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Lately, several different people have asked me for relationship advice. Me! (I know, that’s what I thought, too). The problem with me is that if you ask me my opinion, I assume you really want to know.
I’m no therapist, but I’m a fairly good listener and I have a good amount of life experiences. I’ve also been lucky to have witnessed two very strong marriages: my paternal grandparents, Ausser and Pearl, who were married over 70 years, and my parents, who were sweethearts for more than 52. The hubbs & I are celebrating year 19 next month. But, unlike them, when we met, we’d both been married & divorced. He grew up in a traditional household and later became a child of divorce; I grew up watching my parents go on date nights and speak softly to each other. He witnessed fights and stress and matured too soon; I saw dancing and kindness and hand holding. When we met, we brought our own unique basket of experiences to the relationship, but it’s what’s IN our baskets that has been so vastly different.
We’ve had our share of joys and our share of sorrows. We’ve had regrettable moments when we were sharp and unkind with each other … but we’ve worked through them and moved on. Asked recently what’s your secret, I replied that “there is no secret” – follow the Golden Rule http://www.teachingvalues.com/goldenrule.html and you’ll be just fine. But, thinking about it further, I’ve assembled what’s worked for us:
1. Remember that you chose each other. Don’t save your best manners for strangers. Please and Thank you go a long way; speak kindly, and give credit where it’s due.
2. Don’t keep score. Well if he got to do ___ then I should get to do ____. This is a relationship, not a video game. It’s not always going to be equal; someone is always going to carry more than their share and who that someone is changes.
3. Embrace each other’s friends & family. When you make it easier for them to be in your lives, everyone’s happier. Learn to laugh at their stories because you’ll hear them many times.
4. Be honest. When you’re tired, say so. When you’re lonesome, speak up and ask for more time together. Never assume your partner can read your mind. I don’t have that superpower, although it’d sure be handy on occasion! When you’re wrong, remember these three important words, “I was wrong.”
5. Try not to go to bed angry but, if necessary, agree to disagree. That old saying “pick the hill you want to die on?” It’s true. Many issues are just not worth fighting about, in my opinion. But if I believe in something? Oh yeah, you better believe it will be discussed.
6. Find a way to pursue your passions and feed your soul. The hubbs and I enjoy our time together because we give each other time to ourselves. He loves to compete and is an avid sports fan and team player. I like to read, write and play with music and technology. The point is that we don’t need to be alike nor together all the time to get along. And when we are together, we’re interested in each other because we’ve both had the time and space necessary to pursue what intrigues us.
7. Forgive mistakes and move on. Don’t keep a list of false starts. No one’s perfect, including you.
8. Listen: try to do so without interrupting. When you give someone your undivided attention, that in itself is a wonderful gift. The hubbs is an attentive listener, and that’s really good for me because I love to talk! He’s taught me to be a better listener and I’ve taught him it’s ok to open up.
9. Laugh. Often. At each other. At yourselves. At life. We can’t always control what goes on in our lives but we can control how we react to it.
10. Do nice things for each other. I know he likes casseroles (and he knows that I don’t) but I make them because he works out of the house and these are easy for him to warm up at lunch. He does sweet things for me, like filling my car up with gas on wintry days and making extra trips back to the grocery store for items or brands I prefer.
11. Be each other’s biggest cheerleader. Applaud successes and be kind with failures. Support each other’s interests. An appreciated spouse makes a joyful partner.
12. Make regular time together a priority by scheduling it. When our boys were little, we didn’t have much extra money or trusty babysitters. We’d bathe the boys & tuck them into bed, and spend our evenings together out on the patio. Singing. Talking. Listening. Laughing. We still do this today. Our boys have grown up seeing us prioritize our time together, guard that time together and relish our time together. Date nights are scheduled regularly and they don’t always require that we leave the house. As a result, we’ve given our children a wonderful gift; knowing what a loving, supportive and fun relationship looks like.
How about you? What are your tried & true relationship rules?