Last week, my wife and I celebrated 21 years of marriage. Twenty-one years of ups and downs, good times and hard times. If our marriage were a person, it would be old enough to drink.
If it had been through what we've been through, it would want to.
Don't get me wrong, it's been a great marriage. I couldn't be happier. Not without a large influx of cash. Life is difficult sometimes, but we've managed to weather the storms.
In fact, our marriage has lasted 20.5 years longer than some people thought. Several of them expressed their concerns (butted in) that we (I) weren't right for each other (her), and that something sinister (my secular upbringing) could cause difficulties (send her sobbing back home to her parents).
Not that I'm still bitter, 21 years later.
I was recently asked how we've managed to stay together this long. I thought about that, and came up with our seven secrets to a successful marriage.
Tip #1: Say "I love you" every day. My wife and I say it at least once a day, and usually several times. We say it when part ways each morning, and again when we go to bed at night. It grosses out our kids that we're always this mushy, so we like to squeeze in a couple gooshy "I wuv ewes" at dinner. Their pained groans make it totally worth it.
Combine this with Tip #2, always tell each other good-bye. A nice hug and kiss with an "I love you" for good measure. Never leave the house without saying good-bye. And don't shout it upstairs either, as you're on the way out the door.
Our unspoken fear is that one of us won't make it back from wherever we're going, and we don't want the last thing we said to be "don't forget the ointment for the dog's butt!"
Now that I think about it, "At least I remembered the dog's butt ointment" would make an awesome gravestone epitaph.
Tip #3: Hug and kiss each other once a day. This is easier to do when you're younger, because you can't keep your hands off each other. The trick is to keep doing it when it gets a little easier to keep your hands to yourself.
It's also fun when kids get icked out by parents showing public displays of affection. The more you do it, the louder they groan, which means you should do it more. Because grossing out the kids is all parents ever really want out of life; mashing our faces together to do it is an added bonus.
Tip #4: Never fight about money. Easier said than done, right? After all, the number one thing married couples fight about is money. But we have found a fair and equitable solution. Since I'm so terrible with money — and math — my wife is in charge of family finances. She tells me when I can't buy stuff anymore.
Then I do it a little more until she tells me that I absolutely cannot, without risking death at her hand, spend any money whatsoever. Then I hold off until payday, when I assume everything's okay, until she tells me otherwise again. It's worked for the last 21 years, and I'm sure her sleepless nights a few days before every payday are completely unrelated.
Tip #5: Decide whether you want to be happy or right. I have learned, through much trial and error, that you can't be both. If you're in an argument, you can go and go and go until you're right, but you won't be happy in the end. Or you can just apologize, even if it's not your fault, end the argument, and be happy.
Is it fair and just? No. But if you're happy, you don't care. If you're right, I hope that brings you more comfort than the couch does.
If you're one of those people who is only happy when they're right, get used to being alone, because those people tend not to be in relationships very long.
Tip #6: Argue. No, seriously, argue. I knew a couple who swore up and down that they never argued. Not once. They were two of the most miserable people I'd ever met.
Healthy couples argue occasionally. They have fair exchanges, they vent their emotions, and when they're done, they make up. They fight fair, give each other a chance to speak, never ridicule, insult, or bully. They wrestle with an issue until they resolve it, and then get on with their lives.
Unhealthy couples bicker and argue all the time, or they never get upset with each other. In either case, seek counseling.
Tip #7: Something about listening or some such thing. I don't know, the game's on.
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