When people hear I’ve been married over fifteen years with no arrests or appearances on the news, they start asking for my secret. Let’s be honest: those of us with long marriages under our belt will admit there’s love in it. Sure. But there’s hatred and madness, too. So with more than half of marriages ending in divorce (and did you know about 65% of second marriages also end in divorce?), I’m here to give you a few pointers on how not only to stay married, but maybe even be glad you did.
Forget the breathless romance. Too many people are sold on the idea that you will always feel the way about your partner the way you did when you first met him. LIES! Even if you marry Gandhi, there will be a time when you will want to scream at him to get his damn sandals out from under the coffee table. Long marriages are based on friendship. So if y’all don’t enjoy doing similar activities and mutual shared projects, it’ll be hard. And when you’re relationship isn’t good, folks, the sex is the first thing to go. A good sex life is an indicator of an emotionally intimate relationship.
Realize you married who you married. I have discovered that men, indeed, are not tomatoes. You don’t pick them and have them magically ripen on the shelf into the person you actually want. If he’s not much of a talker now, he never will be. Marriage is not a magic wand that changes someone into someone else. Time to quit asking that tomato to be an apple. It’s called maturity, folks. And guess what: you picked that tomato, honey. You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.
You suck, too. Realize that just like when your partner leaves empty containers in the fridge, making your head want to explode into a fine, pink mist, you too have foibles that make YOU less than easy to live with. Does my husband gnash his teeth every time I fail to alphabetize the spice rack? I have a theory. But here’s what we do for each other: we review the list of each other’s negative qualities and invite each other in, anyway. For every annoying thing your partner does, you irk him in kind. In the end, it just comes down to one question: But am I better off with or without this person?
Animus et fortis. Latin for “friendship and fidelity.” This is a mindset, folks. Do you treat your partner as considerately as your best friend? Accept that you swore on an altar before God As You Understand Her to defend this person? If you look carefully, the old saying about hurting those closest to us is inevitably true. Do you speak more respectfully to retail store staff than your partner? Check that. And fidelity? It’s not just keeping your underwear on, people. It means aligning your lot with your partner, being on their team and being head cheerleader for Team Marriage. At all times. Even when he or she is wearing his or her butt on his or her shoulders. Maybe even especially then.
They don’t complete you. I am a romance addict; ask anyone. I’m addicted to soaps (don’t judge me), chick flicks, and frothy Gothic English novels by Jane Eyre. But even I know that hubs and I are two separate people. Too many people, women especially, enter into relationships and lose themselves. And suddenly we’re pouting because our partner wants time alone or with friends. Remember where you end and begin, friends. It’s alright hubs wants to watch Dr. Who in one room while I read in another. Togetherness is not always all it’s cracked up to be.
To everything, there is a season. My father’s wedding day advice? “You’re going to want a divorce one day. Just know it isn’t an option.” No, I didn’t get my romantic streak from him, but perhaps my blunt honesty. Because the truth is you will want a divorce if you stay married long enough. Hell, you’ll want to commit a splattery crime, I assure you. But kind of like knocking over a liquor store when you’re broke, you just won’t go there. There will be times you will wander more away from one another, and then seasons when you are closer than ever before.
Build yourself. Give up the fantasy your partner will change as well as trying to force your partner to change. Change instead your expectations of your partner and yourself. Let your partner do it their way. Make requests instead of demands, and accept “no” as an answer without getting angry or sulking.
Marriage. It ain’t for the feint of heart, friends. Maybe it ain’t even natural. But it can be deeply satisfying and mutually beneficial. But we’ve got to lose some of the ridiculous expectations we have about love and marriage that we’ve learned from the radio, TV, and movies. Because having a best friend with benefits for the rest of your life? That can definitely not suck.