Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What do you most attribute for the success or failure of your marriage? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
We’ve been married for 20 years and together for 22. Aside from that mysterious thing called “chemistry,” here are the things that work for us.
I want to be really clear that each of the following has worked well for me and my wife. I am not saying that all marriages should be like ours. For reasons I don’t quite understand, when people ask me why my marriage works, and I tell them, they assume I’m judging other marriages. I’m not. If your marriage works via some different criteria, good for you!
1. We were best friends for a year before we even started dating. That’s my general way of operating, though it’s not something I’ve consciously tried to do. I’ve simply never started a romantic relationship with someone who wasn’t my friend, first, and I can’t imagine ever wanting to do so. To me, romance is something you build on top of friendship, not the other way round.
2. We got married when we were both almost 30. I have friends who married younger and are still happily together, but that’s not the norm in my experience. Most of the folks I know who married young are now divorced or in troubled relationships. By the time my wife and I got married, we had worked through all sorts of personal issues. We both knew who we were and what we wanted from life. We’d gotten over issues we had with our parents, etc.
3. We have separate bank accounts. I posted about this some time ago, and it caused a shit storm. Please see the boldface text, above. What is Marcus Geduld’s philosophy on money in a marriage?
4. We continually work on projects together. Some of these happen naturally, due to shared interests. Others are more planned. If we didn’t need to work on something together, we’d invent a project, e.g. learning to cook Indian food or whatever.
5. We communicate constantly. Even while we’re at work, we call, email, and IM each-other multiple times a day. And we talk about everything. I know I can tell my wife any dumb, depraved, wicked, or embarrassing thought, and she won’t judge me. And I’m the same non-judgmental ear for her.
6. As much as possible, we hang out in the same room, even when we’re both doing our own things. Often, we sit on the sofa together, me holding my laptop and my wife holding hers. I’m on Quora and she’s doing … whatever she does. But we’re in the same room, and from time to time we make eye contact and share some tidbit of information. “Guess what some guy on Quora just wrote?”
7. We play together. And I mean play as in “children playing.” We chase each other around our apartment, put on puppet shows for each other, play pranks on each other, and get each other surprise gifts. There’s a whole brain module in my head devoted to doing silly things to my wife. (Recently, I photoshopped a picture of her with an elephant’s trunk and posted it on her Facebook wall. Hee hee!) We’ve both learned to think of marriage as a playground.
8. We are both committed to the idea of marriage, see our marriage as something important that we’ve co-created, and are determined to keep it alive. I’m not going to say there’s nothing that could end it, but I know that before either of us would even consider divorce, there would be many attempts to save the marriage.
I never take my marriage for granted. I never think, “I have to work hard at my office, but when I come home, I just get to relax.” My marriage doesn’t feel like work, and it usually feels relaxing, but I’m always thinking about it and problem-solving ways to make it better.
As far as I’m concerned, there are no deal breakers. For instance, if I discovered my wife had been having an affair, I’d be very hurt and angry. But I wouldn’t say, “That’s it. I’m out.” I’d at least see if there was a way to salvage the marriage. If my wife didn’t want to work on salvaging it with me, it would probably end, but I know her, know her values, and know she would work on it. Because we both believe in it.
9. Gender isn’t an issue for us. I don’t believe there’s anything I should do because I’m a man or she should do because she’s a woman. If we decided to have kids, we wouldn’t take it for granted (or as a default) that she would stay home with the kids. This is an equal partnership.
10. We both like pie.