Relationships are tough. Marriage is tougher. And it’s
certainly not for everyone. As a lawyer, I have handled a few
divorces. Thank goodness there is such an alternative for people
trapped in horrible circumstances. But if you’re inclined to weather
sickness and health, richer and poorer — and even if you’ve just
met the person with whom you want to be in a longterm romance
— bring a short memory and a long sense of humor. You’re gonna
1. Burn your blueprint. Rid yourself of whatever fantasies
you harbor about the bliss of coupled life. They’re not helping.
There is no script, so don’t be disappointed when your fairytale
2. Forgive. Didn’t Jesus say something about
forgiving someone not just seven times but seventy times seven?
That would be 490 times….which should last you through your first
6 months. Jesus underestimated because, remember, he wasn’t
3. And forget. If you forgive but don’t forget, did you
really forgive? I know people who claim to have forgiven but still
use every available opportunity to bring it up. And if you don’t
want to forgive, forgetting works just as well.
4. Be a good
teammate. Life can come at you hard. One of the nice things
about marriage and relationships is being able to have someone
else in the bunker when you’re getting shelled.
5. Grow. If you still
have the same desires, opinions and beliefs at age 50 that you did
at age 25, that’s your own damn fault. You will not, and should
not, be the same person you were then.
6. And adapt. Even if you
stagnate, the person you’re in a relationship with will change.
Don’t fight it. Embrace it, learn from it, be thankful for it.
your faith. There is great comfort in believing in something or
someone beyond our crude human existence. Explore this belief.
Take this journey together.
8. Travel together. Travel forces
couples to rely on one another in unpredictable ways. It will also
broaden your worldview and the way you value your relationship.
9. Travel separately. I want to go to Australia and you want to go
to Maine? Cool. Take lots of pictures. See you in a week.
Develop your own interests. It seems counter-intuitive, but you
will enhance your relationship when you pursue your separate
11. Cultivate a wide, diverse circle of friends. One of the
greatest joys of living is meeting new people. And many of the
people you meet will likely make you appreciate your mate even
12. Don’t keep score. I know a couple who keeps track of
the number of times each partner completes a household chore.
Don’t do this. It’s exhausting. And childish.
13. Exercise. You owe
it to each other to be in the best physical health possible. The
mental side effects from exercise will also be beneficial.
Practice self-awareness. Take frequent looks in the mirror.
Reflect on who you are and the contributions you are making to
your relationship. Are you being judgmental? Unfair? Harsh?
15. Admit that you’re wrong (even, on
occasion, when you aren’t). This is both the easiest and hardest
thing to do on this list. But this simple gesture will pay
immeasurable dividends; it will help you grow and it’s just the
right thing to do.
16. Celebrate accomplishments big and small.
Whether it’s a promotion at work or the police officer let you off
with just a warning, find every occasion possible to toast your
17. Surprise one another. Fill up her car. Let him
sleep alone in the bed once in a while. Buy some bacon.
the good little things. Holding the door, suggesting a movie night,
paying attention. The reward for these is greater than the sum of
19. And it’s the bad little things. Cracking your
knuckles, spitting, clearing your throat, picking your nose, chewing
ice. These are death by a thousand cuts to your relationship.
Cultivate your finer qualities. When do you ever have an
opportunity to really work on qualities that make you a better
person? In a strong relationship, you can do it every single day.
Qualities like patience, loyalty, compassion, trust.
bathroom is private. If you think it’s quaint to brush your teeth
while I use the toilet, you’ll change your mind about that
eventually. Trust me.
22. Encourage each other. We all have insecurities. Your
relationship is one place where you should be completely free to
reveal these and your spouse should help you overcome them.
It’s okay to have secrets. Even George Bailey slipped Violet Bick a
$20 bill every now and then.
24. Avoid subtext. This is a cowardly
way to communicate. If you have something to say, say it. Don’t
hint about it.
25. Put it down. The toilet seat. Her cell phone. The
26. Pick it up. Your dirty sock. Your used tissue. The pace.
27. Don’t over-romanticize past (or future) relationships. You
weren’t that great and your ex isn’t that hot.
28. Never use the “s”
word. Don’t call each other “stupid.” That’s just stu…. not wise.
29. Offer solutions, not criticism. Anyone can criticize. A good
teammate (See Rule 4) will offer a way out.
30. Read. To escape
or to expand. Either way, it helps.
31. You are equals. It doesn’t
matter which one of you makes the most money. It doesn’t matter
which one of you has the better REO Speedwagon vinyl collection.
It doesn’t matter which one of you has the best nickname. It
doesn’t even matter which one of you has the coolest food
32. Compliment each other. Sincerely and often.
33. Respect each other’s friends. You know your wife’s loud mouthed,
insane friend Cathy who thinks you have weak bullshit and can’t
believe you married her BFF? See below.
34. Know when to keep
your mouth shut. No list would be complete without the “Do these
jeans make my butt look big?” lesson.
35. Indulge each other’s
passions. Scrapbooking doesn’t count.
36. Lose your arbitrary
moral code. This list alone proves that I am the king of the double
standard. When I want to spend money on a new set of golf clubs,
it’s a good investment. When my wife wants to spend money on
new kitchen countertops, she’s a profligate. It’s not exactly fair.
37. Respect space and time. Have we not evolved as a species or
watched enough Dr. Phil to realize our mate does not want to
answer the question “How was your day?” the minute he/she
walks in the door?
38. Take pride in your appearance. Your
marriage license doesn’t give you a free pass to always wear
sweat pants and T-shirts.
39. Maintain good hygiene. Could your
big toenail puncture a snow tire? Could your breath peel
wallpaper? Take care of that, please. I don’t want to have to tell
40. Ask before you throw it away. Don’t touch that
broken, ceramic, animated cactus tequila shot glass holder. I’m
41. Invite his/her family to special gatherings. At least
once. Thankfully, this may be all you need.
42. Speaking of family,
everyone gets a holiday card and a birth announcement. Even your
creepy Uncle Steve and their psycho cousin Lisa.
43. Don’t be
petty. So I forgot to stop at the store to get your prescription. Did
you have to throw away my ceramic cactus shot glass holder?
Be self-sufficient. Learn to do your own laundry. Know how to
cook a meal; how to navigate the grocery store; how to make an
online purchase; how to turn off the water to the house; how to
erect a Nerf basketball hoop; how to unclog a toilet.
Everything is fair game for a joke. This should be at the heart of
everything you do. I have not found a single thing that I have been
unable to eventually laugh about. If you know this from the
beginning, it makes things a lot more fun.
46. Have good manners.
Don’t yell. Open the door. Help carry the groceries. Cover your
cough. Hold your gas.
47. Be responsible with money. No one
lives on love. You need money. If you earned it, you will almost
certainly respect it. If you didn’t earn it, you must respect it even
48. Remember to say thank you. Even and especially when
things don’t seem like they need to be acknowledged.
49.Adapting beats abandoning. There will be moments when you want
to quit, walk out, give up. You can do that. But you will probably
be doing so without giving due consideration to the new life that
awaits you. Will you be better off in six months? 10 years?