another pair of shoes, and you turn your eyes when he comes home with more car parts for his antique car.
15. You both still agree that the ’80s is the greatest musical genre ever.
16. He knows what to order for you at the bar while you are in the bathroom.
17. He requests your wedding song at every wedding you attend. And then gently leads you to the dance floor.
18. He’s the only person you will admit to that you are wrong. And he’ll never tell.
19. He completely respects your declaration that you will leave him for Jon Bon Jovi if the time ever presents itself.
20. He’ll tell you when your haircut is bad, and you will tell him when he looks like an old man when he’s wearing Dockers.
21. You stayed with him during his P90X phase. And the aftermath when he gained back all the weight.
22. His eyes can meet yours across a party and say, “This party sucks. One more drink and we can go.”
23. You’ve suffered through recitals and chorus concerts, and you’ve both agreed that your kid sucks at the oboe.
24. Date nights are now quick cocktails after Christmas shopping or parent-teacher conferences, and you are grateful for that time together.
25. There’s no one else who will put up with your shit, and you both know it.
Marriage is hard, and in the day-to-day struggles of parenting and work, it can be a challenge to remember who you were before kids. But if you look closely enough at your relationship, there are signs that the blue eyes looking at you from across the dinner table would do it all over again. Except maybe the cleaning up vomit at 2 a.m. part. No one gets married for that.