Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What is the best marriage advice you would give? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
As someone who’s been through a divorce and is getting married again, I can confidently offer this:
Love isn’t enough. Marry the person who brings out your best and will stand beside you at your worst.
Life will happen. You’ll screw up. You’ll fight. You’ll probably even slam a few doors and say something horrible you don’t really mean. That’s what happens when we’re human. We’re flawed. Expecting perfection,rainbows, and glitter is unrealistic.
Whenever a couple tells me, “We never fight,” I know they’re in or already having trouble. No one can look great, have a perfect home, perfect kids, job, friends and be happy all the time. Believe me, I’ve tried.
You’re going to lose a job, have money problems, have a death in the family, bury a pet, lose your hair, get wrinkles, have diarrhea, vomit, forget deodorant, put your foot in your mouth, leave the seat up and spill stuff on the sofa.
The wedding is one day, the marriage for the rest of your lives.
I’m planning a wedding right now. I actually found my wedding gown today. It’s a very exciting time and a lot of attention goes into things like dresses, bridesmaids, invitations, parties, flowers, food, music, venue, etc.
The day you marry you look the best you’ll ever look. It’s taken hours of preparation and planning to look as good as we do on our wedding day, and it’s all down hill from there.
It’s very exciting, but it’s not your life. Life is farting in your sleep and spilling coffee on the cat. For one couple I know, once the wedding was over, there was nothing. Once they were married, they didn’t get along because they weren’t distracted by this big party. They had nothing to talk about.
I’m very excited to see my friends and family, throw this fantastic party, be a bride (my dress is amazing), but I’m most excited to marry the man I love. I’m looking most forward to our life together and growing old together, not the wedding.
You will fight. It’s inevitable.
Don’t bring up the past. Last week’s fight was last week. If he cheated on you 5 years ago and you forgave him, it’s off limits. If she broke your favorite mug last month, let it go.
Don’t ever use the words “you, always or never.” Ever. For example, ” You ALWAYS leave dishes in the sink and NEVER help out with the dog.” Never? Not once? Really? And being accusatory, using “you” is an attack. Instead, try, “I get really frustrated when dirty dishes are still in the sink and the dog hasn’t been fed. It would really make me more relaxed and happier if I got some help with those two things.”
Don’t talk, listen. It’s so frustrating when you’re talking and you know the other person is just planning his retort in his head. How can you respond if you don’t listen?
You will never change or fix anyone. Ever.
If there is a behavior which needs to be changed, it must be changed by the person displaying the behavior. No amount of nagging, pleading or threatening will make someone change.
It is not your responsibility to change anyone but yourself. Learn to deal with this behavior or get over it. Or don’t get married. Or get divorced.
She will only change when she is willing to recognize and fix it herself.
You are two separate people and are not expected or required to think, act or behave the same way.
Be your own person. Keep your own hobbies, interests and friends. Your partner should support and encourage this, if he doesn’t, you’ll soon be resentful, angry and unhappy. This goes both ways. Let him go to his friend Pookie’s man cave to watch the game. Use the time to do something you want to do. He should reciprocate so you have time to kick Jill’s butt at tennis or read the latest issue of Wonder Woman at a Starbucks like a grownup.
Children will change everything no matter how much you promise each other they won’t.
When a couple becomes three, life will change. You can’t have a tiny, stinky, loud, crying, hungry, fussy human being who will never let you sleep again living in your house and nothing changes.
You will argue about who has baby duty and why you haven’t gotten to shower for three days. Your wife will be emotional, scared and may be an on-call milk service for a while. Your husband will be confused, scared, nervous, stressed and may start wearing sweatpants and old flip flops to the store.
This is all normal. Life will change, but, eventually, you’ll figure out what works for you and how to sneak in romance again.
You have to find your new normal as parents, not just a married couple.
You may not be out partying in the hottest clubs in designer clothes anymore, but you’ll be so excited the baby just smiled and said, “greebo,” that you’ll be content to have a new kind of party involving ordering Chinese for the nth time, watching reruns of The Walking Dead and getting four solid hours of sleep.
If you’re fighting constantly about something specific, solve the problem.
For example, if you argue about cleaning the house, look at your finances and figure out how to have a maid service come once or twice a month.
If you argue about money, set up a budget or get an accountant. Restricting one partner from ever spending money reasonably or controlling the finances is not good for a marriage.
If you fight about not having time to yourself because of your children, schedule a regular time with your partner when he can watch the kids for a few hours and you can go to the gym. Be sure to give the other partner the same opportunity.
If it’s still an issue, hire a babysitter or get help from a friend.
Schedule romance and sex.
This sounds unromantic, but, sometimes, we get so busy and stressed we forget how hot we are for each other.
Making Friday night a date night or planning to go for a walk and holding hands reconnects you. It’s nice to feel special and attracted to your partner who you’ve only passed in the hall on the way to clean up the kids vomit or looking for clean socks.
A couple may be working, parenting and the social calendar may be full, but, taking time for your marriage and physical affection is important. It takes work.
Some things should not be shared.
I love my fiancé and he loves me, but I don’t want him to show me how much ear wax he just cleaned out and I won’t show him how I can pop a zit with one hand.
He closes the bathroom door. We all know what’s going on, but I don’t need to see it or smell it. I don’t pluck my eyebrows in front of him. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed, but it’s nice that my eyebrows are always groomed (magically.)
This isn’t about shame or pretending we’re perfect or hiding things from each other. It’s about keeping the mystery going.
He doesn’t need to see me change a tampon and I don’t want to see his belly button lint. Again, if we’re sick or hurt or needed help with any of this stuff, that’s different. I’d wipe my fiance’s butt in a heartbeat if he needed me to. In the meantime, I’ll scrub dead skin off my feet in private, thank you.
Being married means accepting all of someone, their flaws and ugliness, not just the good parts.
Finding the person who brings out your best and stands beside you at your worst is key.