Twenty-three years ago today, my husband and I exchanged our vows and committed our lives to one another. Here we are a couple of decades later still enjoying one another's companionship, deeply loving each other, and thankfully going strong. We have weathered our teens, twenties, thirties, and now the beginning of our forties together. I have been contemplating the reasons we have endured a long and overall happy marriage when fifty percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce. Below are my personal tips for a successful marriage.
Share Your Money. One hundred percent of my friends who are in rocky marriages all share this one thing: they have separate bank accounts. While the notion of having one bank account may seem old-fashioned to some, I strongly believe that having separate accounts leads to a separation of unity between a couple. For the first decade of our marriage, I earned more money than my spouse. During the second decade of our marriage, he has earned more than me (I have mostly focused on being a mom during these years). We each supported one another during the stages of our lives and there was never a sense of financial inequity with one person earning more and keeping the additional funds to themselves. In my opinion, a healthy marriage shares their money. If you can't bring yourself to pool your money with your spouse, there are some underlying issues that will surely surface over the years. Once you create the division of "mine and yours", I believe, it paves the path for other divisions within the relationship to arise.
Don't Control Your Spouse's Fun Potential. I often hear men saying they have to run something by "their boss" (i.e. wives) before deciding to go out with the boys or take a boys' trip. On another note, women often feel like they have to run personal expenditures on luxuries by their husbands before making the purchase. Although it is common courtesy to share your plans with your life partner, it is important to note that your spouse should never feel like they are asking for permission to do or buy anything. Let your spouse enjoy life, encourage them to accept invites with their friends, support their need to make a pricey purchase once in a while. Saying "no" to them will only lead to resentment.
Have Outside Hobbies and Interests. Spending time with your spouse is a crucial component of a successful relationship. However, it is equally important that each partner have their own interests outside of the marriage. Doing so reduces dependency on one another, allows for more interesting conversations on those date nights, and leads to an overall happier life.
Listen to One Another. I know, we all think we are good listeners but being a great listener requires more than just listening. It necessitates processing the information we receive and turning this information into action. When your spouse shares their feelings with you, make the effort to actually execute on what they have expressed. Nothing is more annoying than spilling your guts out about behaviors that bother you only to encounter those same behaviors again and again and again. Do yourself, and your spouse, a favor and address the issues that your spouse expresses immediately, or else be prepared for a potential blow-up once these same issues keep resurfacing.
Spend Time Together. The couples that I know who seem to be the happiest spend a lot of time together. I don't know if they spend time together because they are happy with each other or if they are happy with each other because they spend time together. I also know that couples who spend a lot of time apart have weaker relationships. It's obvious really. Spending more time together will lead to a stronger connection and a more successful marriage.
Share an Equal Amount of Differing Roles. Each spouse should be in charge of different "departments" in the household. Perhaps one may pay the bills while the other orders the groceries. Or maybe one plans the social calendar while the other shuffles the kids to school. More commonly, one may earn an income through their career while the other's profession of raising children does not include a salary at all. There are hundreds of tasks we all need to execute in life. Make a list of everything that is required to run your own household. Your list should be equally divided between both marriage partners based on each spouse's strengths, abilities, and desires.
Allow Your Spouse to Evolve. It is inevitable that your spouse will change over the years. The natural tendency of humans is to evolve and transform over their life cycle. Yet so many spouses attempt to thwart their partner's growth. I know one couple whose husband yearned to leave his career as a doctor to follow a new passion for teaching that he developed in his forties. His spouse strongly discouraged this change. I get it, it's scary when your spouse suddenly wants to pick up and start a new career, one that earns less albeit. However, you should never ever be the one to take away any opportunity from your spouse. Like you, he/she gets one shot at life. If you want them to actually like you, stop putting chains on them.
Thank Them Often. Although each spouse has assigned tasks, they shouldn't be taken for granted. I am assigned the chef hat in our home. This role is expected of me but my husband never fails to thank me for each meal that I prepare. This morning, I went to fill my gallon jug with water only to find that my husband filled it for me. Of course, I thanked him. Don't take each other for granted. Thank one another for the smallest gestures, even if they are for things that are "expected" to be fulfilled.
Don't be "One of Those" Who Thinks Valentine's Day is a Way for Hallmark to Make Money. After a few years of marriage, too many couples begin to drop celebrating each other's birthdays and anniversaries or holidays like Valentine's Day and Father's/Mother's Day, etc... Don't be one of those couples. Plan something fun for your spouse on these celebratory events, buy them something special. It makes me sad that so many people have convinced themselves that "birthdays aren't important" or that buying a gift for a spouse on these occasions has been dropped entirely. Take every opportunity to make your spouse feel special and show them that you have taken the time to think of them during these special days. Anyone who says that these events don't matter to them is lying. They have convinced themselves that these calendar days are foolish in reaction to not receiving attention from their spouse on these holidays over the years. Everyone wants to be pampered. Everyone. Don't skip these special days.
Work on You. You cannot be in a happy marriage if you are not happy yourself. Living a happy life takes work, effort, dedication, and patience. If you are unhappy with aspects of your life they will manifest in your marriage. You must work on your own happiness before you can contribute to happiness in a marriage. In May I published an article called "15 Tips Towards True Happiness". I hope you take a minute to read through it for inspiration. If none of these tips appeal to you, then figure out what does. Couples often make the mistake of thinking they are unhappy in their marriage because their spouse makes them unhappy. This may certainly be the case in some instances but most times the unhappiness lies within the person who is unsatisfied with their own life outside of their marriage. Just know, that you cannot be in a happy marriage until you are happy.