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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Not Marriage Advice (a non-business-related post)

Our first-born son gets married next week (12-13-14).  While I don't think anyone is qualified to give marriage advice, there are some observations that those married for many years have made that can be helpful.  (And there's no danger that my son will regard this as unsolicited advice since he never reads my blog....).  Readers, please feel free to add your own observations through the comments!

Why make your own mistakes if you can learn from other's cautionary tales?  These tips are offered by those who have been married over 25 years and still appear to like each other!:
  • Go ahead and go to bed angry.  Most do not subscribe to the never-go-to-bed-angry theory. Arguing late into the night when you're both tired and annoyed does not provide a good outcome.  Sleep on it, hit it fresh the next day when you've both had time to calm down. Better yet, schedule a time to discuss the subject when you are free from distractions.
  • Be as nice to each other as you are to your friends.  When our kids were little, we noticed that they often saved their worst behavior for us.  Babysitters and Grandparents would report that they were polite and played well together; it was like someone switched children in the car on the way home.  Before you neglect to say "please" and "thank you" to a spouse, think about how you would speak to one of your friends.  It's okay to be on your best behavior at home.
  • Honesty is overrated.  Your spouse doesn't need to know every thought in your head.  Before you over-share or give an honest response to a no-win question, think about whether it will help or hurt the relationship.  (Example, "does this dress make my butt look big?"....)
  • Learn to fight constructively.  Many studies have found that couples who fight well have happier marriages. There are healthy alternatives to screaming, guilt and the Silent Treatment.
  • Think before you speak.  Take a breath before you say something you can't take back.  You can't un-hear things.
  • Being/staying in love is a decision.  The heart wants what the heart wants; we can't control who we love:  many call bullshit on this.  Studies have shown that there are scientific reasons why we love who we love.  While there are no definitive answers as to whether being in love is a decision rather than a compulsion, we can certainly choose to behave lovingly toward our spouse.  Choose to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
  • You can't change anyone.  The same things that piss you off while you're dating will piss you off 30 years later.  Make sure these things are not deal breakers.
Marriage is not for amateurs.  People often debate whether marriage is work, whether marriage shouldn't feel like work and what makes a marriage work or not work.  There does not appear to be a magic bullet. Every year will not be a great year - the secret seems to be in knowing how to course-correct or how long to wait for things get better. One of my favorite quotes about perseverance is, "Winners never quit and quitters never win...but those who never win AND never quit are idiots".  Even those who are amicably divorced describe it as the worst thing they ever experienced.  How do you decide whether you should stick with it?  The truth is that there are some couples that really shouldn't stay married. Above all, it's abundantly clear that no one can know what's going on in anyone else's marriage...so there's no way to judge, even if you're so inclined.

I believe that our son and his fianc√© are well-suited to each other and wish them a lifetime of happiness - even while knowing that every moment will not be bliss.  In that case, I wish them a version of serenity:  patience to accept the things that they'll find out they cannot change about each other, courage to change what they can change in their own behavior or situation and wisdom to always give each other the benefit of the doubt - and to know that their families love them very much and are here to support them (emotionally, not financially.  Let's not get crazy.)

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