My husband and I have managed to stay married for 12 years, some of those years very happily and some not so happily. (I can gratefully report that the bad times have stayed away for a while and the love just keeps growing, thanks in large part to the Grandmothers.) But ups and downs are normal in marriage, or so I hear. I once wrote this list as a reminder of how to be – and stay – happily, successfully, gratefully married. I hope you’ll find it as useful I do.
The Rules of Marriage
1. Divorce is an option. It can happen to us.
2. Be considerate. Listen to – and remember – what each person says about his/her needs and preferences.
3. Address chronic complaints!
4. Tend to the root first. (“The root” is the household, the bank account, and down-time, among others.)
5. Dates are essential. Talking, fun and shared experience with and without the kids.
6. Do The Work (Byron Katie) whenever stress or judgement happens.
7. Listen. Without judgement, blame or defensiveness.
8. Act in a loving manner, like someone who loves and respects the other.
9. Notice typical stressors and address them. (For example, “make sure dinner is ready on time so no one gets too hungry”.)
10. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Ask, “How would I react if my partner did this to me?”
11. Know your bottom line.
12. Discern between what is truly important and what is consequential. Do this every day, every minute, every interaction.
13. Don’t blame. No matter what your partner does or says, it’s up to you to make your life work for you.
14. All problems are “problems in the relationship”. Invite your partner to consider the problem, but do not force. Regardless of his/her reaction, address your part of the problem and see what changes.
15. Hang in there. If the “bottom line” is being addressed and you can still have some nice times together, then it’s worth waiting and working on, especially when kids are involved.
16. Ask for outside input. Sometimes we just can’t find our own way out. Choose people to talk to who will fight for your marriage even when you are fed up with it.