“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”
– Mignon McLaughlin
Are marriages really made in heaven?
If so, then why do a staggering 40-50% of all marriages (as per a U.S study) end up in divorce?
And if not, is it really the minefield it’s portrayed to be, with a chance of everything falling apart in the next step?
Now, I think you’ll agree with me when I say – marriages are hard.
They are riddled with traps and pitfalls – incompatible values, unfulfilled expectations, conflicting dreams and aspirations. They can leave you confused, scared, and overwhelmed.
On some days it’s all rainbows, sunshine, and unicorns. But on some other days, you feel like you don’t even know the person you love.
It’s easy to get lost. It’s easy to blame your partner. It’s even easier to blame yourself for the shortcomings.
“Is that’s all there is?” You might wonder as you struggle in your relationship, unsure how to reignite the spark.
You don’t know why your relationship is falling apart. You know you’re turning bitter and cynical. You just want to love and feel loved again.
So, is there a happily ever after?
But there’s a catch…
It doesn’t come without putting in work.
Marriage is a contract, not a guarantee. It’s machinery that needs constant oiling. It’s the hedge that needs constant trimming and tending to, or it grows into a thing with a grotesque shape.
It’s definitely not all doom and gloom.
Yes, there will be challenges. There will be hardships. There will be fallouts. There will be disagreements. And there will be dishing out hurts.
But there will be happiness. There will be tender moments. There will be making-ups. There will be vows to do better. And there will be picking up the pieces together.
So how do you get there? And more importantly, who put me on the high horse from where I’m doling out advice?
Well, a few days back, Swati and I celebrated our 12th marriage anniversary. So if you ask me, the horse looks pretty damn high now.
So here are 12 lessons that keep the cliché of happily ever after alive for us.
Start with the Values
Discuss your values.
This is hard because people are not clear on their own values in their early lives. The values emerge in course of time and with introspection.
We married early and didn’t know better. On the course of our journey, we figured out what our non-negotiables are and what are not. And now we understand how important values are.
So what should you do?
Align your values. Align them early and it will give a tremendous edge to your relationship.
It’s difficult. But do it anyways. Do it to the best of your abilities. It pays to discuss this early in the relationship.
Play on Your Strengths
No one’s good at everything. It’s better to stick to your strengths than to shore up the abilities you lack.
In our case, family finances are my domain. Keeping ourselves organized is her’s. We never encroach on each other’s fiefdoms.
Here’s how you can do the same thing…
Figure out your strengths. Mark them as your domain and stick to them. Appreciate each other for what you bring to the table.
Act as a team, not as competitors, and reach even greater heights.
Finances are a Couple’s Game
Plan your expenses, your investments, and your goals for life together.
Discuss your financial plans and philosophy. Pool your contributions towards the common expenses. Keep your personal expenses separate.
Good financial health is the bedrock of marriage.
Complement each other instead of competing with each other
Marriage is not a race. Marriage is not a competition. Marriage doesn’t mean fusing two lives together and creating something grotesque.
Marriage is a team game. Marriage is a Venn diagram. Marriage is when two people carry on with their life but decide to dedicate a part of life towards their shared goals.
Don’t make your marriage a bed of thorns by pitting yourselves against each other.
A lover is good. A friend is even better.
Marry someone with whom you can talk your heart out.
Make no topic taboo or out of bounds. Go for it, have fun and bust each other’s balls.
How do you do that?
You don’t have to always portray yourself in the best light. Bring every aspect of yourself to the table. Be vulnerable. Air your fear, doubts, insecurities. Squash them out together.
Nothing builds love and trust better than vulnerability.
Reach Out When in Doubt
Talk. Talk. Talk. And when in doubt, talk more.
Let’s get something clear here – if you think two people can live together without conflicts you are living a fool’s dream.
Learn to frame your questions and statements to resolve conflicts and not fan them. Resolve them early, don’t let them fester.
As Rachel Facio suggests, argue but stay kind while doing that. Momentary satisfaction from a seething remark is not worth the bad aftertaste.
Forgive each other and never ever hold a grudge. Grudges rob away precious moments from your marriage.
Don’t let the Spark Die Out
Romance never goes out of style. The small gestures, the impromptu hugs, the genuine compliments, they never get old.
Be playful. We all need some more “childishness” in our lives and our relationships. A boring relationship without any fun or frolic is not worth having.
Love is not an event but a choice that you make every day. Choose to love and appreciate each other. The returns are manifold.
The Nasty is Necessary
Sex. It’s important.
Talk to your partner about your expectations. Do not tiptoe around the subject and expect each other to read minds.
Establish routines and stick to them. But for God’s sake, if you get some unplanned time together – don’t let it go to waste.
Outlawed by the In-laws
In-laws are a tricky subject. I’ve found that an inert, balanced approach works best. Become too close and they start to get involved in your couple’s decision. Stray too far and the ties begin to wither.
State your boundaries and enforce them. When it comes to in-laws, never compromise your boundaries or ask your partner to cross theirs.
Keep the inner sanctum of your marriage free from the influences of your in-laws. It saves you from tons of drama and bad blood.
Gratitude is Magic
Be grateful and get rid of your entitlements.
There are no ‘supposed to’s. Every help is a bonus. Cherish them for it.
How do you do that?
Have a daily gratitude session where your entire family comes together and says why they are grateful to each other. The ROI on happiness from this exercise is almost unbelievable.
Don’t take each other for granted and count your blessings together. You will attract more of them.
Resist Change at Your Own Risk
Don’t expect your relationship to stay the same.
You are not the person who you were 10 years ago. So how can your relationship be the same?
As you grow evolve and mature, so does your relationship. That’s natural, healthy, and inevitable.
Stay eager and excited to see how your relationship evolves. Don’t try to contort it back to the old cast.
Self-care is Non-negotiable
Being married doesn’t mean giving up on your individuality.
Never sacrifice your well-being for your relation. Because if both cannot coexist, then there was no relationship to begin with.
Find at least 30 minutes a day to lavish on yourself and get connected to yourself.
How can you do that?
Here are a few ideas:
- Walking in nature
- Self-care routines
Take good care of yourself. Don’t aim for perfection, but do aim for good enough.
Your wellness compounds the wellness of your marriage.
The Happily Ever After
Marriages are hard. The very idea of such a daunting commitment might leave you overwhelmed.
And even once you’re committed, it’s still scary and confusing. You can easily lose your way in the quagmire.
I’ll let you in a secret…
If you have ever thought of giving up, then you’re not alone. It happens to everyone.
But that doesn’t mean giving up has to be your knee-jerk, impulsive response.
Marriage is like a sprint in agile software development. You agree upon the goals, you work towards them together, you reflect back upon what’s working well, and get rid of what’s not working well.
You reflect, retrospect, smoothen out the kinks, and double down on what’s working well. You cultivate gratitude towards your partner and never take them for granted.
You now have an arsenal of tools that you can use to repair and reshape your marriage.
Stick to these basics, put the lessons to work and you will find that a marriage is not as hard as it’s made out to be.
These simple rules and guidelines will nourish your relationship and make it prosper.
Your happily ever after awaits.
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