Index of Thoughts

Thursday, March 28, 2013

15 Ways to be Married for 15 years

I saw a blog post that a couple of my friends shared on Facebook giving advice on marriage.  The article was written by Katie on the Girls Guide to beta blog (see her post HERE). I followed the link to read since more than one person shared it.  I was definitely intrigued by the candid advice.  The original post is from author Lydia Netzer.  She shares her view on what has kept her marriage alive and in love.

Andy and I have almost made it to 15 years.  This coming August 2013 will be 13 years married and 18 years together.  We are still together and still in love too!  We have endured things in our marriage that would normally tear a couple to bits.  I want to write about all that one day but not just yet.  And here we still are - together and more in love than ever.  I really love this list because it's real and because it's honest.  I have a few things to add to Lydia's amazing list.  These are the things that I have learned from my own marriage.  They will be written in RED.  The things that keep you together & grow you stronger & more connected than before even though most people would have thrown in the towel.

1. The first thing I want to start with is Denial.  If you think that you DON'T need to read this, then you are the exact person that especially needs to read this.  I can't tell you how many women that I have encountered that either says that their marriage and spouse are just perfect in every way or they just don't really care to do any more work.  Please don't be in denial!

1. Go to bed mad.
The old maxim that you shouldn’t go to bed mad is stupid. Sometimes you need to just go to freakin’ bed. “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath” is prefaced in the Bible by the phrase “Be angry and sin not.” So, who’s to say it doesn’t mean “Stay angry, bitches. Don’t let the sun go down on that awesome fierce wrath of yours.” Seriously. Whoever interpreted this to mean that you should stay up after midnight, tear-stained and petulant, trying to iron out some kind of overtired and breathy accord -- was stupid. Shut up, go to bed, let your husband get some sleep. In the morning, eat some pancakes. Everything will seem better, I swear.  Sometimes, you just have to agree to disagree.  My mom taught me about the acronym HALT.  If you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, then that is NO time to talk about anything!!  I think things are always brighter in the morning.  I can remember several times that Andy & I have gotten into it at night time esp. after a couple of drinks.  Then the next morning when we rolled over we both chuckled a little and apologized for being ridiculous!  I also like the saying - would you rather be right or be happy.  I like to be right and happy but happiness is what I really want. But we always kiss and we always say I love you when we leave each other.

2. Laugh if you can.
In any fight, there is one person who is really mad, and one person who isn’t that mad. That person should deflect the fight. Make a joke, do something stupid or corny, make the other person laugh. If the fight is very serious for you and you feel like you really want to plant your flag and die on this hill, fine. Do it. But if you’re fighting for entertainment, or because you’re just reacting, then you be the one to deflect. Fights are bad. Deflecting a fight whenever possible is a good idea. When you’re the one who’s being pissy and raw, and the other person helps you get out of it and brings about peace, that feels fantastic. This was a hard lesson to learn, for me. Letting Dan deflect a fight is the best thing, now. He does it really well.  Andy is a pretty good deflector too.  But there has been times that I can recognize Andy's fight for what it is and not take it personal.  Usually he is the HALT from above or either he has gotten overworked and overwhelmed with his work load.  Trying not to take things as a personal attack on you is very helpful in these situations.  Everyone wants to feel understood and feel safe enough to vent to their partner.  So, again don't take it personal!

3. Don’t criticize. Ever.
Here is a fact: Whatever critical thing that you are about to say to your wife is already being loudly articulated in her head. And if it’s true, she already feels like crap about it. Assuming you married someone intelligent enough to like you and sane enough to let you put a ring on it, trust that they are self-aware enough to know when they screwed up. It may feel good to you in that moment to say the critical thing, let it go ringing through the air in all its sonorous correctness, but it will feel awful to hear it. The only, only way it’s beneficial to give your wife criticism of any kind is if you’re absolutely positive she is completely unaware. And you better find the nicest, kindest way possible to tell her. And even then, good luck convincing her. Their recognition of the thing you are helpfully trying to point out will be INHIBITED, not facilitated, by your criticism. And then you’re the asshole. So be careful.  Be impeccable with your word!  That one is so important.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Being critical is really only a reflection of the person doing the criticizing.  I have learned that the things we complain about we actually do to others but we don't recognize it in ourselves.  So if you find yourself being critical then you really need to look at yourself.  And if you are the one being criticized, don't take it personal but if you do then that is an area that you need to work on.  

4. Be the mirror.
Your husband is the mirror in which you see yourself. And the things you say to him give him an image of himself too, which he will believe. You want him to believe it, so make it good. Be a mirror that reflects something positive: you’re smart, you’re successful, you’re fantastic in the sack, you’re a great provider, you’re the best. Can you MAKE him any of these things just by telling him he is? I don’t know, but consider this: the alternative really sucks. The things my husband says to me are 1000 times more convincing than anyone else’s opinion on earth. Don’t think he won’t believe you because you’re married and you’re contractually obligated to say nice things. He’ll believe the shitty, insulting things you say, and the gloriously positive things.  This is important!  No, you can't change someone at all but when you really love someone then show it!  It will rub off, trust me.  It's like when you are grumpy and you hang out with someone who is like the sunshine.  Eventually you will start to smile.  Be the kind of person that you can't help but be in love with.  Ask yourself this - would you want to be you?

5. Be proud and brag.
Let your spouse hear you talking about them in glowing terms to other people. Be foolish. Be obvious. It will mean everything. You will stay married forever.  I love this!  It's one thing to complain about this or that to your best gal but to openly bash your man is just SOOO unattractive.  Not only is it unattractive to the people around you but your poor spouse is just knocked off their feet.  I would want to run far far away from anyone who treated me like that.  When I hear Andy bragging to people about the events that I do or the bread that I make or how I pack his lunch for work or how sexy & hot that he thinks I am - I tell you what, I am ready to rush right over there and give him a kiss that will knock him off of his feet.  I feel young, fresh, free, energized, loved, appreciated and happy.  I am sure he feels the same.  I used to be the wife who would do both though.  I would also criticize so he could hear me in hopes that it would motivate him to do better.  Guess what, it doesn't work like that at all because then he only heard the things that he was failing at and never heard the things that I bragged about.

6. Do your own thing.
Dan races bicycles. I write books. I don’t race bicycles or have any desire to race bicycles. He doesn’t write books, nor does he even read the books that I write. Seriously. And I don’t care. My opinion is that he’s the fastest, coolest most awesome bike racer ever. His opinion is that I’m the bestest, coolest writer ever. We don’t have to know all about cycling or writing in order to form these opinions -- in fact knowledge of literature or actually reading my book might damage Dan’s opinion of me as “best writer since the dawn of time.” We can still support each other without being all up in the other person’s stuff. Doing your own thing, having your own friends, being completely insanely passionate about something that the other person has no idea, really, about, is awesome. It allows your spouse to be your cheerleader, uncomplicated by knowledge or personal investment. And it means you’ll always have stuff to talk about, because you’re not overlapping all the time. You don’t have to read the same books either. You don’t have to have the same friends.  This one is a hard one for us but we are still learning.  Since we have been together since we were 17, we had some major growing pains.  This was a biggy.  Once we had kids, we just couldn't do everything together like we had before.  It started to make us feel so disconnected because we couldn't see another way of being together but being separate people.  We are learning to embrace our own unique interests and not feeling bad that it's time away from each other.  But Lydia is right because now we do have more stuff to talk about and it makes each of us more interesting to each other.  You have to remember to actually DO your own thing though!  I would watch my husband do his own thing while I sat at home with kids and chores.  Let me tell you (my mother tried to warn me but I dismissed her) RESENTMENT is lethal in a marriage.  If you feel any resentment, then I guarantee pain will follow.  Make sure you fill your own cup up!  It is your job to take care of yourself and only your job.  It's not your spouse's job to make you happy. A huge thing that I also learned about being separate is that the choices that either one of you make good or bad is not a reflection of the other. If Andy makes a poor choice, it is not mine nor is it a reflection of me. We are married but our own person.

7. Have kids.
Kids stop you from being as crazy as you want to be. Because when you have kids, you can’t be that crazy.  Nuff said!

8. Get really good at sex.
You’ve got all the time in the world to get really really good, not just at sex in general, but at having sex with your one particular husband. You should make it your life’s mission to become the perfect sex machine exactly for him. And he for you. There is no reason to hold back, or be embarrassed, or not ask questions, and get everything working properly. There’s absolutely no excuse for letting years drag on without becoming fully skilled, gifted sex partners for each other. It makes everything so much better. Does talking about this make you uncomfortable? How uncomfortable would it make you to know that your spouse is secretly, silently “just okay” with your sexual performance? Yeah. You want to last fifteen years, remember? That’s a long time to be mildly happy.  Luckily, we have never been lacking in this department.  Thank God.  I have told Andy countless of times that I think the only thing that did get us through the tough times was the amazing sex!  Make sex so good that you go deaf and can't walk a straight line afterwards.  Check out my post about Fuck Therapy!  I really recommend it.

9. Move.
Live in different houses. In different parts of the country. Travel. Make it so that you can look back and divide up your life into the years you spent in different cities, or different houses. If you’re feeling stuck geographically or physically, you can confuse yourself into thinking you’re stuck romantically. See your husband in different places, in different contexts, in different countries even. Try it. Take him to a mountaintop and give him another look. Pretty sexy. Take him to a new city and check out his profile. Along the same lines, don’t be afraid to change personally, or let your wife change as a person. Don’t worry about “growing apart.” Be brave and evolve. Become completely different. Don’t gather moss. Stagnation is unattractive.  If you don't have the money, then at least go camping.  Put it out to the universe that you want to go out into the world and it will happen better than if you planned it all by yourself.  Traveling and living in other places changes your perception.  Perception is key to your relationships and your life.  You can choose to see things as the worst thing that has ever happened to you or you can choose to see it as the best gift that was given to you.  To make you learn and grow and love.  Being stagnant makes it harder for us to shift our perceptions.  If you hate to travel or camp then take a class or have a new experience or eat a new ethnic food.  Look at things from a new light.

10. Stop thinking temporarily.
Marriage is not conditional. It is permanent. Your husband will be with you until you die. That is a given. It sounds obvious, but really making it a given is hard. You tend to think in “ifs” and “thens” even when you’ve publicly committed to forever. If he does this, I won’t tolerate it. If I do this, he’ll leave me. If I get fat. If I change jobs. If he says mean things. If he doesn’t pay more attention. It’s natural, especially in the beginning of your marriage, to keep those doubts in your head. But the sooner you can get go of the idea that marriage is temporary, and will end if certain awful conditions are met, the sooner you will let go of all kinds of conflict and stress. Yes, you may find yourself in a horrible situation where it’s absolutely necessary to get a divorce. But going into it with divorce in the back of your mind, even in the way way way back of your mind, is going to cause a lot of unnecessary angst. Accept that you’re going to stay with him. He’s going to stay with you. Inhabit that and figure out how to make THAT work, instead of living with the “what if”s and “in case of”s.  I always fear that something will happen to one of us prematurely.  I have had terrible nightmares about it that seem so real.  I try not to dwell on it because I don't want to manifest awful things.  But if you are always holding back your love because of your story or your pain then you will get exactly what you don't want.  I have heard that when a marriage is disconnected and one spouse starts to give in and break down the wall then in most cases the other spouse will follow suit.  

11. Do not put yourself in trouble’s way.
Leave your ex boyfriends and girlfriends alone. I’m sure you’re very trustworthy. Aren’t we all? The thing is, there’s absolutely no reason to test it. Your husband and your marriage are more valuable than any friendship. Any friendship that troubles the marriage should be over immediately. Protect it with knives and teeth, not because it’s fragile but because it’s precious. Don’t ass around with a “hall pass” or a “harmless flirtation.” Adultery isn’t an event, it’s a process with an event at the end. Don’t put your feet on a path that could lead someplace bad.  Don't flirt with disaster.  Adultery is the most painful, awful experience that could ever happen to anyone.  Don't go to bars without your spouse.  Seriously!! You are playing with fire and putting yourself in a situation that could lead you down a very dark path. Even if you are with your spouse, don't regularly go to places that are for single people.  Also, don't over party and put you or your spouse in a dangerous situation.  Drugs and alcohol completely change your demeanor and your behavior.  Just about any time Andy & I have thought that we could have a good time at Suds (doesn't it sound like such a swanky place?), we either end up in some drama, get into a fight, witness a fight, feel disconnected from each other and not have a good time.  When we engage in activities that are more in line with being in love and happy, we come home feeling wonderful and the week that follows is wonderful! You can rebuild a marriage after betrayal that is even better than before. All affairs are about feeling connected. That's all! Don't let yourselves get disconnected.

12. Make a husband pact with your friends.
The husband pact says this: I promise to listen to you complain about your husband even in the most dire terms, without it affecting my good opinion of him. I will agree with your harshest criticism, accept your gloomiest predictions. I will nod and furrow my brow and sigh when you describe him as a hideous ogre. Then when your fight is over and love shines again like a beautiful sunbeam in your life, I promise to forget everything you said and regard him as the most charming of princes once more. The husband pact is very useful because you want to be able to vent to your friend without having her actually start hating your husband. Because you don’t really mean all those things you say. And she, the swearer of the pact, knows this. This is new to me but I LOVE it.  My girls are pretty much like this but it's good to have a pact!  Andy likes to say from the song - "Don't advertise your man."  I think this one is also important.  It's good to share with your friends but always keep your man in your arms.

13. Bitch to his mother, not yours.
This is one I did read somewhere in a magazine, and it’s totally true. His mother will forgive him. Yours never will. If you’re a man, bitch to your friends. They expect it.  This is pretty good advice but maybe my mom isn't quite like most.  She is always non-bias and typically gives great advice!  So, I guess it depends on the moms.

14. Be loyal.
All the crap you read in magazines about honesty, sense of humor, communication, sensitivity, date nights, couples weekends, blah blah blah can be trumped by one word: loyalty. You and your spouse are a team of two. It is you against the world. No one else is allowed on the team, and no one else will ever understand the team’s rules. This is okay. The team is not adversarial, the team does not tear its members down, the team does not sabotage the team’s success. Teammates work constantly to help and better their teammates. Loyalty means you put the other person in your marriage first all the time, and you let them put you first. Loyalty means subverting your whims or desires of the moment to better meet your spouse’s whims or desires, with the full understanding and expectation that they will be doing the same. This is the heart of everything, and it is a tricky balance. Sometimes it sways one way and some the other. Sometimes he gets to be crazy, sometimes it’s your turn. Sometimes she’s in the spotlight, sometimes you. Ups and downs, ultimately, don’t matter because the team endures.  Loyalty is a must!  When you know better you do better.  We have learned how important we are to each other and how we need to honor each other and keep our marriage sacred.  We have learned that you have to be loyal to yourself ultimately.  Self-betrayal is just as important.  Learn about betrayal HERE.  How can you be a loyal spouse when you disregard yourself.  But loyalty and trust can be rebuilt.  Love can become stronger after pain.  Don't give it up!  Forgiveness is a must.  Read my post on How to Forgive - really forgive HERE.

15. Trust the person you married.
For two people who are trying to help each other, it can almost be harder to let the other person help you than it is to be the one who’s helping. It can be harder to let the other person deflect the fight than to be the one deflecting. It can be harder to believe that your husband is fully committed to a lifetime of marriage than to commit yourself. Harder to change yourself than to let the other person change. Harder to be loved than to love. Weird, but true. I’m saying this to everyone who’s newly married, and to myself: trust that person. Love them completely and let them love you. If it all goes to seed, it’s going to hurt either way. Better to have gone into it full throttle. Full throttle marriage is a thrilling ride.  My thoughts exactly.  Let's live and love without holding back. 

{Lydia Netzer’s original article, complete with adorable pictures!}

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