1. Avoid resentment at ALL costs
Resentment is the single thing that ruins a relationship.
Do whatever it takes to avoid it. Honesty and communication are good tools to avoid it.
2. Relationships are two different people
Recognize that your partner is not you. They have a separate brain and self-awareness and perception of the world. They have a whole set of different life experiences, and consequently, a whole different way of seeing, reacting, and understanding.
No, they aren’t going to do something exactly the way you would do it. No, their first instinct might not be your first instinct. No, they are not you. And you know what? That’s why you’re with them.
Communicate. Seriously fucking talk about stuff. 9 times out of 10 they weren’t trying to hurt or annoy you and they didn’t do it on purpose.
4. You’ll never win
There’s no such thing as winning a fight with your significant other.
5. Keep the jokes rolling
Laugh together. Often.
My folks have been together for 40 years, so I asked my mom what their secret was. She said “humor”.
6. Twenty-six years and counting!
Married 26 years. Very happy
- Have a shared sense of purpose. Talk about why you live. Why you choose to work. Why you choose to marry. Talk through these big ideas often. Go back to them.
- Learn to compromise. Marriage makes both people different. You will lose a bit of who you are at the edges, but if you do it right, you’ll be a better person in the end. Marriage isn’t about holding on to your essential self. The romantics got this one wrong.
- Sex is great but it’s over emphasized. Have lots of fun sex as a married couple but never think it’s why you are married. When it gets boring and utilitarian, don’t stress. It’ll probably get better eventually. Work it out. Sex is part of the long, loving conversation of marriage. It’s not the professional wrestling version of sex you see in porn.
- Don’t cheat. Don’t drink a ton of booze. Don’t do a ton of drugs. Pay your bills on time. Life is for grown ups. Grow the hell up and get to work. It’s worth it when you’re old and loved and you managed to help some people out along the way.
7. Don’t expect them to “change their mind” or “come around”
Don’t marry someone unless that person makes YOU a better person – you want someone who brings out your best, not your worst.
Be a team. Work together and balance out your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be adversarial.
TALK TO EACH OTHER. No one is a mind reader. Talking to everyone else (mother, sibling, friend) about your relationship problems isn’t going to solve the problem, talking your spouse will.
Don’t let your parents/family treat your SO like crap. Even if your parents DESPISE your so, they should treat him or her with respect. Stick up for your SO. Be a united front. There are few things that can break down a relationship more quickly than taking sides.
Finally, be absolutely sure you are both on the same page when it comes to finances, career, children, etc. Don’t think that your SO will “come around” or that he’ll “change his mind.” If someone says they don’t want kids – take that at face value. If she has a career that will necessitate moving every few years, then you need to be OK with that. If you plan to raise your child in a particular faith or church, be sure your spouse is on board with that BEFORE the baby arrives.
Do a FULL FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE before getting married or moving in together. I know too many folks who were slapped upside the head by a spouse who had tens of thousands of dollars of cc debt or huge student loans that they knew NOTHING about until after the wedding.
8. Do things because you love them
Do things for your SO without an expectation to be repaid. Learn to love to have them happy. From my experience, they will do the same in return.
9. Gotta let go of your pride
Learn to swallow your pride. This means:
- saying you’re sorry.
- letting go of petty grudges.
- being able to compromise.
- admitting when you’re wrong.
- after a disagreement, approaching the other person calmly and exploring what issue you two had in an objective way.
- being able to communicate your own failures, insecurities, or problems to the other person.
- recognizing when you’re taking something personally or lashing out for the wrong reasons.
- in the heat of an argument, being able to acknowledge good points your partner is making, thank them for communicating to you, and positively reinforce the things they’re doing that are de-escalating the situation.
At the end of the day, completely honest, level-headed, calm communication mixed with a huge dose of humility is the #1 best way to make a relationship work.
Follow-up advice: look at problems as entities separate from the relationship. For example, I have a drinking problem. My partner and I see ourselves as a team, together, against the problem. We never make our problems into us against each other, but try to view ourselves as allies, united against a problem that affects both of us.
10. Take the time to enjoy your S/O
My wife died 5 years ago. And she was everything to me. She was my very bestfriend. I miss her so much I still throw up when I think about her death.
I say that to say this: enjoy your spouse. Whatever it takes for you to do that, figure it out and do it. And even more than that, make sure they enjoy you.
I’d give MY LIFE to see the smile on her face of coming home to a cleaned house and a cooked dinner. I’d give MY LIFE to spend an hour talking to her again hell I’d even give my life just to sleep next to her again.
Cherish every single moment with them. Please. I’m begging you to do this because the last thing you want to regret is not kissing them enough or not laughing with them enough or not holding their hand enough or not just being near them enough.
Love that person. Do it for your spouse because there are people out there who can’t do it for their’s anymore.
11. It’s not like the movies
Hollywood lies. It won’t always be easy or be fun or always feel so desperately in love that you can’t breathe. Sometimes you just feel bored or angry or frustrated. It isn’t the good times that make a good relationship but how you work together in the bad times.
Romantic love is a fine start, but lasting partnerships are built on stronger stuff, like trust, respect, humility and understanding. I don’t mean to sound clinical, because if you can’t laugh and have fun you won’t last long either, but fun ends when the mortgage is due, or your mother has cancer, or you have to raise a child. Second, any relationship that lasts even 10 years is going to have very different people who want different things at the end of it. There will be renegotiation throughout.
Allow your partner to grow and change and communicate your own altered expectations. Finally, there’s no one way. What works for some may not work for you. It’s your job (both of you) to figure out how you work and what you need.