My anniversary was last week and I’ve been married for 30 years.  Something like 35% of marriages will hit that milestone (it could be less, I’m working off of old census data). So it some ways, it feels like fairly select company.  My sweetie and I have actually been together longer than that but the marriage milestone still seems like an important one.

So my unsolicited advice around marriage….your mileage may vary!

  • What’s your compatibility like? Perhaps opposites do attract or maybe you fit together hand in glove.  I think the important piece here is that you can honor and acknowledge your partners personality even if you don’t understand it. If you start to ridicule (or be ridiculed) for basic personality traits or temperament then you are going to have some big troubles.  Of course some things about your partner/spouse are going to bug you at various times. Breathe deep, they are probably the same traits that attracted you to them in the first place.
  • Cultivate your sense of humor. Again these don’t have to match but it helps to be on the same page. I’d personally be wary of someone who uses ridicule as a humor mechanism.  On a related note, have fun together.  Whatever that is for you.  Even when we had small children we figured out a way to get out and do something we enjoyed together.
  • Explore your interests both mutual and separate. If I had to point to only one thing I think that has helped us as a couple is our ability to explore distinct interests that we have shared with each other. In some cases, this has opened a door for the other to get involved in the same activity or interest.  This has been the case for us and singing.  But we also make room for separate interests and differences.  I like to write, it’s a solitary activity.  David will sometimes get involved as an editor/reader (and a damn good one) but we don’t write together.  He plays guitar.  I can’t play any musical instrument.  But we can sing together.

I think it’s important to note that although we have cultivated separate interests (and friends that may come along with those interests) we’ve been up front about these with each other.  This leads me to my next point.

  • Practice trust and transparency. When I’ve seen friends’ marriages falter it’s been on the rocks here. I trust David to tell me what he’s doing, what his interests are, who his friends are, etc.   This is not to say that temptation has not come our way. It has.  I remember my own “danger Will Robinson” moment.  But I believed in what we had, and what I had (and have) in my guy.  And I honestly hope it doesn’t come up again.
  • Make and keep friends, together and separately.  I think this works for us (see point above) even if I’m not friends with every one of David’s friends and vice versa.  I do things with my friends regularly, he does things with his.  And of course we have many mutual friends we enjoy.
  • Sex and touch are important. And the practice of both will change over time.  That’s been a bit difficult to get used to.  The sleep deprived days of small children were short on sex.  Humans are wired for touch though and snuggling or just holding hands are ways to say “I love you”

Tolstoy said “Happy families are all alike”. But I don’t think that’s true. Certainly in happiness they may be alike. But what constellation of factors brought that relatinship, or my marriage or yours, to happiness at a particular moment are in all likelihood different in degree, amount, and even the particular components.  There is research on this topic but ultimately, what’s useful is what works for you.  I’m grateful that we’ve figured out what works for us, and that I am still in love with “the bride’s best friend.”


PS An interesting article on this topic of focusing on me to get to we: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/02/weekinreview/02parkerpope.html?_r=0