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I Still Do: Habits for a Healthy Marriage

September 1, 2017

Planning a wedding is a lot of work. Do you play it safe and stay inside, or take a chance that the weather won’t ruin your big day and your grandma’s heirloom veil? Throw the party of the century (or at least one that will result in a trending hashtag), or have a smaller wedding budget and buy a bigger house? Even once you’ve made all the big, exciting decisions, like the dress and the venue and the honeymoon plans, and the small, tedious decisions, like the seating chart, wedding transportation and the passed appetizer selection, there are still a lot of variables that are simply out of your control. And a wedding is just one day.

Planning a marriage is impossible. A marriage (ideally) is the rest of your life, and your life (ideally) is long. Days upon days of decisions to make together, ranging from the small but volatile “What should we eat tonight?” to the more momentous “Should we have kids?” Days that you’d take your vows all over again, on a megaphone from a mountaintop, and days that you wonder how you can possibly continue to make things work with someone who puts empty cereal boxes back in the cupboard and wears socks to bed.

Marriage, much like your favorite smartphone apps, requires occasional updates…you know, for “bug fixes and performance improvements.” No matter how well you know your spouse on the day you say “I do,” you have to keep getting to know each other so you can say “I STILL do” years after the honeymoon is over. In fairy tale romances, the story usually ends with a nice, neat “happily ever after” once the dragon has been slain/the evil spell has been broken/the wicked stepmother has received karmic justice. In real life, that’s when the story is just getting started. True love can absolutely conquer all, but not without some work.

While every relationship is different, and you ultimately have to follow your hearts (and hope they send you in the same general direction), here’s a little marriage advice we think is pretty universal. 

Never Stop Flirting (With Each Other)

You know how much fun that flirtatious stage at the beginning of a relationship is? Guess what? It doesn’t have to end! Some of the happiest couples are ones who show a lot of affection. Verbal affection is valuable…no matter how well it’s been established that you’re in love, it’s never a bad idea to say “I love you”. And compliments are an amazing way to not only boost each other’s confidence, but also to show that you’re paying attention. 

Physical affection is crucial too. We’re not suggesting that you make out high-school-dance-style while you’re in line at Starbucks (unless your kids are being jerks and you really want to embarrass them), but good morning kisses, goodnight back rubs, and holding hands while you’re walking into Costco are all safe bets. You’ll need both hands once you’re inside, though, because those shopping carts (and those bags of tortilla chips) are really big.

The best way to keep the spark bright, though, is to take time to just be with each other. For parents, this can be particularly challenging, so having date nights on the calendar is important, even if it’s only once a month, and even if the dates sometimes just end up being pizza and Netflix while the kids sleep upstairs.

Bring Things Up Before They Bring You Down

Even couples who communicate like Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists have trouble with certain topics. Unlike date night, setting aside time to talk about the hard stuff isn't so fun, but it's a critical component of a healthy marriage.

Money is a top cause of marital stress, not always because there's a lack of it, but because there's a lack of discussion about it. We usually don’t talk about our finances until there’s already a problem, which certainly doesn’t help the perception that it’s unpleasant. A preemptive conversation is much easier to have than a post-disaster argument. So, take the time to go over your household budget, your retirement plan, and your life insurance policies.

Your financial problems—or your financial peace—will always outlast you, so plan for a good life, of course, but plan for the good lives you’ll want to leave behind for your loved ones, too.

LOL Every Darn Day

Yeah, yeah. We know that whole “never go to bed angry” thing is the most cliché of all marriage tips, but it’s pretty tried and true. “The best medicine” may be another platitude, but laughter, when applied liberally, authentically, and with good intentions, is at the very least a solid preventative care plan. Laughing literally changes your body chemistry for the better, so unless you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings (or your five year old has just said a four-letter word in front of your mother-in-law), go ahead and let those giggles loose.

We would remind you to laugh with each other, not at each other…but depending on how you roll as a couple, it might be ok to do both. So laugh with each other whenever you can, and at each other whenever you can get away with it. 

There you have it lovebirds…a few things you probably already knew but maybe just needed to read on the Internet one more time before they sunk in. May your date nights be plentiful, may your thermostat preferences always be compatible, and may your wedding rings never get lost at the gym.

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