Michael’s Simple Guide to a Long and Happy Marriage

Jennifer and I are coming up on our 12-year wedding anniversary on Sunday. We’re still very much in love. When they meet us, people usually assume that we are newlyweds because we are that into each other. We have not done anything complicated, and the ‘work’ has not been hard. Not only am I completely willing to give away our secrets to success, I would hope that everyone could be at least as happy as we are. So, I wanted to jot down a few points here to hopefully help others.

1 – Put your spouse first, before anyone else on the planet. That includes yourself, your kids, your parents, your siblings, or your best friend. Everyone else plays second fiddle to your spouse. That is not in any way to say that you should neglect your other loved ones and their needs, just that they should never take precedence over your spouse. Setting your spouse aside to give anyone else more of yourself will tear at your marriage. I don’t care who the person is or what is the nature of the relationship.

2 – Have fun with your spouse. Take up hobbies together. Gardening, kayaking, origami, target shooting, stamp collecting, para-sailing, it doesn’t really matter. Whatever you like to do, like to do it with your spouse. You have choices to make, and you can choose to grow together or grow apart. If you don’t make the choice, you are leaving it to chance that you and your spouse may have interests and beliefs develop separate from each other, and ultimately you will grow apart. Plan differently.

3 – Don’t rely on hormones or passion. The romance will naturally ebb and flow. In the times that you aren’t really into your spouse, they should still be your favorite person for other reasons. Love will make the passion return. In the cooler times, I find that I love my wife more as a friend than a lover. That bond of friendship actually causes the heat to come back into the relationship. If you have an opposite gender ‘best friend’ other than your spouse, who are you going to be giving your attention to when the passion in your marriage has cooled? If the passion returns at that point, will it be between you and your spouse, or you and your ‘best friend’? And you can’t tell me, “It’s not like that.” It is always exactly like that. I’ve seen more marriages than I can count come apart at the seams for just this reason. It’s always tragic.

4 – Always pursue. People like to be sought after. Make your spouse feel special. Never take on the mindset that you’ve already won them over. Your spouse is not tame nor domestic. Your spouse is a wild creature who has made a choice to give you their time. Don’t take that for granted. Never get too comfortable in your marriage. Never let yourself go – physically, emotionally, spiritually or mentally.

5 – Be silly together. Make your spouse laugh. I don’t care if you have to contrive a situation or do something to humiliate yourself. If you can cause the two of you to go into fits of giggles, it will be more valuable than many hours of marriage counseling. My mom does marriage counseling, and I don’t think she would mind too terribly if she worked her way out of the job. They say that laughter is the best medicine, and I can’t disagree.

6 – Date each other. This goes along with number four. Just because you are married doesn’t mean that you don’t need a break, or a good time. On the contrary, two people trying to make ends meet in the real world more than anyone else need a break from life once in a while. Hire a sitter and go out for a night on the town – a romantic dinner or to the club for dancing or base jumping (I kid, of course). While you are out, you are not allowed to talk about the kids, the tough time at work, financial struggles, or any of the ugly real-world stuff that clutters up your attention. If you are taking a break, really take the break! Just relax with each other and enjoy each other.

7 – Communication, communication, communication! Speak your mind plainly and clearly to your spouse, especially when it feels like you can’t. 90% of the altercations that Jennifer and I have had with each other are based on miscommunication. And, we in particular communicate very well. It is so easy to misunderstand. If your spouse becomes inappropriately upset by something you said, try rephrasing it. I’d be willing to bet that they aren’t going insane so much as they took the wrong meaning from what you said.

8 – No secrets. This goes along with number seven. I’m not saying that you can’t hide your spouse’s Christmas present or that you should blurt out every little thing that goes through your mind without first considering that it might be hurtful. But, don’t tell your buddies, “What he(she) doesn’t know won’t hurt him(her).” If you are doing something that you can’t let your spouse know about, chances are you shouldn’t be doing that in the first place. Such things will catch up with you in the end, and they will destroy a marriage.

9 – Take care of each other. Be sensitive and regard each other’s feelings. Too often people fall into the habit of acting as if they don’t have to be as reserved with someone that they share their life with. If you stop and think about it, this is psychotic. Who in the world would you want to treat nicer than the one that you are sleeping with? Simply from a tactical standpoint, I uniquely let my guard down to Jennifer in the form of hours of uninterrupted unconsciousness every night! If I gave her an excuse to want to do me harm, I’d literally be asking for physical trouble. Besides that, I like her and want her to treat me nicely as well.

10 – Forgiveness. If you can do everything that I’ve outlined here with absolutely no slip-ups or exceptions, then you are some kind of super human who is unfit for marriage, as you would make any spouse look bad. Otherwise, I will assume that you and your spouse are each imperfect creatures that will fail each other from time to time. If your spouse falls, be the first one there to help them back to their feet. Expect the same of them. When mistakes happen, keep moving. Figure out what you have to do to get past the hurt. Some wounds run deep and may take time to deal with. Commit to deal with them.

To summarize, give your spouse your highest capable level of respect, trust, honesty, adventure, romance, idle time, humor, friendship, and forgiveness. Guaranteed, you will have a long and happy marriage. To that end, I’m going to take this time to practice what I preach. So, here on my blog, this little corner of the interwebtron, where I waste valuable bandwidth on my ramblings, I’d like to address my bride directly, witnessed by whoever has nothing better to do than to come here…

…better yet! Maybe I’ll hijack her blog and tell her what I think of her there!

5 thoughts on “Michael’s Simple Guide to a Long and Happy Marriage

  1. Early Congratulations on 12 great years Michael and Jennifer. Lu and I have been married for 32 years and I honestly don’t think I could add to your post. Marriage is like most things, it takes hard work and we usually get out of it exactly what we put into it.
    Well said.

  2. my parents – who are in their 38th year together – would most likely agree with everything you’ve said here. they *still* go on regular dates together (and hold hands in church, and at the movies, and he drives her to work even though he’s been out of a job since January last year, and he makes all her lunches, and…) and they’re still the cutest couple i know. you can tell they both really do still love each other dearly.

    i wish that future for you two.

  3. Okay, at the risk of sounding like a proud mom. . . thrilled to see you express the “Ten Commandments of Marriage” so well. Wish I could get this across to the most of my couple clients who don’t get it! Ya done good, Evyl! Once again.

    P.S. Married 35 happy years I wouldn’t trade in. Even the (as you know) very difficult ones!

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