In late March, my husband and I were married in a scenic outdoor wedding with the perfect weather, the perfect dress, the perfect acoustic quartet, the perfect company.
Before that, my husband and I did everything in our relationship pretty much by the book. Dated for two years. Lived together for one. Proposed on a summer vacation abroad. Honeymoon in St. Maarten.
And, as planners (he’s a teacher; I’m a writer), I’m a big fan of reading articles on how to improve and maintain a happy, healthy, functional marriage—especially since my parents were Total Models on How Not to Be Married and Happy (which terrifies me—long-term), and his parents are Total Models on How to be Functionally Married (which makes him ambivalent toward anything—long-term).
These moments on how to maintain marriage contentment consume the Internet—and I live for those articles. One that I recently read on The Huffington Post listed the top ten scientifically based tips how to keep a marriage groovy—but c’mon…the tips were obvious and dipped in what suspiciously read like a Disney script.
One suggested: “Men are significantly happier throughout their marriage if they have a pretty wife who stays fit.”
I showed that misogynist piece of “scientist evidence” one to my husband and, of course, we laughed it off. Of course a dude’s going to be happy porking a hot wife, just like a wife is going to be pretty content if her husband’s maintaining a six-pack throughout the majority of their marriage.
So to me, deep down, simply having an attractive wife (or husband) is not what makes a marriage lasting or functional. Sorry, my spidey sense was a-tingling and I was a bit deterred with that scientific piece of evidence.
With that, I’m at a love/hate relationship on “How to Improve Your Marriage” articles. I’m sick of the following obvious advice across the great World Wide Web: Have sex often! Kiss each other before you say goodnight! Find different recipes and make dinner together every evening! Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Is it just me, or are these too candy-coated and simple and, well, duh…? Even more, does it fit with your ideal relationship, Mr. and Mr(s). Newlyweds?
Throughout my extensive marriage of five months, here are somewhat depressing-sounding, but thoroughly helpful tips I have found that keep my marriage sane, healthy, and satisfied. Maybe you can relate.
1. Be alone once every few months.
You wake up. You go to work. You come home. You eat dinner. And you do whatever hobbies give you pleasure until you sleep. Repeat.
My husband and I are in a routine where—when we spend time together—it’s when we wake up, get ready for work, come home from work, make dinner together, watch a few TV shows together, and then sleep. After dinner, he goes into his room and watches ESPN and plays computer games. I’ll read or meditate in those moments of solidarity. Then repeat, yet again.
The weekends are different. Friday is date night. Saturday is cleaning the house and the afternoon is dedicated to running errands: Costco groceries, sale shopping at Nordstrom Rack, Macy’s, or Target, decorating the apartment with cheap HomeGoods fare, etc. Evenings with cheap Kirkland wine and bad movies on Netflix.
And then repeat the week all over.
But, man: I need to be alone sometimes. To watch Grey’s Anatomy without judgment, to eat a few Gigi’s Cupcakes while I binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy, to read a poorly written romance novel that sings to my soul, to listen to my hippie meditation music while doing a few dorky yoga poses, and do all the me things that make me me. Without being surrounded people, more specifically: my husband. I need to be in my apartment—my space that’s now our space—alone.
And my husband needs that, too.
Because ultimately in a relationship, it’s built off interdependence. You can only be in an interdependent relationship if you value your independence. So go for it: Ditch the codependence with your partner, take a day off of work, and go for a day drive up north, have a beer/wine/coffee/juice/water with yourself, and just be.
Your marriage and sanity are calling for it.
Don’t do it every day, every week, or every month—but give yourself some freaking “you” time. It’s selfish if you don’t do it.
2. Double-date with people you don’t know.
We all have different friends: Childhood friends who we outgrow, college buddies who seem to retain personalities, coworkers who we see on a common basis who we miiiight want to move into a weekend friend—but you’re just not there yet because you see them every day, folks we go to the gym and work out with, or play soccer or (insert any other sport), or volunteer on the weekends with, etc.
Just go on a double dates. My husband’s 30 and I’m turning so in January, so the switch isn’t longer: “Does this dude/girl like me?” But rather, “Dear random person: I think you’re kind of cool. Do you want to go on a double date with my hilarious husband and my quirky self this weekend?”
Happy hour at 2PM and back at home for a bad Netflix movie and cheap Kirkland wine.
Because my husband can’t stand my friends sometimes and I can’t stand his sometimes, we need to find our own happy medium of married buddies who aren’t into the urban city scene 24/7 and have some modicum of interest in saving for a house, building a family, building their life, and showing what it is to grow up.
And, well, dating—double-dating couples—is a fun and tingly experience, and for lack of a better word, lahhh. The best part? We were home by 8PM to have a night to ourselves—individually.
This is what it’s like to be older. And we freaking live for it.
3. Save money—it’s sexy.
I just paid off my 2008 Mazda and it was one of the best feelings of my life. My credit went up! I have equity! I can now replace my car payment for the chance to save for a home that will cost the exact same as my current rent—but have 200 percent more room.
When my husband budgets, I find that sexy. When I put money into our savings, it turns us on. Not making the purchase of a new work from Anthropologie because it goes toward the goals of saving for your future together and paying off your debt is sanity—sanity that you both share right down the middle thanks to marriage.
These small additions to better your funds are erogenous. They are erotic in a bigger way than dressing up for a hot date night—it shows self-control, willpower, and the fact that you’re a responsible and smart person ready to make a bigger step for your partner and yourself.