Last week, during a conversation about her upcoming wedding, @lindsayrobins asked me for marriage advice. This is what I have learned over the last 7 years, 10 months, and 29 days of my marriage.
1. Relationship Books Are Useless. Read them for comedic purposes (if you must), but don’t forget that people are complex. Of course gender can affect certain relationship dynamics for some couples, but it can never be boiled down to all men are X and all women are Y. Not everyone labels themselves with one of those identities, not all relationships are comprised of one man and one woman, and even folks in opposite-sex relationships will not always act the way these books insist men and women are “supposed” to behave.
Seriously, people are complex. There’s no such thing as a one size fits all approach to us.
2. With That Being Said, Go Read “The 5 Love Languages.“ This book applies as much to your relationships with friends and family members as it does to your significant other. It’s all about discovering what each person actually need to feel valued and learning how to communicate your needs to one another. Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation are my love languages. When I’m running low on them I find it much easier to blow things out of proportion or take offense where none was intended.
3. Don’t Fight Dirty. You know (or will soon figure out) your future spouse’s weak spots. Never take advantage of them, especially when you’re angry. Yes, you will get really pissed off at them sooner or later, but it’s important to communicate all of your emotions with kindness. It’s better to table a heated discussion or admit you don’t know how else to word your argument than to say something you’ll regret in thirty seconds.
4. Start a Family Calendar. I don’t care if you’re planning to remain a party of two or have 10 kids in the next 12 years. Write down the events that matter, and always check the calendar before making plans. Good communication makes every other aspect of your relationship much more likely to run smoothly, and writing down the important stuff makes it less likely to be accidentally forgotten.
5. Remember, Rules Are Flexible. What works for one family might be an unmitigated disaster in another. It doesn’t matter what I or anyone else thinks about your relationship. So have a stay-at-home spouse or don’t. Have 0 kids or 20. Split all chores 50/50 or assign them all to one person only. Outside opinions don’t matter because how you arrange your marriage isn’t anyone’s business but your own.
Readers, what have I missed?