Friday, 11 July 2014

10 tips for a long and happy marriage

Yesterday,  I celebrated ten years of marriage. In the past decade my husband and I have had three children, moved house, changed jobs (and career), and been through moments of joy and despair including the deaths of loved ones. So that's quite a lot of change, stress, joy and grief.

So, as we mark our tenth anniversary I thought I'd reflect on ten ingredients for a long and happy marriage.

1. Show kindness every day. It might just be making him a cup of tea when he walks in from work or complimenting him on how good he looks in that shirt. But by showing kindness, you are showing how much he means to you and that you are thinking of him.

2. Share the every day chores. Washing up, hoovering, doing the laundry, putting the bins out. They're all a bit boring and if one person thinks they're doing all the work, then resentment can soon build up. So make sure you both pull your weight. Sometimes you might allocate certain tasks (in my house my husband tends to do the bins), but occasionally, step up and do their bit too.

2. It's not just about sex. When children enter the equation and you're knee deep in nappies and exhausted because you've not slept for longer than 2 hours straight for weeks on end, it can be difficult to imagine how you ever managed to create this new life. There are times in married life when your libido packs up its bags and goes on holiday for a while - but you're married for life and when things settle back down again you can reignite the passion. You don't have to do it every night, week or even month to prove how much you love eachother. Accept that this is a temporary phase and enjoy less vigorous past-times. You can be close by just sitting next to eachother on the sofa and holding hands.

3. But you can keep the spark alive. Every now and then I look at my husband when he doesn't know I'm watching and I focus on what made me fancy him like mad when we first met. The way his eyebrows sit above his twinkling eyes, the way he runs his hand through his hair, his cute bum. Every time I do this I remember how much I love him and why I am so thrilled to be his wife.

4. Be responsible for your own happiness. Being married is not all roses. Sometimes you experience sadness too. But don't depend on your other half to make you happy. You are responsible for the way you feel. So take ownership of your emotions and if you're having an off day (or week or month) do something constructive about it. Go out for a walk or a run, go and see a doctor if you need to, but don't blame your spouse, just ask for their support in helping you help yourself.

5. Remember you have just as many annoying habits as he does. My husband has a few little quirks that can be really annoying (especially if I'm tired). The way he always forgets to rinse his stubble out of the sink after a shave and his inability to put a bin-liner in the bin properly. But, I also remember that I am not perfect and there are a few things I do that wind him up like failing to wipe down the kitchen surfaces when I wash up and leaving piles of newspapers around the house. So accept eachother's shortcomings and remember that neither of you is perfect.

6.  Take time out to enjoy your own friends or interests. Every now and then I go away for a weekend with my old friends and leave my husband at home with the children and occasionally, my husband goes away for the weekend with his old friends and leaves me at home with the children. It keeps us in touch with our wider support networks and it reminds us of the people we were when we first met. When we come back, we are usually tired (because we never take advantage of the potential lie in and always stay up far too late) but rejuvenated.

7. Show an interest in each other's hobbies. I'm never going to be a huge football fan, but my husband is a big sports enthusiast and I enjoy surprising him every now and then with a fact I have picked up about his favourite team. Showing an interest in something new expands your horizons and gives you more to talk about. You don't have to suddenly become a die-hard Spurs fan, but by sharing your husband's passion, you have more to talk about and you show how much you care about their passions (after all - you are one of their passions too).

8. Compromise. But not on the things that really, really matter to you. Compromise is all well and good, but actually, I think it's about give and take. Work out which things really matter to you and reason why they are so important and let go of the stuff that isn't so important. Do you really need to be in charge of the colour scheme for the whole house? I had firm ideas for how I wanted our dining room to look, so I took charge of that project and let my husband have free reign in the lounge. I love what he's done in there and it's probably not what we would have chosen together and I adore our dining room too.

9. Accept change. We have both changed a lot in the past ten years. I suppose parenthood can have that effect on people! But I think what strengthens a relationship is that we have both embraced the changes that have come along. Changes are part of our shared history and as we've encountered changes in our lives we've become even more intertwined rather than growing apart.

10. Make plans. We have plans for the short-term future, mid-term future and long-term future. We've not necessarily mapped them out, but we know eachother's hopes for the future. When we retire, we are going to go on a round the world trip. It's a long-term plan and it's part of the cement of our shared future.

What tips do you have for a long and happy marriage?

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