How to Have a Happy Marriage

1. Don't divide up the chores between each other, so that one person is exclusively responsible for some things and the other for everything else. If you see something that you feel needs doing (the laundry, cooking dinner, changing a light bulb, picking up toys), do it. Above all, don't keep count of what you do and what your spouse does, as if you are filling up some great tally sheet. Don't worry about "being fair" (see below, #4).

2. Don't assume that just because your spouse says he or she isn't interested in trying something new at the moment that this means he or she will never be interested. Timing counts, as does context. If there is something that you really want to do, say so and explain why. Then give your spouse the opportunity to ask him- or herself whether he or she would be interested. The likelihood is that, given time, he or she will, but only if it is not presented as an obligation or a trade (see #1).

3. Accept that your spouse really does love you just the way you are. Women, this especially means you. Don't assume that he wants you to look like a stick-thin fashion model (if he did, he wouldn't be with you in the first place). Rejecting your body is rejecting something he loves and, therefore, if you think about it, a way of rejecting his love. Throw out the bathroom scales and concentrate on how much he loves you. You will be more beautiful than you can possibly imagine.

4. Do as much as you possibly can together without worrying about efficiency (see above, #1). It is far more important to spend time together than it is to have all the chores done. Efficiency is not a virtue; it is a trap. Your marriage is not a factory for producing something (e.g. a clean house, well-behaved children); it is a relationship with another human being. There is nothing "efficient" about not spending time together because you have made one partner responsible for some things and the other for other things.

5. If you do or think something of which you feel ashamed, talk about it. If you don't, it will hover between the two of you like some terrible cloud, poisoning everything you think or do. People are not mind-readers, but they are extremely good at sensing each other's mood. If you are concealing something from your spouse, he or she will know it. The corollary to this is that if you talk about what it is that makes you feel ashamed, you will more than likely find that it is a much bigger deal to you than it is to your spouse. Talking will bring the monster down to size.

6. If it is at all possible, remodel your kitchen as soon as you can, ideally before you move in. The kitchen is the heart of a home. It is the source of food and caring, warmth and life. Bedrooms and sitting rooms are important, too, but a home is nothing but a hotel room if there is not a kitchen in which you can cook. Aesthetics matters here as well as functionality; the kitchen should not be so oversized as to be impractical, but neither should it be a space of which you are ashamed or in which you do not feel comfortable spending a good deal of time.

7. Recognize that children are not pets, and vice versa. Both involve shared responsibilities, but children also change the dynamic of your relationship. You cannot just put the baby in its crate and go out for the evening. Neither, however, are children more important than your life as a couple. Get a baby sitter and go out on a regular basis. If you don't, any money you "save" not going out when the kids are younger will just be spent on going to a counselor once they've grown (that is, if you are lucky enough to still be together by this time).

8. Visit each other's workplace and watch what each other does during the day. Try to see your spouse as others see him or her, as a responsible, functioning, skilled adult, not just the one with whom you share the responsibility of paying the bills. It is important to listen to each other talk about concerns from work, but it is even more important to see your spouse in his or her worklife, doing what he or she does. The same holds for stay-at-home spouses: what does he or she do during the day while you are at work?

9. Every so often, literally clear out the junk in your home: old clothes, books you no longer expect to want to read, papers and files that you don't need anymore, old projects and furniture, toys your children have outgrown. Don't just let it silt up. Yes, it's an effort to sort through all the stuff and sometimes it just doesn't feel like the right time. But homes need to be able to breathe just like plants. Nothing can grow in soil that has become too compacted. If you are starting to feel like you don't have time or space to do the things that you really want to do, it is more than likely that what you need to do is throw out (or donate) some of your stuff.

10. Get outside. Sit in the garden. Take a walk together (you can bring the dog). Really talk to each other. Then pick up the dog poop (see above, #1).

Comments

  1. Very good advice!

    I cannot overstate the importance of #3.

    Most men simply don't want a stick thin woman. I certainly didn't. And most husbands aren't as concerned with their wives' weight as the wives. It doesn't mean we (men and women) shouldn't try to be healthy, but the obsession with the outward appearance will stifle a relationship.

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