And they said it wouldn’t last!
Actually, one of my bridesmaids and her (soon-to-be, well then) husband told us during our wedding, “You guys are the horse we’re betting on.” It meant a lot to me to hear that, and of course no one thinks about divorce on their wedding day. (I was mostly thinking about cake balls. Ahhh!)
We don’t plan on getting divorced. That might not even need to be said. But we all know that even the best marriages fail. Shit happens. We don’t like to think about it, but it does. There’s no foolproof plan, and we’ d be stupid to think that there is.
When we moved into our apartment here in WM in 2010, we had another recently engaged couple an our favorite fifth wheel help us. Fifth wheel, who is also kind of a know-it-all, asked all four of us coupled folk if we thought our eventual marriages would last. We all said yes – of course. He said, “Half of you are wrong.”
I told him he was full of shit. His sample size is skewed to couples who are educated, essentially middle class, and marrying slightly later in life (31 & 28, and then 29 & 32, respectively).
And via the CDC, well, they don’t detail much in terms of who gets divorced, but as marriage rates rise, divorce rates do too, and the same goes for falling marriage rates. (These patterns are very likely tied to the American economy, although the wedding industry has not fallen off at all. Trust me, I know.)
My husband and I came to the decision to get married relatively quickly, but not lightly. To be truthful, we essentially knew we would marry one another maybe less than two months into our relationship. On a vaguely related note, I got some shit on facebook for criticizing some really stupid advice I read that has been spread far and wide about saving your marriage. The guy who wrote it sounded like an unrepentant asshole. Two days later I read more viral “advice” from a blog post that told me to pray with my husband and to put a dollar in a box every time we have sex. Um, no.
So I’m countering. With my own non-bullshit advice about having a successful marriage. But what the hell. We’ve only made it 12 months.
1. Get cats.
They are entertaining. They are loveable. They are a shared responsibility (although being in particularly sensitive ovary years, I have an excuse to not change the cat litter for awhile), and they are something that creates a little family altogether. When my husband is in a bad mood, nothing lights him up like goofing around with our two cats. He mostly plays with the orange one, who’s kind of a dick, but who has a strong bond with my husband. Said love for cats was almost reason enough alone to marry the dude.
But always. Pet adoption is always a good idea, and I personally think it creates a bond between partners. Just my thought.
2. Don’t let others get you down.
After our wedding, we experience what we referred to as Friendpocalypse 2012, centering around friends’ divorce. Suffice to say, it was bad. It sounds like a high school problem to have, but crap like that only gets nastier and more complicated when there are marriages and houses and property involves. Yuck. The people involved had all been guests at our wedding. We had been to a Christmas party with the whole gang the week before the bottom fell out. It hit a little too close to home for me.
But it really shouldn’t have, although it does for a lot of people when their friends divorce. I didn’t think that we’d hit the “everyone gets divorced” phase of our social life so soon after we got married, and so many of our other friends got married, but man.
It was, however, a case of “need not worry, idiot.” Time has passed, everyone is not all back to being best friends, but things have calmed down significantly. People have come and gone. Other friends have moved away, but we’re still here. Husband and I. Social survivors.
3. Recognize that you’re each going to have strengths and weaknesses.
I quoted Patti Smith, from her gorgeously wrought book Just Kids, awhile ago on this very blog. But it’s true. When one of you is weak, the other will be strong. When one of you falters, the other will pick up. Take care of each other to the best of your ability.
4. Do what you want to do.
I went away for six weeks, within the first year of my marriage, and started working on my master’s degree. It wasn’t a permanent choice, and I was the one person in my program who was like that kid in college who goes home every weekend, and you’re not sure is going to make it. But I made it through the summer, and I got back to my husband and it was like we hadn’t missed a beat. We talked about it a lot, we made a plan, and we dealt with it. Not only do you have to have your physical space, but your mental/goal-oriented space, as well.
5. Don’t think about cake balls.
I love cake balls. I love cake pops. I love making them. My husband hates it if I leave 45 plates and bowls and pot and pans out in the aftermath and he feels the need to clean them up. The process of making them usually takes about 3 days and at least 2 other baking-savvy friends involved. And let’s be honest: he’s not being an asshole if he gets mad because I left out 45 dirty bowls.
I’ve made them on occasion since I’ve been married, but let’s be honest here: they’re completely superfluous. I spent a good portion of my wedding week making cake balls for extra favors, but they were completely superfluous on our wedding day, mostly because they got left behind in the hotel and didn’t make it to the reception. It didn’t matter. Life will carry on without cake balls. Sometimes, life is better without cake balls.
This advice also carries out to chipped nail polish, putting away all of the clothes, making menus for the week, and properly editing your blog when you hoped you would.
6. Accept compliments.
“YOU’RE JUST SAYING THAT BECAUSE I AM CRANKY AND CRAZY AND HATE MY JOB RIGHT NOW AND AHHHHHHHHHH!!”
Um, sometimes, no he’s not. Accept the fact that someone loves you and appreciates you, even at your snot-nosiest, crying-jaggiest, world-hatingest. If he tells you that you look good, then take it.
I’m also firmly not on the side of “dress/do your nails/shave/wear perfume/bleach yer bits for your husband’s pleasure”, but a compliment that he gives out also might be his way of gently saying that he might like it again if you wear that certain outfit again. Like on a date night or something, i.e. a night that is specifically focused on you, him, and your relationship. Y’know what I mean? On my end, T-storm has this leather jacket that he wears that I love love love love love seeing him in. I cannot get enough of it, and I start to squee a little when the weather gets cold enough so that he wears it. But I’m a little more overt with my compliments. His are always more subtle, but I do try to take notice. These compliments are even helpful, when I pilfer my closet and can’t decide what to wear – I’ll think of his comments about a certain dress and will reach for it. Even past my 25 other dresses.
Which leads to my next point.
7. Get rid of shit.
We’re still working on this. We are both packrats, and we came with lots of books and music and old CDs and what not. I’m way more attached to stuff than he is. And the books he gave me out of his car on the day we first met (that he was trying to donate somewhere anyway) are still on our shared bookshelf. But yes. I imagine that hoarding can lead to divorce, as well as other things. So start donating that shit. I suggest this place, as it’s their job to find a use for any damn thing they can give you.
And, of course, emotional shit too. That comes later.
8. Your spouse cannot read your mind!
This seems so freaking obvious. But we forget it. All the time.
I don’t know. I’m dumb and I used to think that romance involved “getting it” all the time. Knowing what the other person was thinking, always. And that’s bullshit, and it’s also kind of creepy.
If you’re upset, tell your spouse. Express yourself. Share part of who you are and you’ll get something shared with you from someone else. Maybe more than you were planning on getting from that other person. They just needed an opening offer before they spilled their guts. (This was a lesson I learned early on in college, from someone who is now still one of my best friends, and need to keep in mind more often. And it goes for more than just spouses.)
9. Sometimes you have to agree to watch John Carpenter’s The Thing, even if you fall asleep a third of the way into the film.
You are not going to love everything your spouse loves. And visa versa. No disrespect to Mr. Carpenter; T-storm had sat me down to watch In the Mouth of Madness early in our relationship, and I really liked it. (But who can really argue with Sam Neill?) He has come to see a lot of stuff he otherwise would not because of me, and visa versa, again. Even if, as previously mentioned, you fall asleep a third of the way into the film, you tried.
This is also a good place to insert the term “movie narcoleptic”, which I like to pretend my friend N came up with, because she rules.
10. Accept the things you cannot change.
This kind of goes without saying. I am horrible and lazy in the morning, and my husband makes me coffee without fail. I sort of put it on with the a.m. laziness, mostly because he is so damned good at making coffee (it’s genetic; his father is a pro as well). I am okay with him being indecisive about many things. Sometimes I want him to give input so it doesn’t just feel like I’m railroading him constantly, but sometimes he is just happier not making a choice and so I get to say what’s what. This is something that ideally should be worked out probably before a couple gets married, but it’s important to remember throughout the course.
On the whole it’s a stupid show, although we’ve watched it beginning to the last season on Netflix, and all episodes many times over, but there’s a really beautiful moment in season 6 of How I Met Your Mother. I don’t just identify with the characters of Lily & Marshall because Lily is a teacher and I adore Jason Segal – there is some real emotional heart there. The scene takes place in a natural history museum, and Lily starts talking to “college Marshall” as though he is on display as an extinct creature. She sighs, telling the extinct Marshall that she wants him back, and that he’s changed. Shocked, “college Marshall” asks her hastily if he cheats on her in the future. She quickly tells him no, and he asks her more questions, all of which lead to the conclusion that despite the fact that he’s changing and growing, his love and commitment to her have only cemented in the intermittent years. It’s quite the realization for her. I love the way that scene is done. And it’s true. Some of the specifics change, but as long as the core is still in place, other things you can learn to live with.
Which brings me to my next point.
11. Don’t let the past confine you.
I am a sentimental schmuck. I moved to South Florida on what was essentially a whim five years ago, and found myself stuck here. But we’re here now, I met my husband here, and although it was never my #1 choice for place to live in the world, and I’ve missed home and my past and my friends and all the things I loved for a long time, my husband is both a) accepting of my sentimentality and b) gives me constant reason not to compare now to my past. I have the memory of a memoir writer, so sometimes it’s hard for me to let go of the past, even if I only hold onto it for comparison’s sake. My husband has taught me that it’s okay to co-exist with past lives, but (even if not in so many words) that I don’t have to be held up by a dependence on nostalgia. He has, in his own way, taught me to live for the future while not forgetting who I am.
12. Sense of humor.
This is one of the best reasons I married my husband, and it’s the most likely reason I expect to stay married to my husband. Take lots of shit with a grain of salt, and you’ll be better off.
And that’s what we’ve got so far. We’ll surely learn a lot more in forthcoming years, but we’re excited to have many years to figure everything else out. Wish us luck.