I don't claim to know everything about marriage; I don't even claim to know much at all about marriage, but I have learned a few things in the past nine years. So here you go.
- Your partner isn't a mind-reader.
This is the biggest one. It's unfair to have expectations (carried over from previous relationships or family life or books or whatever) and get upset if you've never EXPLAINED them. Talk it out. Sometimes you'll realize that your expectation is unfair and needs to change. Sometimes they'll realize they can fulfill that for you. Sometimes you continue to struggle. But at least you've talked about it.
- Hints don't work with boys.
At least not with any boys I've met. Ever. Explain things flat out. You want these earrings for Christmas? Tell him. You hate when he leaves his underwear on the floor? Don't heave a huge sigh as you pick them up; explain that picking up his dirty underwear makes you feel like his mother and then you don't want to have sex with him. Understanding WHY you hate cleaning up after him will probably give him a new level of motivation. (I think "you're a grown-up, now act like it" is probably not the best technique to use here.)
- Never have a mexican standoff over the trash can.
It *will* be overflowing onto the floor before he notices that it needs emptying. (Unless you're married to an OCD person, in which case I'm jealous.)
- One person cannot be your everything.
I think this is a cultural expectation that catches many of us. It's impossible for one single person to be the sexual, mental, emotional, AND spiritual counterpoint to another, and that's ok. That's why we have friends and family and time on our own.
- Maintain separate interests.
I like to read, knit, watch west wing, play word games, thrift shop, and He likes to fix things, work deals, build bonfires, and listen to books on CD. The idea of sitting and reading a book makes him stabby; the idea of poking my hands in a greasy car motor makes my skin crawl. THAT'S OK. I read all my feminist blogs and have my human rights discussions with friends and come back and throw the ideas at him, and he pokes holes in my theories. And then I do the same to his ideas. Which means that after nine years of being married, I still genuinely enjoy having conversations with my husband.
- Try to share interests.
(I promise this isn't directly contradicting the previous point!) Le hubs had never swum in salt water before we started dating. As a life-long east coast girl, this blew my mind. Now, however, he's become more of a beach bum than I: he owns a jeep, a boat, and multiple surfboards. My idea of a "good day at the beach" still involves not getting wet, but I've promised to let him teach me to surf next summer. We also watch Top Gear (UK version) together, and when we find a show or movie we both like, we save it to watch together. He's tried to go running with me, but that was kind of an epic fail since he's faster than I am and it made me angry. He's convinced me to go camping; I've gotten him to like curry. When you find those shared interests that you both genuinely like (water-skiing, anyone?), save them to savor together.
- Regularly discuss your goals and dreams.
Being on the same page means that you can put up with a heck of a lot. Right now we live in a wood-stove heated trailer in the middle of the woods. Its basically a dream come true for a two-year-old, but lets be honest: it's not very impressive looking. But I'm ok with that because it enables us to live completely on my income from Starbucks. Le hubs is able to stay home with the munchkins, and in ten years we will be in something better. These are the choices we have made together, and it's awesome to see the progress we are making toward our goals.
- Keep separate bank accounts.
Some people very much disagree with this one, but I'm a huge proponent of it. We each have our own business account plus a joint. The joint account is where all the joint bills are paid from. The business accounts are where all our respective business expenses are paid from. Simple enough, but it's awesome to buy myself a pair of shoes without worrying about justifying it. And he can go buy surfboards or whatever. We're able to surprise each other, and to me, that is worth a lot.
- At the end of the day, you have to respect them.
Because if you don't respect the person you're with, why are you with them? No, I'm serious. You don't have to agree, just respect that their reasoning is solid and they have the best interests of the team at heart. If you respect them, you can trust them. And that's what matters.
What about you all, dear readers? Do you have any valuable relationship advice that you've learned through trial and error?