Raise your hand if marriage is exactly like you imagined it would be. Raise both hands if you also know what makes a successful, long-lasting marriage.
I’ve been married a long time. 15 years, 5 months and 26 days to be exact, as of September 10, 2017 (the anniversary of our fist kiss). We started dating before 9/11, when Eminem and The Sopranos were still popular, and Ken Griffey Jr. was still playing ball. The average cost of gas was $1.26/gallon, and we were gearing up to hear more about “hanging chads” than we ever thought possible. I was 17, and just 18 months later we were married on a whim during Spring Break.
As an 18-year-old college freshman, I was incapable of the long-range planning necessary for a long-lasting marriage, choosing a life partner and the father of my children.
I was more concerned with student loans and balancing work with partying. I had a simple checklist for my mate:
- Cute (check)
- Smart (check)
- Loves me (double check)
You know what I didn’t consider?
- Communication skills
- Conflict resolution style
- Spender vs. saver
- Goals and aspirations
Now, I’m not saying that any of those single issues is a deal-breaker, but taken together they can annihilate a marriage. Rather than run screaming from this union like a sinkhole just opened up in the backyard, I’ll let you in on my tips for a long-lasting marriage.**
Let’s just start with the fact that English is not my husband’s first language. In fact, it’s not even his second language (yeah, this dude is hecka smart). Even my five years of Spanish in school cannot overcome the fact that sometimes, we just don’t understand each other. And I’m not talking about higher-level, esoteric thought. I’m referring to the fact that he sometimes makes up Spanglish words, and I literally don’t know what he’s saying.
My solution: Ask the kids to translate. Because it’s easier than asking “What?” seven times, and still having to guess what he is trying to say.
Conflict Resolution Style
When my husband gets stressed out, he shuts down. I do the same (to a degree), but only after I have vented profusely and ensured that you 100% understand why I am mad. Then I don’t want to talk anymore. I would love if my husband argued more! I find it intellectually stimulating to form and express a rational argument. Unfortunately, he doesn’t want to discuss anything until he has calmed down, which is super aggravating for my personality type.
My solution: Barrage him with texts. I know he’s reading them (WhatsApp has the satisfying two blue check marks when he reads our chat), so I get the gratification of feeling heard and he doesn’t have to talk until he’s ready.
Spender vs. Saver
We both grew up poor. I reacted to that by hoarding cash like a crow spotting shiny things in the dirt. Hubs, however, likes to spend money on stuff that we “might need.” More stuff means we are rich! And happy! And successful! It also means that we have more stuff to clean and causes me constant anxiety.
My solution: Craigslist. And Salvation Army. The tax write-offs from donations are a nice perk, as is the extra spending cash from selling the seldom-used toys and tools that have been collecting dust for the past three years.
Goals and Aspirations
I enjoy the fruits of my government job: reliable income, pension, healthcare, and excessive amounts of paid vacation. He wants to be a millionaire by 40. A self-made millionaire, specifically, which necessitates that he quit his stable career and start his own business (*insert sigh here*). Hello, anxiety!
My solution: I actually have no solution for this one, but I’m giving him a year to do the self-employed thing before we reassess the situation. The truth is, one of the things I adore the most about my man is his passion, and if it makes him happy to work toward that lifelong dream, I am proud to support him.
Marriage is Hard
Compromise is harder. My Hubs may disagree about the effectiveness of my tips, but when you find what works for you (and your partner doesn’t complain too much about your life strategies), you may as well keep at it. Readers, what are your tips to resolve differences in your relationships?
** Writer’s Note – Tips do not guarantee a long-lasting marriage. Because I made them up, and I am not a professional.