Here's some Marriage Pro Tips, coming from the 14-year veteran experience of DubyaWifeHusband.
This article isn't for wives to send to their husbands with subject line "FW: HEY, READ THIS, DICK". So don't do that. This is for all types of love, and for both sides of a spousal partnership to share in.
It is the goal of this article to start a beneficial discussion, so here goes. I'll start strong, with the heaviest-hitting Pro Tip.
- Grow Up
If there is one thing to be said about getting married young, it's that you get a chance to grow up together, experience things for the first time together, and work your way through many of life's bumps, career hiccups, little discoveries about how things work, ownership of "things", paying taxes, children, friends.
Even if you're not getting married at age 19, there's still a lot you can grow up and experience together, not the least of which is life together. You're not ever "done" experiencing new things, sorry, so don't pretend like you've seen/done everything before.
Yeah, this also means you need to examine verse "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child." But this Pro Tip is about more than being a grown-up.
Don't expect to forever be the same person he/she married, and don't provide resistance when your new life together changes you in a positive way. If you are happy with the person you're with, find happiness in the positive habits and patterns that come along with him/her.
You're supposed to look back on your life and note the progress. The goal for anyone is to better yourself, make yourself more versatile, more aware, more capable, more experienced. Challenge yourself to grow not into a different person but into a better person. Inspired by your marriage, not bound by it. You're not stuck or cast in marble.
- Learn to Give a Compliment
If you regularly pepper your spouse with compliments about their looks, their big sexy brain, or their prowess at Settlers of Catan, you can skip this Pro Tip.
If you don't, you need to hurry up and find the right voice to give a confident and heartfelt compliment, like "you're beautiful" even in the dark.
Why can't you say that? Seriously, what is it about a compliment you can't say? Maybe you think you sound silly, or maybe you don't want to embarrass yourself by saying something unexpected, or maybe you don't think it's true. Maybe you can't say it without following it up by some sarcastic jab, or maybe you can't say it without pointing out a flaw to "even it out." Maybe you think he/she will reject you (see Pro Tip #3). If any of those apply to you, you need to work on this and fast.
Also, "He/she knows I love them, I don't have to tell them," is the same thing as a manager saying "I know my employees are happy, I don't have to appreciate them." It's an idiotic rationale for a spouse or boss to use.
If there's anyone who needs to tell your spouse how smart they sounded, how clever or funny they are, how well they performed, or how proud you are, it's you.
If there's anyone from whom your spouse deserves to hear flirty compliments, it's you.
Can't give that compliment? Get over yourself. Figure it out.
- Learn to Take a Compliment
"No I'm not, I look horrible" you said, unplayfully. It's a bigger rejection than you think. You might need to work on you here, and find a way to accept approval... from the one person you've chosen to have to look at you every day.
If you can't take a compliment without smiling and thanking, this Pro Tip is for you.
First off, stop analyzing the compliment for historical and scientific accuracy. This isn't MythBusters. Find some compassion for the complimentee to accept the sentiment, and build some freaking self-confidence by receiving and accepting the kind words.
You might think this is a strictly feminine thing, but it's not. There's some basic human self-esteem at test here, so practice some self-building when the compliment comes. Nobody is going to think you're stuck up or lying if you say "You think so? Thanks, you look cute too!"
Find your own voice to accept that compliment free of self-judgement.
- Be Good Roommates
Work out who does the dishes and laundry, mows the lawn, etc. Communicate your calendar. Get your email calendars together, and I'm not talking about that "Hang In There Kitty" wall calendar. Organize your life together.
It's not an invasion of privacy, it's not a burden. It's common courtesy and common sense.
The topic of shared calendars is a sore spot especially. Stop wasting time arguing about who told who when. Avoid one person making the other late and vice versa. Clearly and electronically provide an answer to "What time is our naked sushi party again?" (This has not been reviewed by the FDA.)
DubyaWife and I lead pretty busy lives, and every day of the week could have a different schedule for who's leaving when, who's carting DubyaTeen around town, or what's going on for dinner. So we have to work as a team to make the household function.
You'd be surprised how many fights/embarrassments/lies/awkward explanations you can avoid with a bit of planning and communication.
- Be Strong When Needed
You're both going to hit hard times, feel depressed, struggle with work, lose a parent, get sick or injured. When this happens, the other needs to rise up, stiffen against the wind, and help the other limp along, physically or emotionally.
This is like the two sets of footprints on a beach poem, but with real life humans.
Recognize when it is your time to be the strong one, and start carrying. Pick up the burden without guilt trips, without hesitation, without selfish concern.
Recognize when it is your time of weakness, accept your spouse's help gratefully and eagerly, and work through it. Soon it will be your time to be strong again. Strong like bull.
- Laugh At Your Partner's Jokes
Imagine you're at a party and everyone is cracking jokes and telling stories.
You married them, so now it's your job to laugh at your spouse's jokes, pay attention to their story with eye contact, and answer "Who's there?" to their knock knock joke. Seriously, this is a real thing.
This comes from a career joke bomber. That DubyaWife quieted the crickets with a gleeful snort to my Hunt for Red October pun is so extremely sexy. Just because she's heard my funny story before, doesn't mean that DubyaWife won't laugh at it each time in new company.
- Listen and Validate Without Insta-Fixing
Kinda wish that 21-year old me could have read this one. This is something I had to learn early on and am still working on with both DubyaWife and DubyaTeen. I'm a Mr. Fix-It in most things in life, but when it comes to an employee's irrational comment, a teacher's insane homework assignment, or a frozen smartphone, I need to not immediately engage the fixer-engine.
My first priority shouldn't be bypassing my wife or daughter's feelings and response to the problem with a quickly-offered pragmatic solution, even if my solution to the problem is well-intentioned and smartly-considered.
My first priority should be providing witness and agreement to the fact that this problem exists and that man, that sucks.
My second priority is making sure I've heard their actions in response to the problem, what their plan is, or how they may have already resolved it.
My third priority? Waiting for some indication in the conversation that advice is being sought.
- Don't Tell Your Partner How to Feel
"When was the last time we went on a date?" he/she muses to you.
Wrong response: "Are you forgetting that just last month we..."
When your spouse muses, passively-aggressively or otherwise, about the recency of any activity, there's an instinct to defend yourself and provide proof that your spouse is wrong, that you have indeed been on a date. This similarly applies to when your partner implies "You've never..." or "You haven't ... in forever..."
The correct response is to understand you're being requested - hopefully playfully - to take your spouse on a date, write a poem, deliver flowers, cook dinner, or walk the dog. Perhaps it's a roundabout way of asking, but the worst thing you could do is start disagreeing with your spouse about whether or not you need to go on a date. Of course you do!
- Don't Play Accounting Games
If possible, join your checking accounts, pay bills out of the same place, and deposit checks in the same place. There's some serious advantages to this. First of, you avoid the stupid arguments over who pays what, who's income is this, who deserves what. Think bigger picture. Start thinking like a family, paying what needs to be paid, and buying what the family needs to be buy. Saving up and buying necessities is a family responsibility, not an individual's. Holding on to silly "what's mine" stuff is a good way to keep fresh in mind the potential that you won't be married forever. To be blunt, you should not think like that. Don't be vindictive or uncooperative with your money.
But regardless of whether you have joint and/or separate accounts/credit cards, here's the key: don't fool yourselves with accounting games. Don't "you bought this so I can buy this," or "I paid for this last time, you should pay for it this time."
Should you have to fix the car, even if it's not "your" car? Yes, and without strings attached.
Can you still splurge for yourself on a new video game? Of course.
Will you be able to still shop discretely during the holidays to avoid spoilerizing gifts? Sure, talk about it and figure it out together.
Either you're married or you're not, don't be "married except for my checkbook."
- Everyone Gets Cookies in bed.
So uh, this isn't the kind of blog where I'll be discussing how to make this work, but uh, make it work. Both of you get your cookies in bed.
If it ain't happening, start talking and start learning. 'nuff said.
Now, a challenge. You'll notice this post is gender neutral. Make sure you're applying the same standards and lessons to yourself as well as to your spouse, and talk about it. Share this article not passive-aggressively, not with an agenda and not with a grudge to bring up. Share it with your partner openly, kindly and honestly. Talk about what you want to do better yourself, first.