Friends and acquaintances often ask us how we manage to maintain such a happy, healthy marriage, so after thinking about it, I decided to share my personal thoughts about having a good marriage with you. My wife and I got married right after college, and we got pregnant the following year.We were a young couple that rushed to get married but were not necessarily ready.
Sadly, our first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage followed by another, but happily – we then had three successful pregnancies that gave us four wonderful children. During our marriage, we moved to four different cities, and I changed jobs five times, which taught me a lot about myself, my partner, and most importantly, my marriage.
1. 50% of expectations will leave you disappointed
We always treated our marriage as a fun competition – “If you can do it, I can do it too”, or “if you do 10 things, I’ll do 10 things”, but the game is over when one side refuses to go the extra mile for the other. This is perfectly normal. It may not happen very often and can even be a result of stress or an illness, but remember: Never tally points in a marriage – someone always loses.
2. Never stop the adventure
When we first met, I was relentless. We would go hiking, I’d prepare candlelight dinners and always tried to surprise my wife. As the years passed, I had more and more responsibilities, which were my excuse for letting the flame die out too often. To keep life exciting and filled with adventure you don’t have to fly to Paris every other weekend. It can also be a quick getaway to a bed & breakfast every few months. Surprising your partner by getting a babysitter and going to a romantic dinner or even a small love note that you leave before you go to work are also great ideas. Keep the adventure going.
3. Kiss each other
This may be one of the more difficult rules, but one of the most important. I also find it difficult, but I make an effort to kiss my wife when I see her after coming home from work, even before I kiss my kids. It’s a small act of affection with great symbolism behind it: To be a better father, I must first be a better husband.
4. Hardships are the true test of love
When marriage was fresh, it was easy for me to love my wife, and for her to love me. It becomes harder to love when you have financial difficulties or when you lose a child. Fairy tales are great for books and Disney cartoons, but real life can be messy and confusing. When the going gets tough, stick together because both you and your partner need the love.
5. Real life is boring
Getting a raise, a new baby, buying your dream home – the big moments in married life are great, but most of your days will be boring. I’ll admit to missing out on several special moments while working on bigger plans, but I now understand that life happens in those special little moments. I learnt to love the journey as much as the destination.
6. Closeness doesn’t mean being present
Coming home early, getting a babysitter, going on a romantic date, and even take a vacation together are all great, but being together doesn’t mean you’re present. I sometimes think that I spend more time on my phone than with the mother of my children, and that’s a terrible thought. When you’re together in the physical sense, also be there in the emotional sense.
7. Comparing is the killer of happiness
In the age where everyone “edits” their life and presents it to the internet, it’s easy to think that other people’s lives are more interesting/fun/loving/etc. than your own. I used to compare my wealth, home, car, abilities, children, and even my wife with others and always came up short. It would siphon my happiness, leaving me bitter. When I realized that Facebook does not represent real life, I stopped paying attention to it and started paying more attention to my own life and family.
We all know marriages that ended in pain and tears, couples that ended up divorced instead of dancing at their golden wedding. My wife and I realized that it could be better to give up from time to time rather than to continue fighting. We’re both aware of our failings during our marriage, but know that they will never break us apart. We understand each other and want only the best for one another. We choose each other every day because we know we’re worth it.
9. Take the initiative
We often find ourselves discussing whether we’re “givers” or “takers” – do we give and support or do we take and use? In my honest opinion, life is better when you allow yourself to give, and the other person will remember. Take the initiative and be a “giver”, you won’t regret it.
10. Don’t forget your friends and family
If you isolate yourself from friends and relatives, you may be tempted to break off the marriage, but when you’re surrounded by supportive friends and family, they’ll help you see things from another perspective. Don’t neglect your family and friends, and try to make mutual friends.
11. Don’t say you’re sorry – ask for forgiveness
I must admit that my wife and I can disappoint each other from time to time. We tell “white lies”, forget important dates, and get upset with each other. There are countless reasons one side can use to fault the other, but instead of assigning blame or avoiding responsibility, you must remember that a marriage grows stronger when you ask “will you forgive me?” rather than saying “I’m sorry”. This question lets you heal and rebuild trust, and will strengthen your relationship.
12. Love trumps all
This list can go on, with dozens of other pieces of advice. I didn’t address things like honesty, time management and compliments, but a mile-long list will mean nothing in a loveless marriage. At the end of the day, love conquers all. It vanquishes fears, pushes you through hardships and adds true meaning to your relationship.
Photos by: J.K. Callif