June 2015

Saying I Do to Good Marriage Advice

Author: Becca Edwards

Whether it is at bridal shower, a bachelor party, or at the rehearsal dinner, there comes a time when every proud couple is inundated with marital advice. In ceremonious fashion, people raise their glasses and then blurt, rant, slur or over-sentimentalize “the secret to marriage.” And though like a wedding dress, no one size fits all, there are some tricks to going the distance. Here’s my take on some common marital advice:

1. Don’t go to bed angry. I don’t entirely agree on this one. Don’t go to bed “guns a blazin,’” but don’t think you need to resolve the problem before your head hits the pillow. Sharing and caring past your bedtime just escalates things. My husband and I (who have been together for 16 years and learned this one the hard way) will look at each other and say, “Let’s just agree to disagree for now.”
2. Marry someone you think is smart and you respect. (This one I borrowed from a friend who added with a winky face emoji, “but don’t tell them you think they’re smart.”) Maintaining a high level of respect is critical.

3. The first year is the hardest. I’m sorry to take the sheen off your ring, but this one is true. Something happens that first year. Suddenly your Prince Charming starts leaving his sweaty gym shorts on the bathroom floor. Or your Sleeping Beauty quits her job and spends a little too much time on the sofa eating Ben and Jerry’s. Remember it’s “until death do us part,” not “until you start to really annoy me.” (Also, know there is some truth to the “seven year itch”.)

4. Always be a lady. I grew up in the South, so I’ve heard this one a lot, and it gives me pause. I believe sometimes a woman needs to act, or at least think, like a man. And the inverse is true, too. Sometimes a man needs to act, or at least think, like a woman. The book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus points out the simple truth that men and women process and act on information differently. Not only is it good to try to understand the opposite sex’s perspective (which also demonstrates respect), it is also effective. When we had our first child, I was the stereotypical new mom. When my husband came home from work, I went into great detail about when the baby cried, when she pooped, when she giggled, the status of my breastmilk, etc. Venting, I was treating him like a girlfriend and expecting him to respond like a girlfriend. We did not enjoy being parents until I starting talking to him like he talked to his friends. Rather than instantly discussing my day, I would wait a few minutes and then say something like, “What should we eat for dinner?” or “I think there’s a game on later.” (Note: The Five Love Languages is another good book for understanding communication differences.)

5. You’ll change together. Don’t expect anyone to change. Not even yourself. My first year of marriage, I thought I needed to be June Cleaver, which was an aproned disaster. But as you move through life experiences and learn to work well with your partner, you do start to converge.

6. Have sex. Often. No one gave me this advice, but it’s a biggie. I have seen more marriages end from lack of sex than lack of funds or other stressors. Both parties need to know how to please each other and not let things like body image issues, or the kids, or a recent disagreement get in the way. Believe it or not, my husband is the only partner I have ever had, and initially I felt inadequate. But I learned to talk about and explore sex with him, and it really strengthened our bond.

7. Have a joint checking account. When it comes to money and marriage, it is über important to set up a budget together, to adhere to the budget and to exercise transparency.

8. Don’t air your dirty laundry. Or, as one friend eloquently said, “Never let the world find out your spouse’s faults through you.” Yes, it’s comforting to confide in a best friend, but really you should talk directly to your spouse and/or work with a therapist to solve an issue. Also, when you start talking negatively about your marriage, it encourages the other person to talk negatively about his or her marriage, and then suddenly all men are idiots or all women are nags (or some other stereotype).
9. Say I love you every day. I’m going to amend this one. Either say or show that you love your spouse every day. Every night, my husband leaves the crossword puzzle folded neatly on my bedside table. For me, that just screams, “I love you!”

10. Do things together. Yes and no. Yes, it is important to have similar likes and to do more than just the daily grind together. But it is also important to have your own interests and to keep expanding your world. 

Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (bewellbecreative.com).

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