Thursday, April 19, 2012

15 Ways to Stay Married for 15 Years

Today is my fifteenth wedding anniversary. I really love Dan, and I am proud of how awesome our marriage is. We certainly haven’t killed each other yet. Hell, we haven’t even maimed each other. We have not always been perfect, but we have made two cool kids, and we have always kept it interesting. For two people as weird and intense as Dan and I are, staying together this long is a big accomplishment. I know some people are surprised.

Here we are going in to our reception. I had a big bow on the back of my dress. This is where we met.


When Dan and I got married, we were 25 years old. Now, we’re staring down the barrel of 40. Looking back I’m surprised we didn’t, as 25 year olds, self-destruct just for the heck of it. Now that we are older, we are perhaps surprisingly also wiser. Here are the things we have learned over the years, that helped us stay married and even happy for fifteen years. (Beyond that, you’re on your own. I can’t promise another 15.) Our list does not resemble the one you will find in Cosmo or Ladies’ Home Journal. We have never had a regular date night, nor do we prioritize “communication” or play sex games or see a therapist. He doesn’t bring me flowers every Thursday, I don’t cook his favorite food very often. But we do have some other ideas.

1. Go to bed mad.

The old maxim that you shouldn’t go to bed mad is stupid. Sometimes you need to just go to freakin’ bed. “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath” is prefaced in the Bible by the phrase “Be angry and sin not.” So, who’s to say it doesn’t mean “Stay angry, bitches. Don’t let the sun go down on that awesome fierce wrath of yours.” Seriously. Whoever interpreted this to mean that you should stay up after midnight, tear-stained and petulant, trying to iron out some kind of overtired and breathy accord -- was stupid. Shut up, go to bed, let your husband get some sleep. In the morning, eat some pancakes. Everything will seem better, I swear.

2. Laugh if you can.

In any fight, there is one person who is really mad, and one person who isn’t that mad. That person should deflect the fight. Make a joke, do something stupid or corny, make the other person laugh. If the fight is very serious for you and you feel like you really want to plant your flag and die on this hill, fine. Do it. But if you’re fighting for entertainment, or because you’re just reacting, then you be the one to deflect. Fights are bad. Deflecting a fight whenever possible is a good idea. When you’re the one who’s being pissy and raw, and the other person helps you get out of it and brings about peace, that feels fantastic. This was a hard lesson to learn, for me. Letting Dan deflect a fight is the best thing, now. He does it really well.

3. Don’t criticize. Ever.

Here is a fact: Whatever critical thing that you are about to say to your wife is already being loudly articulated in her head. And if it’s true, she already feels like crap about it. Assuming you married someone intelligent enough to like you and sane enough to let you put a ring on it, trust that they are self-aware enough to know when they screwed up. It may feel good to you in that moment to say the critical thing, let it go ringing through the air in all its sonorous correctness, but it will feel awful to hear it. The only, only way it’s beneficial to give your wife criticism of any kind is if you’re absolutely positive she is completely unaware. And you better find the nicest, kindest way possible to tell her. And even then, good luck convincing her. Their recognition of the thing you are helpfully trying to point out will be INHIBITED, not facilitated, by your criticism. And then you’re the asshole. So be careful.

4. Be the mirror.

Your husband is the mirror in which you see yourself. And the things you say to him give him an image of himself too, which he will believe. You want him to believe it, so make it good. Be a mirror that reflects something positive: you’re smart, you’re successful, you’re fantastic in the sack, you’re a great provider, you’re the best. Can you MAKE him any of these things just by telling him he is? I don’t know, but consider this: the alternative really sucks. The things my husband says to me are 1000 times more convincing than anyone else’s opinion on earth. Don’t think he won’t believe you because you’re married and you’re contractually obligated to say nice things. He’ll believe the shitty, insulting things you say, and the gloriously positive things. Listen to Nico, girls:



5. Be proud and brag.

Let your spouse hear you talking about them in glowing terms to other people. Be foolish. Be obvious. It will mean everything. You will stay married forever.

6. Do your own thing.

Dan races bicycles. I write books. I don’t race bicycles or have any desire to race bicycles. He doesn’t write books, nor does he even read the books that I write. Seriously. And I don’t care. My opinion is that he’s the fastest, coolest most awesome bike racer ever. His opinion is that I’m the bestest, coolest writer ever. We don’t have to know all about cycling or writing in order to form these opinions -- in fact knowledge of literature or actually reading my book might damage Dan’s opinion of me as “best writer since the dawn of time.” We can still support each other without being all up in the other person’s stuff. Doing your own thing, having your own friends, being completely insanely passionate about something that the other person has no idea, really, about, is awesome. It allows your spouse to be your cheerleader, uncomplicated by knowledge or personal investment. And it means you’ll always have stuff to talk about, because you’re not overlapping all the time. You don’t have to read the same books either. You don’t have to have the same friends.

7. Have kids.

Kids stop you from being as crazy as you want to be. Because when you have kids, you can’t be that crazy.

For example, when I had kids, I stopped smoking. Left to right = Susannah, Joshilyn, Dan, Me. 


8. Get really good at sex.

You’ve got all the time in the world to get really really good, not just at sex in general, but at having sex with your one particular husband. You should make it your life’s mission to become the perfect sex machine exactly for him. And he for you. There is no reason to hold back, or be embarrassed, or not ask questions, and get everything working properly. There’s absolutely no excuse for letting years drag on without becoming fully skilled, gifted sex partners for each other. It makes everything so much better. Does talking about this make you uncomfortable? How uncomfortable would it make you to know that your spouse is secretly, silently “just okay” with your sexual performance? Yeah. You want to last fifteen years, remember? That’s a long time to be mildly happy.

9. Move.

Live in different houses. In different parts of the country. Travel. Make it so that you can look back and divide up your life into the years you spent in different cities, or different houses. If you’re feeling stuck geographically or physically, you can confuse yourself into thinking you’re stuck romantically. See your husband in different places, in different contexts, in different countries even. Try it. Take him to a mountaintop and give him another look. Pretty sexy. Take him to a new city and check out his profile. Along the same lines, don’t be afraid to change personally, or let your wife change as a person. Don’t worry about “growing apart.” Be brave and evolve. Become completely different. Don’t gather moss. Stagnation is unattractive.

10. Stop thinking temporarily.

Marriage is not conditional. It is permanent. Your husband will be with you until you die. That is a given. It sounds obvious, but really making it a given is hard. You tend to think in “ifs” and “thens” even when you’ve publicly committed to forever. If he does this, I won’t tolerate it. If I do this, he’ll leave me. If I get fat. If I change jobs. If he says mean things. If he doesn’t pay more attention. It’s natural, especially in the beginning of your marriage, to keep those doubts in your head. But the sooner you can get go of the idea that marriage is temporary, and will end if certain awful conditions are met, the sooner you will let go of all kinds of conflict and stress. Yes, you may find yourself in a horrible situation where it’s absolutely necessary to get a divorce. But going into it with divorce in the back of your mind, even in the way way way back of your mind, is going to cause a lot of unnecessary angst. Accept that you’re going to stay with him. He’s going to stay with you. Inhabit that and figure out how to make THAT work, instead of living with the “what if”s and “in case of”s.

11. Do not put yourself in trouble’s way.

Leave your ex boyfriends and girlfriends alone. I’m sure you’re very trustworthy. Aren’t we all? The thing is, there’s absolutely no reason to test it. Your husband and your marriage are more valuable than any friendship. Any friendship that troubles the marriage should be over immediately. Protect it with knives and teeth, not because it’s fragile but because it’s precious. Don’t ass around with a “hall pass” or a “harmless flirtation.” Adultery isn’t an event, it’s a process with an event at the end. Don’t put your feet on a path that could lead someplace bad.

12. Make a husband pact with your friends.

The husband pact says this: I promise to listen to you complain about your husband even in the most dire terms, without it affecting my good opinion of him. I will agree with your harshest criticism, accept your gloomiest predictions. I will nod and furrow my brow and sigh when you describe him as a hideous ogre. Then when your fight is over and love shines again like a beautiful sunbeam in your life, I promise to forget everything you said and regard him as the most charming of princes once more. The husband pact is very useful because you want to be able to vent to your friend without having her actually start hating your husband. Because you don’t really mean all those things you say. And she, the swearer of the pact, knows this.

13. Bitch to his mother, not yours.

This is one I did read somewhere in a magazine, and it’s totally true. His mother will forgive him. Yours never will. If you’re a man, bitch to your friends. They expect it.

14. Be loyal.

All the crap you read in magazines about honesty, sense of humor, communication, sensitivity, date nights, couples weekends, blah blah blah can be trumped by one word: loyalty. You and your spouse are a team of two. It is you against the world. No one else is allowed on the team, and no one else will ever understand the team’s rules. This is okay. The team is not adversarial, the team does not tear its members down, the team does not sabotage the team’s success. Teammates work constantly to help and better their teammates. Loyalty means you put the other person in your marriage first all the time, and you let them put you first. Loyalty means subverting your whims or desires of the moment to better meet your spouse’s whims or desires, with the full understanding and expectation that they will be doing the same. This is the heart of everything, and it is a tricky balance. Sometimes it sways one way and some the other. Sometimes he gets to be crazy, sometimes it’s your turn. Sometimes she’s in the spotlight, sometimes you. Ups and downs, ultimately, don’t matter because the team endures.

15. Trust the person you married.

For two people who are trying to help each other, it can almost be harder to let the other person help you than it is to be the one who’s helping. It can be harder to let the other person deflect the fight than to be the one deflecting. It can be harder to believe that your husband is fully committed to a lifetime of marriage than to commit yourself. Harder to change yourself than to let the other person change. Harder to be loved than to love. Weird, but true. I’m saying this to everyone who’s newly married, and to myself: trust that person. Love them completely and let them love you. If it all goes to seed, it’s going to hurt either way. Better to have gone into it full throttle. Full throttle marriage is a thrilling ride.

Believe me when I tell you: I love this dude.


What about you? How long do you want to stay married? Do you have any good tips for staying together? Any of the above that you disagree with? Tell me.


If you like this post, you'll love my novel, Shine Shine Shine, published by St. Martin's Press. It's a love story!
The New York Times called it "A stellar debut," The Boston Globe called it "Luminous" and it was a People Magazine "People's Pick" of the week. Find out more at any of the links above, or buy it here:

714 comments:

  1. This is simply the BEST advice article I have ever read about marriage. Coming up on 21 years myself, I will say that a few things you wrote really pinged me and made me stop and think, "Do I want another 20? 30? 40? Then I need to stop doing xyz." Thanks for the gentle nudge. It's not just newlyweds that can glean a thing or two from this.

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    1. Shell .... I'm right there with you. I read this and saw myself (not in a positive light) in so many things. But you're right, we can make those changes NOW .... even 31 years later.

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    2. Me too Shell. This was a gentle wake up call and reminder of some things I need to work on.

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    3. Awesome blog post! I TOTALLY agree about going to bed mad! If you go to bed, there may be some reconciliation and then really hot make up sex! Always very good for the marriage!

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    4. Wish I had the opportunity to read these great posts 15 years ago; will pass on to my two girls when the time comes. Thank you!

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    5. Love this blog. Thursday we will celebrate 26 lovely years. There were a couple numbers I need to do if I want another 25 years or more. Right now our marriage is great and we have went thru many trials and got thru them. Once again I really loved your blog!!!!

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  2. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post, Ms. SHINE SHINE SHINE!

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  3. Awesome. Exactly the same thoughts as Shell. I especially love the part about the husband pact. It takes a while to catch on, but once we get that, we're much better friends.

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  4. Knowing you, I expected something a bit more irreverent and goofy. This is actually very on the dot (at least from my paltry three years). I love it.

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  5. This is absolutely one of the best freakin' articles on marriage I've ever read (and I've read a goodly share of them while sitting in marriage counselor office waiting rooms). Let me put it this way, Lydia: my wife and I are coming up on 29 years of marital bliss and there were still plenty of tidbits in this article which were new, good pieces of advice for me to heed. Superbly done!

    David

    P.S. I love the fact that Bogie was watching over you in that last photo.

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  6. This is AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING Lydia!!! I've been married thirty years but I'm going to share this with my newly married kids!!

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  7. Number one up there was my greatest marital revelation ever. So very true.

    Kristina Riggle

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    1. OMGosh, Kristina, I couldn't agree with you more!! Wish I would have had this to read 18 years ago when I was first married... :)

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    2. I completely disagree with it! My husband and I after 11 years have not gone to bed mad once. This is what we do, ok it is time to go to bed? well, then it's time to say I'm sorry - both of us - and go to bed. Tomorrow will be another day. And I do expect to be married forever.

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  8. I love this post. I'm going to share it with my mister.

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  9. Lovely thoughtful, funny honest post, Lydia. :)

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  10. I'm putting this on Pinterest. Be prepared to go viral! I think you've just described my marriage. Now, if I could only get the kids on board with this team concept.
    -Caitlin

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  11. Okay. You're still young. Be really good at number 8, but don't rely on it forever. Other than that, I think you've offered some wise tips for a woman so young. Cheers, to you and Dan! Wishing you many more years of exploration and laughter.

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    1. Actually, my parents are are 65, married 43 years, and still have a very healthy, active sex life...ok, maybe disturbing that I know this. I don't think that the author is saying "rely" on the sex to carry you through the relationship - it's only one point out of 15 - but I have friends who are only 5 years into marriage and already regard sex as a chore. Ok, sometimes it does feel like a chore when one's in the mood and one isn't, but it always ends with a renewed sense of physical intimacy.

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    2. I also didn't take it as "relying" on it. I've been married twice, the first breakup was unavoidable. As a newlywed and a couple of years into the first marriage, I was shy, inhibited and not completely open sexually. As a newlywed and on into now (almost 11 years into my marriage now), I've been much more open and honest about what I want, like, etc. It definitely brings a different level of closeness and intimacy to the marriage...and as tiffbou2 said, it always ends with a renewed sense of physical intimacy which also feeds into the emotional intimacy.

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  12. Love the advice. Been married over 18 years...God bless you!

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  13. Excellent advice! This should be published in every kind of magazine/newspaper publication out there! We hit 15 in may ourselves!
    ~Danielle

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  14. YES! You just blew Making Love Last Forever out of the water. I notice religion was conspicuously missing...do you consider it a neutral?

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  15. Yep..uh huh...yeah, etc. Hey wait! I'm not even married and this good advice for my relationship anyway (except maybe the kids part).

    P.S. I didn't notice religion was "missing". If it isn't a conspicuous part of your life, it isn't conspicuous in it's absence.

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  16. A Facebook friend re-posted this on her Wall. Some great advice, Lydia. Honestly, though, I still disagree with #1, "Go to bed mad." I also don't condone sacraficing a night's sleep to hash-out hyperemotional injustices. (I love your description, "tear-stained and petulant.") Rather, I'd suggest to simply skip to #8. Then, get some sleep. Then, eat some pancakes.

    Yeah, I'm a guy.

    Matthew S. Field

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    1. Ah, but who makes the pancakes?

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    2. Actually, my husband makes the pancakes every Sunday. :) ...4kids and nearly 11 yrs of marriage later. :)

      Awesome post btw.

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  17. Thanks all!
    Andrea, I'd file religion under "Do your own thing."
    Matthew, I think your alternative has merit. :)

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  18. I love the term 'ass around.' And everything else about this. My marriage is 20 years old. I think those of us married between 10 and 50 years need to talk more to each other about how hard it can be to do it right.

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  19. I'm about to sign divorce papers - my husband and I would have celebrated our 11th anniversary next month. When you tweeted this it triggered my bitterness reflex but then I read it and found myself getting teary.

    I hope I get a chance to try again someday, so I can practice these rules. I'm going to paste a copy of this post into my journal to remind myself.

    Thanks.

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    1. I hear ya. My first marriage made it to 11 years when we filed for divorce. We failed at at least 7 of the things on this list. I have since been given a second chance at this wonderful institution, and I'm excited to read something this enlightening just a year in. I love this, especially how fun she makes it all sound.

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    2. i'm there too - at the end of my second marriage, both of which lasted under 2 years. Part of me wishes that we'd read this a year ago and committed to it, but the part of me that chose to leave recognizes all the ways that doing these things halfway were detrimental.

      So yeah. Some tears right now.

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    3. My marriage lasted 2 months shy of 10 years and I've already been divorced WAY longer than I was married. If we'd tried a little hardder...if *I'd* tried a little harder, to be honest, who knows what may have happened. If I ever do the marriage thing again, I will be sure to pay more attention to these 15 things. It's wonderful, spot-on advice.

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  20. WONDERFUL advice ... even after 31 years of marriage, it's good to see there are things I can change in myself to make our marriage stronger. Thank you for that. I wish I'd read this at our 15th anniversary!

    There is a meme going around asking an older couple how they could stay married for 65 years. Their reply is that they grew up in an era where you fixed things that were broken, you didn't throw them away.

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  21. You're not a marriage therapist on the side, are you? This is such a fabulous article, and I so agree about going to bed mad. Oh hell, and the sex. Travel is also really, really important. After 25 years, I love the sweet little texts my husband sends me when he's out of town. And when he walks in the door with his suitcase, I forget I was practically pushing him out of it a week earlier :)

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  22. Super! I love all of this except #10. I would advise that marriage is NOT forever so you'd better work every day (using all those respectful and playful things you noted). I"m going to share this with my daughters.

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  23. I am heading to that 15 year mark in a couple months and can say a lot of these are good and brilliant ideas except #13 - bitching to his mother - wouldn't that depend on the relationship you have with his mother??? :)

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  24. EXCELLENT!!! (And I'm on year 34 and it just gets better all the time!)

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  25. A good friend who knows I am currently struggling to make sense of my marriage of nearly 10 years sent me this. And I read it right away, and enjoyed it. It is good advice, but unrealistic for many of us, such as myself, who don't have "traditional" marriages. My husband and I have an interreligious, interracial, intercultural, and interclass (yes, that makes a difference!) marriage. I am often surprised we've lasted this long. Considering that his mother has just started accepting me and speaking to me, mostly after we had children, number 13 is out. She and I may as well speak two different languages. Also, my husband travels a lot, on an unpredictable schedule, for his job. My parents, who moved very close to us to help me in his absence, have sort of replaced him and are more involved in our lives than I'd like them to be. Indeed, I've started to say that I feel more married to them than to my husband. So, basically, I am trying to figure out how to implement most of these, when my husband is physically absent more than he's present and I'm figuring out how to turn my emotional attachment to him on and off at a moment's notice. Any ideas? Thanks!

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    1. I don't know if I agree. My marriage of 11 years is "intercultural," "interclass," and "interreligious." Lydia's advice to "do your own thing" works well for these issues. Also, I've found that all 15 points are what work in my marriage. But it's not like our marriage is perfect. Who knows what really keeps people together? I think you're looking for specific advice for your situation, but only you and your husband can work out those issues.

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    2. I think you might have nailed it when you said your parents "moved very close, replaced him, more involved than you'd like"....
      This is a problem YOU can handle and control. I'd start by re-aligning with your husband - he is your teammate. Your parents are not your teammate. I'm sure when he sees you rooting out a problem (you might not fully logically admit the parents involvement is an issue, but it seems you know it somewhere in your heart) he will begin to be more available.

      It is worth fighting for! Ultimately, we can start with ourselves. Hang in there.

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  26. This is wonderful and original and I agree with every single thing except #13. Don't bitch to anyone. I know, hard, right? But file this under loyalty. Once you bitch to anyone, much less a family member, you are being disloyal. SO bitch to your journal, your glass of wine, your pillow. But keep it to yourself. You'll be thankful you did on Tuesday.

    Stuff I love here - openly bragging, improving at sex, and not criticizing. It took me a long time - 23 years - to get these down and I'm still not sure I have. (RE, sex - practice makes perfect!)

    But mostly I love YOUR VOICE!! Congrats on Shine, Shine, Lydia. Am going to order it now!

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    1. YES! We're in total agreement--Sarah, you made the point we were going to make--it's not loyal to bitch to your friends, your mother-in-law, to anyone. It's gossip. Pact or no pact, bitching will affect your friends' view of your beloved.

      We'd add "Don't keep it to yourself." You don't have to bitch--you can just say how you feel. We are free to say "I didn't like that." or "That didn't feel good." Neither of us wants to do anything that makes our beloved not feel good. Worded that way, we take responsibility for our feelings about what happened--no blame in there.

      One of our ground rules is "If you don't want to say it, you gotta." We speak difficult things routinely from our own perspective to the other. It keeps everything clean. "No dust."

      Robert and Barbara

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  27. Unknown, I'm sorry about your husband's absence! We had a year where Dan was commuting to another state during the week and only home on weekends. That was very hard! I don't want you to focus on everything that's working against you though -- all the interthis and interthat and the travel. You have to get serious about focusing on what you love about this guy and what makes your family awesome.

    Praise him for what you want him to do. "I love how you make me feel so connected to you even though you're away. I love how you stay so involved with the family although you travel. I love how you always take my side with your mother." You can draw attention to your issues that way, without being a nagging shrew, and if he's smart he will examine how/if he's doing these things. Separation sucks!

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    1. Thank you very much. Already starting to work! Admittedly hard not to focus on the "inter-" issues, however, as a professor of sociology who eats, lives, and breathes the analysis of such differences. But you're right...when we are actually together, those things usually matter little, if at all. Thanks again!

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  28. Sarah thank you so much! That is so kind of you to say! And YAY YOU for ordering the book -- I really hope you like it. :)

    Yes, ideally we could just shut our faces and not bitch to anyone. However, I do know that for me, the early years of my marriage were saved by me shrieking and whining to two good friends, who were wise enough to take my shrieking in context and who are still able to think Dan is cool even though I blabbed a bunch of complaints about him early on. This is why the husband pact has to be overly agreed upon and mutual.

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  29. Good 15, we always used these three; Take responsibility for the relationship, Never go to sleep mad at each other and three let her have the happy first. 27 years and it's still wonderful. I will say I've seen a lot of different ways to skin the cat. Congratulations on finding a way to make yours work! I have a few sub maxims I live by that help; don't complain about her using your razor, just put a new blade in or get another one. Figure out when she wants a solution or she just wants you to listen, then shut-up. Clean the toilet occasionally, really gets them hot!

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    1. I just forwarded this list to my husband. Before reading comments. If there was a way to highlight, point to, make it blinky, i would so do that to your last sentence.

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    2. LOL, Mike! Let's make your last line highlighted and blinky!

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  30. Down and dirty and all true. I've been with my husband for 17 years, married for most of those, and because we met at 18, we've allowed one another to grow and change and love the other exactly for that.

    Brilliant.

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  31. Wow. You hit the nail right on the head! Hope to check back in about 35 years on your 50th to see that you took your own advice and it works . . . not to mention, this is a great seed for your next book. "What's right about marriages" - I'm in year 17, 3 kids later. My electric guitar is hanging on the playroom wall still plugged in and his bicycles are in the working condition. (We might have some things in common)

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  32. Love this....my 39th anniversary is two weeks away and I wish I'd had your advice 40 years ago! I must comment that I think #14 trumps #13. Once those critical words are out of your mouth into someone else's ear they may become viral. As Sarah Strohmeyer says...use a journal or go for a walk and talk to yourself...or talk to the dog but not to another human being...or have a glass of wine.

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  33. All great... Except for the kids. Kids are what MAKE me crazy. Kids are the number one most stressful part of our marriage. A special needs child specifically. I am too exhausted to double check the stat, but it used to be around 80% of couples with special needs children get divorced.

    I'm not sure how sane I was pre-kids though, so maybe this is actually less crazy. I guess it's relative.

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    1. Try having a special needs kid who also has medical issues. It can drive you apart or you can become each other's support and rock. Luckily for me, my husband and I (married almost 12 years) manage to get each other through when things are rough.

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    2. I started my second marriage already having a special needs child (extremely behaviorally and emotionally challenged due to being adopted) and it has been super difficult. It's very rare that the husband and I get time alone to just reconnect and remember who WE are to try and keep our marriage together rather than struggling to deal with the child's behaviors and trying to keep our family together as a whole, emotionally healthy unit. As selfish as it sounds, there are times when I live for the day when he and I can concentrate on US.

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    3. Check into respite care agencies in your community. They exist for families with members who need constant care in order to allow the primary caregivers a breather. Everyone knows how important it is for your sanity!

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  34. I needed this right about now.

    I have the same question as Heather, though. I realize that you didn't mean kids make you sane, but rather that they pull you away from possibly harmful paths, which can be true. But we were much happier together before the stressful kid came along, even though we agree about most parenting stuff. I think we both feel like, don't YOU be needing something from me too - I already spent my last bit of tolerance.

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    1. Well DoctorMama, I'm just sticking myself in here right now (and Lydia, I LOVE your list, so spot on and the best marriage advice I've read. I often read marriage advice and think, wow, they must have the most shallow relationship on earth, as the writer strings one cliche after another. Yours is real and genuine, nicely done). Can't wait for your book :0)

      We are on 14 years of a very loving marriage but the absolute hardest stage was when we had our son. We were exhausted, parenting was nothing like what we expected (hence I had PPD),and our mantra was, "Oh my god, what have we done?!" We continued just going through the motions for one more kid because we didn't want an only child. A couple of years in (we should have done it sooner) we came to a place of sanity, where we just gave up over-thinking and laughed at the craziness of what our life had become. We would just look at each other and crack up laughing because it was so out of control (especially our control). We stopped trying to fulfill our off-spring's every demand (our oldest will never be fulfilled unless he has the soul of 8 people). Eventually we made the best of what we had, albeit so different and by the time the kids were 4 and 2 (I know that seems like a long time, but it goes by really quickly), we were stringing together days of fun, and now that they are 11 and 9, I just want to freeze them because we are such a happy group. Better than it ever was before.

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  35. Bitch to his mother, not yours.

    Ha. His mom thinks he, and I quote from a movie, "shits ice cream." That's fine. His parents are nothing more than material for my novel.

    Other than that, I love what you said.

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    1. Depends on the mother in law: I'd bitch to my mom and she would get mad at my hubby so he would know I was bitching about him; so I would ask my mother in law was your husband ever this way or did he ever do this and I would get stories that made me understand my husband and his what his parents marriage was like when he was a kid. Helped a WHOLE LOT!

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    2. i think for me the great part about that one, is not to bitch to your own mom. i think it is so true, she will remember and not let it go! I could never talk to his mom that way about him either, but that was the take away for me!

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  36. Loved this. My guy and I hit 13 years last week, and going strong. The only one I disagree on is #13--I'm SO not going there with his mother...lol...

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  37. Pure Genius - thank you so much, Lydia! Happy 15th Anniversary!!!!!!! <3

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  38. Loved this.
    Thank you.
    Your voice is direct, funny and refreshing.

    We'll be begining our tenth year this May. It feels like many more having endured major medical with one of our children since our second anniversary. Most of your 15 are how we have handled things well and are stronger for the adversity.

    We have a HUGE team mentality in our family. It makes everybody feel part of something special just for us. We have that approach for just about everything including the day to day running of a family.

    We have found it is also important to look at our strengths and weaknesses as individuals to balance each other. When we do this it makes it easier to ask the other for help.

    It is very rare for us to go to bed mad. We will go to bed but one of us will usually make an attempt to understand what the fight was about. We don't always resolve but at least there is a feeling of being heard and it is easier to go to sleep. We basically agree to disagree.

    I am so unbelievably blessed with a Mother In Law who is a genuine individual and she is his mother. She can separate the two. She, his brother's wife and I will get together for Girls Night and we will comisserate about our men and give each other advice. I can't describe how reassuring it is and how much better I feel after.

    I am fortunate that my husband told me in the very begining that he subscribes to "Happy Wife, Happy Life." it is a simple mantra I have heard over the years and always makes me feel very special,especially when he tells people publicly. I take great care not to abuse it.

    It also doesn't hurt that he is very awesome about making sure the toilet is clean when he is finished!

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  39. I've been married going on 18 years now and we've been together 19. My best marriage advice is to pull together when times get hard. Like all animals, when things get really tough, for whatever reason, we ant to crawl in our little caves and lick our wounds in peace and solitude. But we have this other person who depends on us who is probably hurting just as bad and may also be pulling away. Yet this is the worst possible thing for both of us. If you can't stand together, you fall apart. perhaps this goes with your team concept, Lydia, but having had some really hard times (like now with him out of work and me disabled), we get through things together that we could never handle alone without flying apart.

    I also completely agree about ever complaining to my mother about him. I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME THAT 20 YEARS AGO!!! Then my mother wouldn't be such a pain sometimes. She never seems to understand that I can both get fed up with his flaws and foibles and turn around and defend him in the next breath if she even so much as hints that he is not the perfect man.

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  40. I love this! Two other pieces of advice that always rang true to me:

    1. Be a really good apologizer. My husband has this mastered.

    2. Separate bathrooms. Somethings are best left a mystery.

    This has kept us going strong for 12 years!

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  41. I'm still a "newbie" to this marriage thing, but the women from my mom's side (and now my house) always had a rule. "As long as I'm not the one doing it, it's done perfectly." Meaning - don't nit pick if the laundry isn't folded the way YOU fold it, YOU don't have to put it away. It goes along with the criticism rule you mentioned in your article. It's like the golden rule in my house!

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    1. My grandmother (and then my mother) had the advice "if you want something done a CERTAIN way, do it yourself." Meaning, if you want a say in how it's done you should do it yourself, and if not, don't worry about how it gets done.

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    2. I love the quotes by kborders and Sarah! The same goes when you have babies and he's changing diapers, or giving a bath, etc., I never get why so many women (in my experience it's usually a brand new mom with a first born infant) will complain about, "the way he is changing them", "he's not doing it right" etc., and I say, "at least he's CHANGING THEM!" Unless poop is actually falling out of the diaper onto the floor it's a win in my book. I let my husband figure out his own way with our two kids (4 yrs and 18 mos) like making them breakfast when I'm out grocery shopping alone on an early Sat morning (SCORE!) or whatever, and it's way different than "my way" and that is OK with me because at least it's getting done and I'm not the one to do it. I do it - all of it - everyday, all day long while my hubby is at work so I welcome the cockeyed ponytail, mismatched outfit, dress up shoes with jammies and a cape, naked backyard bike riding and waffles covered with pink sugar glitter for breakfast because that means Daddy's home and mommy gets a 5 minute break to go pee ALONE! ;-)

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  42. This is brilliant. I just read this post to my husband, and he asked when you've been watching us, because it feels like this list is what we've been living by for the past 11 1/2 years.

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  43. Thanks for a great, to-the-point list! I'm headed on 12 years of marriage and, while I've actually figured a fair number of these out on my own, you've really put them quite succinctly. A couple thoughts...

    As far as the whole go-to-bed-mad/don't-go-to-bed-mad thing, IMHO the true principle here is don't fester/dwell in anger, refusing to move forward through it to forgiveness and reconciliation. People sometimes think that staying angry gives them power over their spouse. It doesn't, it just feeds bitterness and resentment.

    Laughing during an argument definitely CAN lighten things up... unless you end up making the wrong joke for the situation and then things just spiral further and further down... D'OH! XD

    My hubby and I have some very different hobbies [he likes to tramp through the woods searching for things to shoot at, I like to turn yarn into hats], but it's also great to have at least a few things you both like to do [board games is one of ours], it makes the time you do spend together much less, well, awkward ;)

    "Adultery isn’t an event, it’s a process with an event at the end." THANK YOU! DEFINITELY a nail-on-the-head statement :)

    And as someone who believes in God, I can say that *in MY experience* if your religion (whatever it is) is important to you, a marriage CAN be strengthened by both partners having that it common, though the opposite (being weakened by not) does not necessarily follow.

    Thanks again for distilling so much wisdom into such an enjoyable post!

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    1. I also agree that humor is not appropriate in all arguments. Like Tim the toolman Taylor my husband makes jokes about everything, but it is completely irritating when I am seriously pissed off about something and trying to have a serious discussion and his responses to me are humorous deflections , instead of really tackling the issue. It makes me so mad when he doesn't take a situation seriously when it is obviously so important to me.

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  44. Great advice! I totally agree with #1 - sometimes you just need to go to bed. Everything is better in the morning when you aren't so tired. Sometimes it just takes some time to see the other person's perspective. #8 is awesome too. I have learned a lot over the past year as I have started to analyze my marriage and try to make sure that we last another 15. This article just taught me some more. Thanks!

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  45. Thanks you guys! And I love all your additional rules. :)

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  46. Wish I had realized number 1 sooner - it's soooo true!! Just go to bed. It doesn't mean you have to drop the issue or whatever it is you're fighting about, if it's important, you can pick it back up tomorrow and you will be able to talk about it in a calm, connecting way. That's what I've found, at least. Love your tips!!! It's not the common advice you hear, but it rings true to me :)

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  47. We just celebrated our 30th anniversary on the 15th of this month and you have to take the good with the bad. We have had our moments when some couples would walk away and say forget it, but we got through it. Staying married takes work, and sometimes more work than other times. Marriage is not always a party, you have to take the good with the bad. Over our thirty years we have dealt with miscarriages, two children and all that entails, job required separations (he was in the military), near death experiences, and much laughter, love, and happiness. My husband took care of me when I was recovering from open heart surgery and did everything but wipe my butt. I have taken care of him when he could not walk because of a serious arthritis flare up, and we made it through the tough times. Today we share love and laughter and ride a tandem bike together. I quilt, he snow boards, and we both love to travel. Our goal is at least another 30 years, but secretly I would love to make another 50 and be able to say we have been married for 80, as I plan to live to 120.

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  48. Something I had to realize was to never speak for my spouse. I don't volunteer him for things and if someone wants to know his opinion they can ask him themselves. This is also very important because we work together and I make our co-workers call him personally to ask questions.

    Also, I come from a background where friends and family tease a lot so it was astonishing to me when I heard someone teasing with a married friend about rethinking and her immediate response was not to tease back. She emphatically said yes she would marry him all over again. My marriage is not a joke and not something to tease about even with friends. I would marry my husband again in a heartbeat and that is always my answer.

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  49. Great post! I shared it on my FB wall, and it has been reposted ten times from my wall. Reaching a lot of people who connect with you! Thanks for sharing this with such transparency and honesty!

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  50. I love love love your words of wisdom. They ring true! Be kind to yourself and to your other. Trust them, and be there for them as they are for you. It is a team in which you both are working towards the same goal. You talked about you and your husbands differing hobbies. My mother sews and my step-father is a scientist, but even he picked up a needle and thread and made a small pillow upon her behave. Seems to me like you know, that you are each others number one fans. That's the way it should be, I think the world would be better if more people found that.

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  51. Hubby and I just hit the 10 year mark last year and this is the first time I've read REAL, GOOD, SOLID marriage advice that didn't make me roll my eyes. I found myself nodding in agreement to everything and that's not something I do often! Thank you for sharing. You guys def have the right idea!

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  52. I love this list, we've been married five years and so many things were right on with what I thinks have made our marriage such a great success so far. One I didn't agree with was 9. move. I think travel yes, vacation to far off place and a change of scenery yes. but move, that can be hard, depending on where you currently live and what type of person you are, it can really take you away from your support system and then if things do get rough for a patch everything is so much harder because you don't have anyone there who knows you. phone conversations and email can help but sometimes you really need a sit down with a friend, if you move, where's the friend?

    I loved the rest of the list btw.

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  53. This is very FUN and SOLID! I'm not married, but I practice many of these things in my relationship with The Love Master. They certainly work for us. I don't agree w/ #12 (although I'll take you up on #13 right away). It could be that I have very little to complain about. Moreover, I just don't think it's a good idea to speak I'll of The Love Master to any of my friends...maybe surface things, but not anything deep. I'll seemy therapist for that...

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  55. Great list, I agree, a lot of it is stuff that I have found to work in my own marriage.

    One thing I had to learn was to let go of the small things. So he doesn't remember to make the bed, he leaves his shoes all over the house, and he piles his laundry on the washer instead of in the hamper. When I focus on those things, it makes me unhappy, and for what? I have an awesome husband, so why should I let those little things eat away at me? It really helped once I related it to the things I do annoy him, and that is the flip side of the coin. To me it seems silly that drinking the filtered water, using fabric softener and having separate spoons for all of the condiments is so important to him. But then, if just changing those little things can make him happier, why should I care if it seems trivial to me? I found that changing how I responded to his pet peeves, changed how he responded to mine. It really greases the skids of day to day life.

    Also, sort of going along with 4 and 5, don't forget to thank and praise your spouse when they do something you've asked them to do. Even if it's something you think they're supposed to do anyways, it always feels good to know your efforts are noticed and appreciated. My husband and I both shamelessly fish for compliments from each other, and why not? If you want to make sure someone notices your efforts, the best way is to draw attention to it.

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  56. Really, really good for all those engaged to be married or thinking about marriage, but also those of us who have been married for awhile. My hubby and I have been married for 26 happy years, and have been through some struggles like everyone else, but have lived by the items in this list. I wish more people would read #10 before marriage, perhaps there would not be so many divorces! I think #6 is valuable, but, there's nothing wrong than having more than one thing in common with your spouse either. We have been sharing activities for all of these years and truly have had a ball.

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  57. I'm not married, and I don't want to be married, but this. was. gold.

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  58. Thanks for putting this in a way that makes me want to stay married for 15 years - we're almost at the halfway mark and through struggles I've found a lot of stay-married advice coming through the 50's housewife "keep yourself attractive" and "encourage him to buy himself something while you put your needs off" vein. Bleh. Now I just need to get my husband to read this! I appreciate your honesty and advice. :)

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  59. My wife sent me this. I replied that she needs to pay attention to #8.

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  60. This is a great list, though I have my own interpretation of #1. My parents are going on 25 years of marriage, and as a family we've never gone to bed mad at each other. While I certainly don't believe this is the answer for everyone, when my parents argued they would stay up and do something (often separately) until they could at least go to bed on a civil note. They same things applies to me and my mum. When we argue to the point that we're both on the verge of tears we'll take a breather, step away, and then come together. Mom was raised that going to bed mad means that "being mad" is all you're going to dream about. A silly idea, maybe, but I am proud of the fact that the last thing I always say to my mom before we go to bed is "I love you," and that we can always mean it.

    Like I said, I don't believe this is the absolute answer, I just wanted to show the other side of the coin.

    Thank you and congratulations on 15 years!

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  61. My husband and I have been married 14 years this July -since we were 17 and 18 years old. I like a lot of what is on here but disagree with number 7. We have no kids ( by choice) and manage to stay level :D I also don't think I could bitch to his mother. But I do think that a lot of stuff here is good advice!!

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  62. This was really great! I saw it posted by a friend on fb and she liked it so I read it too. I cracked up at #1 and kept reading. #1 is really great. I do that to my hubby - keep him up all hours so I can "resolve" something and it's pointless. Let the man sleep! haha. He's going to thank you for posting this because I'm going to really try to stop doing that. It's stupid to fight about stuff til 3am just so you "don't go to bed mad" when you have to get up at 6am! There is always way more clarity in the morning.

    What I like to do is, "never leave the house without saying I love you!" Even if you are mad, try not to leave/storm out mad. I'm always afraid of something terrible happening and your last words were angry ones.

    I do have to say that I disagree with the bitching to your friends advice. Especially if they are old friends who are more like sisters. Because I don't think women can 'truly' forget what someone has said about their husband/boyfriend, especially if it's pretty shitty and it will always be in the back of their mind whenever they are around your husband, depending on what it was of course. I've seen people treat people differently after secrets have been shared and you can NEVER go back to the innocent, joking friendship you might have had with a friend's spouse if you know they were a huge jerk to your friend during an argument. I have a great friend who confided in me some things about her husband, they had some nasty fights and she clued me in on a side of him I had never known and I just couldn't see him in the same way I saw him before no matter how hard I tired or what kind of pact we might have had and honestly, I was surprised that she was OK with someone treating her that way so it made me look at her differently as well. (I couldn't help it, this was some pretty messed up "Jerry Springer" type stuff that I had no clue was going on) and she really needed to lean on an old friend and confide in me, but I can honestly say it ended up changing the relationship for all parties involved. Some things are better left unsaid. I think you are going to love your friend waaay more than you are going to love their husband so your loyalty lies with the friend no matter how hard you try to forget her rants and complaints. Unless of course we are talking about dirty socks on the floor, not putting the toilet seat down, etc. But if there are real issues there, you are best to tell a therapist. Someone who is not invested at all, who won't take sides and who won't be at your next gathering making things feel awkward. Just my experience I guess. I don't agree with one of the comments to just keep it to yourself though either. Sometimes you just "need to get the poison out" and going to see a therapist by yourself can sometimes be the best fix! If you write it down you better be damn sure it doesn't get discovered by them or your kids in the future! A good therapist is a great investment in your sanity!

    Really good post. I'll have to print it up. Thanks for the honesty. You're very funny and witty and I love how you phrased so many things. Great writing.

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    1. I completely agree with you about not bitching to the girlfriends, except about really inane things that actually secretly don't bother me. My friends will start in on a bitch-fest and will turn to me like when the girls are all criticizing themselves in the mirror in Mean Girls and turn to Cady expectantly=> hello, it's your turn! And I just make something up or laugh it off. I really care about our reputation as a couple. My husband is the best man in the world and you won't hear me saying different!

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  63. Yup, i see why this was posted on FB by a blogger gal - who says its the best she's read. Very true- and love seeing someone else say it too- go to bed angry! You're together for a lifetime, some issues will take time. Ok, better with sleep, perspective- maybe even days, or months, but an ADD ON- Do NOT just 'forget about it' ! The issue must be returned to,even if just a ' last night was dumb, i was over tired and ego got bruised, i dont feel that way overall', to- 'the issue last night needs discussion but i'm too upset to discuss. Lets return to it '....



    My big one is the pact of time outs. We have to honor them, and use them. About to say something filled with venom and demon Meanness/ untruth? So full of obstinancy that even if the other person is right, you can not let go? About to break down? Ok. Time out.
    Call the time- respecting the other and the discussion- but-
    Nothing more said about the arguement- 2 min to 15 min, tops 1 hr. If 1 hr isnt enough to talk with love and respect, leave it till the next day, or a few days. The big thing- once called, no last inputs, No "just one more thing" by either side. Time out. How long and that's it. Go meditate, breathe. Be nice
    Make space for each other.

    Btw- great b&w photos!

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  64. All my marriages together don't add up to 15 years. Maybe if you'd written this earlier...

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  65. Lovely, honest post and I think it's about to go viral. Probably should be given to every newly married or about to be married couple!

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  66. Awesome post. Give me more things to work on than I'd like to admit. But what's with the total heterocentrism? Marriages are not all composed of husband-wife pairs!

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  67. Lydia, This is poignant and instructive. #8 and #9 sound like fun homework. I'm not sure I agree with #12. No matter how magnificent your mother-in-law, she may forgive your gripes about your husband, but she will never forgive you for badmouthing her son. My husband and I are only 3/5 of the way to your 15-year milestone, but we've made a pact never to talk about serious problems with our parents. They don't mean to, but they keep an invisible tally of all misdeeds, and give credence to the spoken ones more than their observations. I can't wait to read your 30 ways to stay married 30 years. Until then, I guess I'll be cracking the cover on Shine, Shine, Shine in July. :)

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  68. We made a pact very early on in our (now 26-year) marriage, never to panic/stress about the same thing at the same time. Works like a charm when it comes to managing finances, children, in-laws, etc. For instance... if I'm getting hugely stressed about making sure one of the kids does their homework/takes their meds/gets out to school on time etc., and it's all getting on top of me, I'll just say to my husband 'ok, I need you to take over her for a couple of hours/days/weeks/whatever because otherwise I'll lose it completely'. Then I step back and leave it to him (that was the hard bit to start with - REALLY stepping back). In a few hours/days/week/whatever I'll feel better able to cope and we can reverse again. Same thing with finances. If balancing the household budget is driving him to distraction and he can feel himself getting seriously stressed out, he'll ask me to take over for a while and I'll do it. As I say, works for us.

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  69. I have been married 22 years and this advice is perfect! Sometimes difficult to follow but if you stop take a deep breath long enough to think of the long term goal (the till death do us part line in your vows) it makes them pretty darn realistic. Saw this on Pintrest and loved it!!
    amy@winecountrymama

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  70. Speaking as someone who will be married for 20 years this September, I agree with most of what was said. I disagree with number 13 but also realize this depends on your relationship with your mother-in-law. Yes, his mother will always forgive him, however, do you really want your in-laws in your business? I like the husband pact in #12. I think venting with a trusted friend is better. I would also add pick your battles. Some things are not even worth arguing about in the first place. Also, focus on the positives. We're all imperfect and would like for people to focus on the best in us so we should do the same for our spouse.

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  71. I LOVE this piece! It's wonderfully, awesomely true. We will celebrate our 27th anniversary this coming fall and everything you wrote rings true for us.

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  72. I agree with all of it except for the sex part. I would suggest to you, since you are a writer to read: Cupid's Poisoned Arrow" By Marnia Robinson. You may feel old at forty? 40 seems like childhood to me at 62. My husband and I have been together 34 years married 33. He was 23 when we married, I 28. Bodies breakdown. No matter what the women;s magazines say, they do. Sex , even good sex can and does often become impossible. When it becomes impossible it becomes a burden and a blame game. Read the book, it is about DNA. From where I stand, with all my other long happily married friends, I can say the only regret I have is that I didn't read that book sooner. Bonding is amazing and it isn't all about orgasm.

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  73. Congratulations on 15 years!!! I had my 10th anniversary last August, and will celebrate my 11th anniversary this year. I frequently have the same thought, that it's some kind of miracle that we have as healthy a relationship as we do since we got married so young. We got married when I was 18 and he was 19!

    I love all your tips! I wrote an article a month or so ago titled "10 Tips on How to Stay Married 10 Years... And Possibly Longer." http://threeblindwives.com/2012/03/01/10-tips-on-how-to-stay-married-for-10-years-and-possibly-longer/ (Sorry, I don't know how to hyperlink here, if that's even possible.) I agree fully agree with yours, yet mine are all different. Pretty Cool!

    ~Daniél

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    1. Weird. I don't know why that one line spaced like that...

      ~Daniél

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  74. My favorite is number 14--about our home being the safe place. In our family we call it 'port in the storm' and have a strict rule about building each other up. I wrote the nine commandments of a happy marriage, and was hoping people would weigh in on a tenth, and more. You've done that here. I'm linking to this. Lovely.
    http://www.chandrahoffman.com/blog/2012/3/15/the-ides-of-march.html

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  75. You hit the nail on the head! Great read and sound advice,

    Many Thanks, Karen

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  76. Nice article but who says kids are necessary for a happy marriage ? My husband and I are going on year 3 of our marriage with no intention of having kids..we just don't want them and enjoy each others company. Maybe you should edit that part out..kids tend to add stress to a marriage, not happiness,

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    1. I don't know that she said that kids are necessary for a happy marriage. Obviously this list is going to have caveats and disclaimers for individual couples, maybe for some people kids=cats...but why should she edit it out? For many of us, it's true.

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  77. I Was surprised to see a friend of mine post this, and coming from you I had to give it a read! Reading the part about kids, I kept thinking back to when you were pregnant with #1! I think your outlook has changed a bit! :-) Its great to see marriage tips that seem so much more real-life! Congrats on 15 years.... And may you have many more!!

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  78. "Love them completely and let them love you. If it all goes to seed, it’s going to hurt either way."

    there were several things i need to work on, but #15 is my personal fatal flaw. This small quote is going to be my new mantra to remind myself to give it everything i've got, since either way, the other option is going to hurt.

    Thank you so much for this :)

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  79. Thank you for sharing this inspiring and thoughtful blog. I enjoyed reading it immensely! I especially enjoyed #3 never to criticize which we have learned is an absolute must! In fact, at our 17th wedding anniversary, we made a pact to raise the level of our marriage even higher and that we would always use kind words to speak to one another. Whenever one of us falls short, the other gives a quick reminder to either rephrase what was said. My husband and I recently came up with some questions for what to look for in a spouse so that couple's understand one another better and have a firmer foundation for their marriage once they tie knot. http://www.elikamahony.com/2011/07/26/what-to-look-for-in-a-spouse/

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  80. Really enjoyed this, thanks so much for sharing. This is my favourite line: " Take him to a mountaintop and give him another look. Pretty sexy" - brilliant!

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  81. As a divorcee, I also love these tips. I so wish we had done #1 because we did spend many a night "tear-stained and petulant." However, after reflecting for a few days over your tips I must admit that never criticizing and trusting the person you married become really hard when you are married to someone with a substance abuse problem.

    I take full accountability for nitpicking him at times when I shouldn't have. However, there is no way to praise someone who is high every day.

    I very much hope to put your tips in practice in the future. Thank you.

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  82. Thank you so much for this great article! I will be married 2 years in September and I plan to live by this list. ;) I hope to be married forever obviously, so I can only hope with these suggestions (some of which we already practice) that my marriage will be as successful as yours. Thanks again!

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  83. I'm not married, but I'm in a serious relationship, and I definitely agree with your list.

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  84. Love love love this post. I've been in my relationship 10 years and married almost five, participated in plenty of couples counseling and these simple solutions are perfect. In fact, they could have saved me the years of therapy! ;)
    Good luck on your book launch and do us all a favor and keep writing.

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  85. This was amazing! I have been married for going on 4 years and from the looks of it we will be together forever :) I love the husband pact! It explained me and my bf's relationship to a T! Love this!

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  86. I love your web design, Lydia. It's cool and cerebral and playful, which, I imagine, is a lot like your book WHICH I CANNOT WAIT TO READ.

    I love that you admit that your husband hasn't read your novel. Mine hasn't either. He's tried, but because he will only read Erik Larson and non-fiction, it's simply not a good match. It no longer bothers me because the reason I was even able to write the darn thing in the first place is because of his support and encouragement. After 14 years of marriage, I have realized what *actually* matters in a healthy partnership.

    I had a great chat with CKR this morning . . . she's such a great agent. I love all the buzz you are getting. Huge congrats . . . now WHEN can I read Shine, Shine Shine? :)

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  87. This is the best advice about relationships that I've ever read. I particularly like "go to bed mad," "do your own thing," and "stop thinking temporarily."

    There's only one thing that I'd add: Flirtation is the key to keeping chemistry alive. I’ve always wondered how I might be able to maintain a high level of chemistry with a woman after months or years or a lifetime (I'm single). So much changes over time: Your looks, your personality, your interests, your friends, your priorities, your sleep schedule. But one thing that you have complete control over is how you flirt with your significant other. Make that choice every day. Flirt incessantly and shamelessly without expectation (don’t flirt to get something from your partner–flirt to give something to your partner…attention, love, a little hormonal surge. Any of those will do.)

    Thanks for the amazing blog entry.

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    1. "Flirt incessantly and shamelessly without expectation (don’t flirt to get something from your partner–flirt to give something to your partner…attention, love, a little hormonal surge. Any of those will do.)"

      excellent idea.

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  88. GREAT article! I've been married for 14 years and I must agree with everything on this list EXCEPT for one thing...Number 7's "Have Kids." My husband & I like kids, we love our nieces & nephews, but have always known we didn't want kids. And that works for us. What I would possibly change Number 7 to is "Know where you both stand on having kids." Unfortunately, I've seen it too many times where couples get married without even really discussing their views on having kids. And that's a BIG issue you should both agree with from the beginning.

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  89. Thanks for all your wonderful comments! I'm reading them all and I love all your different perspectives. So many things I agree with -- flirting! not sweating the small stuff!

    About having kids: You're right, kids are not necessary for happiness. For me, they ground me and make me focus less on my internal landscape and more in the real world. They drive me insane but they also pull me back from the edge. I'm just not allowed to be as weird and crazy and self-destructive and narcissistic as I really secretly want to be, because of them. But there are other ways to stay grounded. Methods that don't eat most of your brain while you're gestating them and then the rest of your brain while you're trying to get them to eat something made with whole grains.

    About the mother-in-law: YES, you're absolutely right. If you have a crappy relationship with her, bitching about your husband isn't going to help. Maybe that should be... just don't complain to your own mother about your spouse, because you're her baby, and it will be hard for her to forgive and forget crimes against you.

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  90. I loved all of your recommendations. We will hit 20 years in July, and by now, My hhusband and I have probably done them all without thinking, or at least have enough love and respect for each other to talk it out if we've hurt the other.

    I have to comment on the mother-in-law one in light of all the comments about that point. My MIL and I had a rocky start. I always loved her but was always a little afraid that I couldn't measure up to the wife she wanted for her son. She was a domestic Goddess, I was not. She said what she meant, not meaning to hurt, but I was over sensitive. At any rate , I was a little scared of her. Anyway, at one marital rough patch around year 4?, when my husband was going through a lot of stress at work, he was very short an critical of me on a daily basis (basically the sh-- was flowing downhill, and he really didn't realize what he was doing). I took it with a "this too shall pass attitude and a lot of tip-toeing. We were visiting his parents, and His mom took me aside one day and said, "what is going on with him! He is being awful to everybody!". With a huge sigh of relief, all my fear of her went out the window and we had a vent session. Then she chewed him out like he was 10!

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    1. That's how my MIL is and it was so wonderful and refreshing the first time I heard something like that from her. It was great to hear her as an individual not just his mom.
      There is something about the way she just puts things out there and we are able to address and move on. Sometimes it is very playful and sarcastic. Others she can sense it is a sensative issue and she will pull aside to ask with nothing but love and concern. I am very fortunate that my husband takes after his mom in many ways.

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  91. The good news is a marriage can survive without doing all these. Some of these could have torn our marriage apart had we done them!! I have been married for 16 years and have never gone to bed mad at him. I have never talked to bad about him to anyone and as far as I know he never has of me. There are some good tips here they just might not be for everyone!!

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  92. Thank you for posting this. It was a link from a friend on facebook and i agree with proudmomm about marriages surviving without these points. I am thankful that you provided a list for my husband and i go through and glean what we thought was useful to better understand our own marriage. We found a fair amount we didn't fully agree with, maybe because we didn't like the explanation given or felt more needed to be added for our particular marriage and some of it we just didn't agree with. But at the end of reading this article through with my husband we are more affirmed in our marriage knowing what WE feel works for US.

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  93. Great article!!! I've been married for 35 years, am so happy to still be with my husband, and concur with almost all of your advice.

    We waited six years to have our first child, and had another three years later. We're very happy to have had them for all sorts of reasons, but we love being alone together once again now that they've moved out. Feels like things have gotten back to normal!

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  94. Well said! My fabulous husband and I are just about ready to celebrate our 14 years married. All your comments are true - I have not been doing a few and I appreciate your reminder. He is too good to lose!!!! Thank you.

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  95. Such a timely article for me - just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary (we met at a cafe also!)

    I agree with all of it.

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  96. A friend linked on FB and I feel the urge to chime in... My husband and I are approaching our 4th wedding anniversary, but dated for 10 years (yup, high school sweethearts, together since 15, yikes!) and I had to send this to my engaged little sister. A wedding is just a speed bump on the road of a life-long relationship. It's gotta be about the marriage.

    Literally, our mantra is "Go team marriage!" I learned all about avoiding even baby steps on the primrose path to indiscretion when we did long distance through college and a year abroad, not to mention the importance of being free to go your own way and grow as a person! My current favorite argument deflection (when I'm the instigator) is to make pinchy-hands and a goofy angry face to acknowledge I'm "a little crabby," which cracks him up every time. Basically, this article is an apt distillation of our philosophy across the board. Looks like we've got a minimum of 11 more years pretty much in the can! Can't wait (especially to start working in earnest on point the 7th, as soon as I finish gestating this damn thesis!)

    For earlier commenters struggling with implementing these ideas when you're long distance, etc., the most important thing I learned was to keep focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. It really, truly sucks to be in a holding pattern; to not be able to talk face to face and share a hug for five straight months (our record, may it never be broken!) Set an end date, or at least a timeframe. Know that this phase is not permanent, and apply the same "teeth and knives" protectiveness to this threat as to any other. Have phone/skype dates, and make them your absolute first priority. (I agree "date nights" are silly in principle, but under the circumstances this is vital, as it's your only chance to reaffirm the connection and signal the primacy of the relationship to each other.) And finally, you both have to achieve two virtues: the ability to trust utterly, and the wherewithal to be utterly trustworthy. A tall order, but totally worth it!

    Thanks again for a great post, Lydia! Bookmarked!

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  97. Rad!! Every bit is completely true!!

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  98. AMAZING! I really needed this. Thank you so much for your honesty and the truth that you have spoken!

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  99. i don't know how i stumbled across you today...but i'm so glad i did! thank you for the inspiration! we will be married for 18 years next week...and i still have a lot to learn!

    lisa

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  100. I am a YOUNG military wife and we have only been married for coming on 2 years now but this made me realize how amazing my family and parents were and are because they showed all of these or most of these in their marriages! And now my husband and I get to reflect these in ours!! Being in the military we see lots of marriages fall apart from the pressures of the military life and everyday life but to some younger married couples like us it's amazing that a lot of them don't have these things going on in their marriage.. My husband and I are NOT perfect and there are a couple in there we need to work on but these are awesome! And to the women saying it was hard with her husband away all the time: I think there's great hope! Military wives live without their spouses for days,weeks, months, even years at a time not even speaking to them every week or day and i can see very long lasting relationships come out of even this lifestyle! It can work like she said " do your own thing" whatever works works for each couple! But who knows that's just this newlywed youngin talking ;)

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  101. "Be the Mirror" and "Laugh if You Can" are two and three behind "Be Really Good at Sex." Loved your thought provoking spins on some of the old axioms. We are going on 26 years and he travels an immense amount for business. We committed to not trash talking about each other to anyone. It's bit us on the rear a time or two. But, what works for one marriage may not work for another.

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  102. As a Guy, I have to say that I don't entirely agree with #13. Before I was married, I always hated the way some of my friends and colleagues would vent about their wives and their marriage. The disrespect they displayed often made me think a little less of them. I made a mental promise to never do the same.

    After 9 years of marriage, I can say that I've been true to my promise, because my wife is a wonderful person and I want my friends and colleagues to know that. Yes, she's not perfect and there are always going to be moments of frustration and angst, but as annoying as some of my wife's peccadilloes may seem, I know mine are much worse and she's an angel for putting up with them!

    P.S. Great article!

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  103. Having kids to stay married is about the worst reason I can think of to have kids.

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    1. No at all what I think she said. It is important to read the logic behind the heading.

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  104. Excellent article, written from a realistic perspective!

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  105. You met at Don's Coffee Club! I used to hang out there in the late 90s. Niiiice.

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  106. Great post! Love everything you've said!

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  107. Good stuff. I'd add: don't say anything about your spouse that you wouldn't say with them standing there. Some people share their business and I'll listen and nod, cringe, whatever the story calls for, but I NEVER share any details about my relationship that would make my husband feel bad if he were to walk in and hear it. We are a team, and somethings are for team meetings only!
    -Wendy

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  108. We made it to 17 years then got divorced after all and after years of trying. So I don't think that 15 is a magical number. And I didn't get married with the idea of divorcing either (not withstanding unconscious programming of course). I do wish this kind of emotional awareness and literacy had been around all those years ago. Maybe it would have made the difference?
    This is a GREAT article. And like others who have commented, I am going to save it for later. You have a book in this article Lady! A GOOD book on long term romantic relationship would be so yummy!

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  109. Good stuff! My wife and I just celebrated 17, and I love her more now than the day I married her. #8 is great, but I think that #10 is HUGE. So many people treat marriage as just another relationship and enter into it too lightly. If you can't see yourself with the same spouse for the rest of your life, marriage is a bad idea. My parents have been married for almost 60 years, and my dad told me that there were times when the only thing keeping them together was the fact that they had made the committment to do so. Marriage puts couples to the test, but it's the working together to overcome things that makes the relationship stronger (just as steel is strengthened by heat-treating).

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  110. Great post.
    I can't think of anything you forgot. But maybe that's because I'm tired from doing all of these 15 things!
    -10 years next week

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  111. Seven years this Saturday. We're still newbies, but we almost got divorced last year. We've both since had epiphanies, lots of conversations and have instinctively started doing pretty much all 15 steps. I've never seen such great advice in one place, thank you so much.
    Having kids almost tore us apart but in the end has made us such a strong couple. I wish more people would work through the hard parts and the shitty times to get to the good stuff on the other side. I can't imagine how sad I would be now had I given up.

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  112. Excellent, excellent! I'm getting married in two months, and I have filed this advice away. I showed it to my intended, and he loved it too. I plan to read it often. Thanks for this. :)

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  113. I've been married for 40 years and this is the freshest take I've read on a successful marriage.

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  114. Very well-captured. I agree with all except for #3 but that may just be unique to me and my husband. We are very honest with each other, even if it is a criticism. The difference is there is no judgment in it. He told me when my thighs started getting thick during pregnancy. It wasn't rude, cutting, and didn't hurt my feelings. They are more objective observations than criticisms. He just noticed I had finally started to swell and I started wearing capris instead of shorts and longer preggo dresses.
    And I'll tell him if he has a character flaw that needs improvement. "Honey, that woman did not want to hear about your golf trip in that much detail. She was asking to be nice. Tone it down, Mr. Chatty Cathy." We trust each other so much that we know the others' intention is not to hurt but to help us improve ourselves. Other people have considered our honesty with each other cruel but we see it differently. Congrats on your 15 years!

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  115. I would disagree with going to bed mad, but then again I can't recall ever having an argument so big that it's ever come to that. My one piece of advice (and am also bearing down on 40) is to talk about problems while they're still small. I've seen too many of my friends' marriages die (or are dying) a death of a thousand cuts. The accumulation of these small things, piled on top of the stress of daily life can become more than some couples can overcome. I would agree with most everything else you've outlined. Nice post!

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  116. I love this. Thank you for posting. I've saved it so I can read it again. Lovely.

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  117. Wow, do I have permission to print this and stick it on a wall somewhere? Haha, this is amazing!

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  118. Lydia - this is FANTASTIC. My fiance and I are getting married in 9 weeks (okay, 64 days), and so many of these 15 things ring true in our relationship. What a great inspiration. In fact, I'd love to use a few of these as one of our ceremony readings, if I have your permission. :)

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    1. Sure, that would be awesome. :) Glad you like.

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  119. I agree with a lot of your advice! However, numbers one and two, I think, only work if the person is mad over something that is really not a big deal. However, if you have an issue that needs to be discussed and you don't ever really discuss it, it can stew and snowball and harm your marriage in the future.

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    1. #1 issue solved here by saying I am mad about the situation but I love you and I will talk to you in the morning. Most times it's Good Morning boy was I stupid about such and such last night, I over reacted please forgive me.

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  120. I don't know if you are still reading the comments, but I also LOVE your list. I found it funny and true. I just wanted to point out that there ARE alternatives. My hubby and I will be married for 11 years on 5-19, and we do most of these things - though I find my kids keep me sane AND MAKE ME CRAZY at the same time, lol! However, what you call assing around, we occasionally call foreplay, so I personally think the difference between a solid relationship and a not so solid one is the ability to honor each other's fantasies once and a while, and be honest with each other about exactly what they are :-) Other than that, I agree 100% with what you say!
    Have a happy day,
    Roxanne
    www.5degreesofweirdness.blogspot.com

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  121. I'm engaged to be married in 3 months and love, love, LOVE the advice. Thank you so much for your wise, insightful post.

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  122. Genius, genius work. Aside from loving your voice (am now eagerly going to seek out anything else you've written, because you are "my people"), this is a fantastic, DEAD-ON list of things that are, in fact, critical to marriage. And I love that you so fiercely claim to be a team in all things, at all times. We use the "team" description for our family all the time with our kids, but I've never thought of it as something to use when I talk about my marriage.

    The one thing I would add, and I think perhaps it comes in under #14, is that often, you need to do completely the *opposite* of what your selfish, childish instincts may be in order to stay married forever. In my case, when my husband was working crazy-ass 100-hour weeks and not coming home enough for me (or for our sex life) or for the kids or for basically ANYthing, I wanted with my whole heart to yell at him and say, "I've reached the breaking point here; I'm burned out and I need YOU and get the hell home from the office, already!" But I didn't. Instead, I decided that the voice in my head that was saying those things was generally pretty selfish and whiny, and maybe if I turned entirely away from it, that would be a better choice; at the very least, it was worth a shot, because I had tried the other way (badgering, complaining) and that had definitely NOT worked.

    So I did. With gusto. And for an entire week, I had his favorite dinners ready for whenever he DID get home (to reheat), and the kids and I had fun days and I didn't complain about daily dramas, but instead texted silly pictures of ourselves to him at work, and hid sweet post-its in his briefcase. I cleaned the house to within an inch of its life and took a whole bunch of crap to Goodwill. I bought birthday cards for his sister and mother on time, and put them addressed and stamped with notes saying, "sign me, please!" waiting by the coffeemaker that I pre-loaded for his morning jolt. I paid all the bills and reconciled the checking accounts and filed away all the papers in our home inbox.

    And you know what? It worked. I made our home the "soft place to fall" that he needed; I put 110% of my energy into making our family and our home a warm, nurturing, happy, delightful place that he would WANT to be, and I made his life outside of a work a place he'd long to be more than anywhere else in the world. And while I *did* exhaust myself that week (and I certainly don't *maintain* this kind of pace/tone/1950s Stepford fantasy, it the right thing to do at that time. It made him put even more effort into finishing up that damned project so he could spend more time with what were obviously the most lovely people in the universe. By kicking my inner whiner to the curb and being The Best Wife and Mother Ever for a few days, I totally revitalized him and helped him push through the crap to come back to us eagerly and gratefully. (After all, would YOU kill yourself to finish something at work so you could race home to a shrew and whiny children? I think not.)

    So that is how *I* showed him my loyalty, and it paid off in spades. It is still, without a doubt, the best epiphany I have ever had about our marriage, and it's the secret I tell all my friends who are getting married. Shut down the shrew and smother your husband in love n the toughest of times -- all the more so when you really, really want to complain -- and it's amazing how much you will get back!

    **Thank you** for your list. I'm going to send it around to mostly everyone I know. :)

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    1. oh, and sorry for being so wordy. i'm just passionate about how RIGHT you are!!! :)

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    2. Don't apologize! I love your comment! And I know exactly what you're talking about. There's an impulse to look for fairness and "justice" or whatever but the reality is that it's seldom going to be fair or just! Somebody's just going to have to eat it, and that person might as well be nice about it. Being sweet and getting through the tough times WILL pay back! You're so right. And you model the behavior you want to see in your spouse, so when it's your turn to need him to stomach some unfairness, he knows how to handle it with grace.

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  123. Samson,
    I don't know why you sent me this and then immediately blocked me...and I don't care...you sent it and that gives me hope...After all I have done to you, hope is the most I can ask for... everyday for almost two years now I have started off every morning with one thought...that thought or hope rather, is everything : " maybe this will be the day that he calls me and asks me to come back home"...please let me come home...so we can be the snuggly family... I love you. YOU ARE THE ONE!!! I am almost thirty and all I want is to marry you and give you children because you are the only one I have ever truly loved... I knew you were the one when I was twenty-two and this hasn't been a single day that has passed since then when you were far from my mind and heart... I am forever sorry that was not always evident... Please, let me come home...you are my life! I love you,always.
    -Delilah

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  124. This is a great article and I love your direct and sometimes foul language!!! You're awesome! Thanks for the tips! They're real!!!

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  125. Absolutely loved the article. My wife and I are on to 12 years, but still learned and reaffirmed a lot of our approach to marriage reading this. I especially loved the 4 and 14. Loyalty is quite truly the most important since from that stems trust, friendship and love. I will say, my wife and I disagree with 6 a bit, we feel it has been a huge help that we both love working out. We run together when we can (two kids keeps us from doing that a bit now), but I like biking more, she running, but close enough that we can workout and race together and have something that we absolutely love together. Excellent article. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Thank you so much! :D

      Mutual obsessions are good too. Dan and I are both video game nerdfaces. We spent about a year playing Starcraft when we were in our twenties. It was a good year. I just mean it's okay to have different stuff going on too. You don't have to share everything or be really up on everything the other person is doing. Or know where they are, specifically.

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  126. We have been married 33 yrs 11 months and 2 days. There have been good times and bad times, but the only way I can describe it as a whole is WONDERFUL> And the advice you give is RIGHT ON. We are still best friends. Thanks for getting the word out!!

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  127. yikes... marriage is a business arrangement, nothing more. if you're happy at times, be glad. but otherwise, don't count on being any happier with your spouse than you would be with any other kind of business partner. and this crap about 'support' -- since when is it wrong to challenge people close to you? does support mean helping them maintain delusions of grandeur?? call me crazy, but one of the things driving people to BE grand is realizing that (so far) they haven't been... I don't get it.

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    1. If you marry someone who sees it the same way, not a problem . . . I don't really see the point in marrying without an emotional component -- not a good example for children, if that's all you want, and no reason for the arrangement if you don't have children. Yikes indeed.

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  128. Great post. I love #1 and #15. #13 is interesting, I'll consider it as an option. How did you get to be so wise?

    visit me at http://www.coffeeandchaos.com

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  129. I LOVE this article! One thing to add... when in a power struggle, it is a "fight to the bottom" meaning, no one wins, and everyone loses. The way to get out of a power struggle is for one person to wave the white flag, but not in resignation or surrender, but more like (in a confident, gentle, self and partner-respectful, almost but not quite laughing at the situation type of way), "wait a minute, let's talk about this. We don't need to fight about this." and then find out what each other really need, and then instead of fighting to have one's own needs met, you talk together and work together to make sure both people's top, most important needs are met and to figure out what each of you are willing to let go of. I dislike the work "compromise" in marriage, because I always picture someone with no self esteem who has let themself go and given their spouse everything they want, and lost themselves. That is not what I am suggesting here. Instead I am suggesting that two equal partners come to the table and find out what each other are asking for, and then make sure they give each other what they "need" most and see what "icing on the cake" bonuses they can work into the deal for each other and themselves (same applies for negotiating a business deal... make sure the other person's key needs are met and then throw in what costs you nothing or not much and means a lot to the other person). The key is to prioritize one's own needs and think of creative solutions. For example: My parents have offered to babysit every Thursday night as part of our weekly routine. This does not always work well for my husband if he's on call at work on Weds or Fri because then he does not get enough time with our daughter and misses her. But, we are very fortunate to have been offered this one night and another night of the week has not been offered. Thus, I said to him, I really need a break and time with you, and so I don't want to have to negotiate this each week or for you to say no anymore, I just want it to be a scheduled break I know is coming (so I can look forward to it and rely on it). Also, since he really wanted our daughter to do soccer on Saturday mornings, and I thought it was great, but was not as into doing soccer early in the morning when she is only 2 years old and doesn't really do the activities anyways, I said to him, "ok, you are really wanting time with her and want her to do soccer, and I really need to know what the schedule looks like for every week, why don't you commit to taking her to soccer each Saturday morning". In return, I give him what he needs and loves. He loves a clean house, so while he is at soccer, I have some "me time" and clean up the house and then he comes home and we are all happy. In return for the Thursday night date night and watching our daughter while I go to fitness for an hour on Tuesday night, he can pretty much do whatever he wants with the rest of the hours of the week. So basically, that is about 6 hours of the whole week that makes my daughter and I so happy and gives him tonnes of flexibility the rest of the week (as long as he keeps me informed of what his schedule looks like for the coming week, so I can plan my life while he is working/studying/playing squash). :) It's a win win win for all three of us and is working really well so far. The other thing I would say is have little planning meetings on a schedule or as needed to figure out each others schedules and expectations of how much time we will have together and as a family. That really helps. Once I know what to expect it's so great. If I know he is going to be busy, I plan lots of girlie fun for my daughter and I, and if I know he is going to be free, I leave gaps in the schedule for us all to play at home together or have little family outings. It seems to be working well.

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  130. What wonderful advice! You're obviously very happy in your marriage, and it comes through loud and clear! I'm only two years in and I think some of these "rules" have already dawned on me along the way, especially about being a mirror and reflecting his best back at him to encourage him. I have to disagree about having a "husband pact" and complaining to his mother (although it's better than complaining to my mother, for sure), because I think there's a big risk of reinforcing your negative feelings by dwelling on them when you're sharing with friends. A girls' club where everyone meets and bitches about their husbands' shortcomings is probably only hurting most of the participants by helping them focus on the negative, even if it's in a silly and supportive setting. The best thing, for the lucky ones, is having a good friend who can sympathize while staying objective and who's willing to ask tough questions and give you some perspective. At least, that's the way I see it.

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  131. Lovely. I criticize for a living and find people grateful for it, so I only just recently realized that in private life, people don't want it for free, silly me. (Thought they'd rather have correct information.)

    #10 is terrific; one thing I did learn from other people's books and then from experience is that you absolutely don't know ahead of time what will be a dealbreaker. There's no shame in forgiving something; there's no harm (generally) in not deciding immediately whether you find some action ultimately unacceptable.

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  132. FANTASTIC AND TRUE! I'll be married 12 years this August and have been with my husband for over 16. I love being married to him. He is the calm to my storm and really gets me. Thank god.

    I always say there is no THE ONE...just the one who's shit you can deal with for the rest of your life. Everyone has baggage but just make sure the person you marry has baggage the size of a carry on. If it's larger than a Louis Vuitton trunk you have two choices. The first is RUN, or you can always help them try to downsize with the help of a therapist if you think it's worth it.

    The other thing I always say is never try and change your parter. You need to love them for who they are not what you think they should be. However, if you just be yourself you would be amazed at how just by being that, you can inspire your parter to be a better person and that you too will be better as well.

    And yes, I couldn't agree more with having your own life. You need to have a life together and a life apart too. I just loved this and will probably give copies to my couples (I'm a wedding photographer) in their thank you cards.

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  133. I've been married 30 years. I especially liked your point about "going to bed mad". Sometimes that doesn't work out well because I still wake up mad. But lots of times a disagreement has gotten stupid or out of hand (usually my fault!) and going to bed is a good way to end it. Even though it's not "resolved", when you wake up, it's gone. Not everything has to be hashed out until it's resolved.

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  134. I also disagree with going to bed mad. I am the type of person that will stew on the problem over night, while my husband does better if he sleeps it off. And when we were first married, if he did not want to stay up to get the issue resolved, it felt as if he did not care about my feelings or the issue. We have been married 17 years, so I know him better now, but we never go to bed angry. And as far as bitching to his mother, that has never worked for me. This is not my first marriage, and my former MIL did not like me complaining about her son either. Both MIL believe their sons hung the moon and can do no wrong. Complaining to them did nothing but made them angry with me and made my husband angry too, once the MIL told him what I said. While many of these are good ideas, the most important idea is that most people see marriage as temporary and disposable. They know if they are not happy with their marriage or their spouse, they can easily move on to the next one. Our society has done an amazing job of instilling this in our minds. Divorce is not taboo, as it once was. There are situations where divorce is not avoidable (abuse, serial adultery, etc.). But, most people go into marriage knowing it is easy to get out once it gets difficult, and almost every marriage does get difficult at some point. Thanks for the post!

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  135. Really great post! The only one I disagree with is "have kids". Probably does strengthen marriages for some people. Definitely enriches the lives of all parents. But on average, according to a number of studies, children in the home are associated with more marital strain, and lower levels of happiness for individuals. ON AVERAGE - so obviously this isn't going to be true for everybody. There are lots of reasons for having kids, but strengthening your marriage probably isn't one of them.

    Relatedly, though having kids may make some people saner, other people will become much less sane. If the parent that is going to bear the brunt of the work of childcare (read: the woman, in most cases) has a psychological disorder, kids will probbbbably not make them better... Not to say don't have kids if you're depressed, anxious, etc., but steel your marriage for more stress, more strain, possibly worse symptoms especially in the awful baby years. This is where the teamwork part comes in.

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  136. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article! I'm a newlywed and have been surprised at how different married life is than what I expected. Thankfully, it's almost all in good ways, but this article really spoke to me and is a great reminder of what's really important in a marriage. I will refer to it often when I need a gut check.

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  137. i enjoy your values. There are two that I disagree with. I think you should just talk to your significant other as opposed to gossiping and venting. The problem won't go away if you bitch and I don't think the significant other will appreciate you bad-mouthing them to others.

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  138. I agree with almost 100% of your tips. My husband and I have been married for 40 years and have had seven children. The one key to our success was our agreement that, "Whoever leaves first has to take the kids..."

    CFS

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  139. Nice! Funny and real - and with the Velevet Underground thrown in... can't get much better than that. Now to find the "follow" button. :)

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  140. This is a nice post, but a lot them are simply personal things that have worked for your relationship. Sometimes when one spouse breaks the tension with laughter, it makes things worse (#2). Sometimes one doesn't want to go to bed and wants to stay up and stay mad (#1). Sometimes you can't move or travel much (#9), or have kids (#7). Sometimes getting good at sex would mean going against what you enjoy, and sometimes physical problems get in the way of sex (#8). And, mothers-in-law can sometimes be the last person to whom you should vent (#13).

    The truth is, we're all imperfect, often irrational creatures. We forget how to trust, or how to be loyal, or how to not criticize and brag instead. I think the best advice from your article is what you imply about yourself and your spouse. First, marry a spouse who is willing to be a partner, an equal, a confidant, and a lover--a person who meets you halfway and cares about your marriage. Second, think about your relationship and what makes it work and what doesn't work. Maybe in another 15 years (or even next year, who knows?) you'll find that a few of the things you thought were necessary aren't working at all. :)

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  141. Great advice. I've been married for 14 years and did most all of your list and thought my marriage was absolutely terrific. My husband was my best friend. I was so much more in love with him than the day we got married. Little did I know he had been leading a double life for the last 8 years and I had absolutely no clue. He's got to be one of the best actors/liars on the planet. Sometimes, it just doesn't matter what you do....... At least I know that there was nothing more that I could have done to make things work. :( Better luck to everyone else!

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  142. Great advice. My only addition would be you must have a partner who is also on the same page. I'm recently divorced after banging my head against a proverbial wall for six years. None of this works if it's not reciprocated. So maybe the first point is find a great guy who is emotionally capable of making a great marriage too. My grandmother advised me it's a two way street, and I think that's true for both good stuff and bad.

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  143. I came across this post by chance on Pinterest as I was taking a study break and I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate your blog. Today is my 3-year anniversary. We actually practice many of your suggestions already and have plenty of time to grow into some of the others.
    On the other hand, some of them I think I have to pass on. Personally, I can appreciate constructive criticism with good intentions and I'm a big promoter of communication, but I find that can probably be dropped into trust depending on how you look at it. Also, I have to agree with Khristie on the "bitching to his mother" would depend on the relationship. If I have to vent, which isn't often and usually isn't anything major anyway, it's usually to my mom. Again, totally dependent on the relationship, my husband always teases me that my mom loves him more than me because she will often take his side in an argument or play devil's advocate, but I know I'll always get sound advice even if it's not what I want to hear.

    PS. On a totally unrelated note, but relevant to other posts you've made, were you ever worried that someone would take your story idea while writing your novel. I feel like I sound paranoid, but I write in my free time and have though about trying to get something published someday, maybe. I just don't know how trusting I should be when that day comes along that I want someone to edit it for me.

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    1. Hi Julie. :) I did not worry that someone would steal my idea, no. My idea is pretty specific, though, and because of the style of the novel, no one could have taken the idea and written it in the same way. If what you're working on is very 'high concept' and plot-based, and you really feel you have a new idea that has never been done before, that can lead to a little paranoia, yes.

      The reality is that people very rarely steal novel ideas. In fact, I find people are usually trying to *give me* novel ideas, either overtly, by saying "Hey, I have an idea for a book you should write -- you write it and we'll split the profits!" or without realizing it, just by being weird and inspiring one of my characters. Heh.

      Writers are usually working through their own ideas and don't really have time to work on yours. And editors and agents have SO many books flowing through their hands all the time, it's much much easier for the to work with you and get you to write it, if they like the idea, than it would be to steal the idea and write it themselves.

      Your worry is not uncommon. :)

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    2. :) Thank you. Thank both makes me smile and feel better. I do think the concept at its core is different and new, or at least something I've never come across before, but I absolutely acknowledge that it is influenced by some of my favorite literature that I have encountered throughout my life. I really appreciate your time and feedback. Would it be burdensome to you (or would you not like it) if I have questions about writing and post them to you on your blog in the future?

      PS. apparently I have two screen names...

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    3. Sure -- ask away! :D You can also reach me by email. Check out http://bookpregnant.blogspot.com -- I asked some of my debut author comrades your question about worrying someone would plagiarize an idea, and multiple writers will share answers on that blog, perhaps today or tomorrow. :)

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  144. Really enjoyed reading this and sharing it :) We've got 4 kids and have been together for 25 years and married 22 of those (the LAST 22 - lol!) and much of what you've said is spot-on. Years ago, we did Amway (yes, yes we did) and they gave us motivational tapes to listen to. One of the themes they repeated was how important it is to "edify" your spouse. I often joke that Amway saved our marriage, but it was so true. You've definitely got some great advice to share with newly weds, and it's always better when it doesn't come from a creepy old relative. . .I tagged my son and his new bride along with my cousin and her new husband in my share, btw. :)

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  145. Barn doors closed; horse, ten years gone. Ah, well.

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  146. I LOVE love love this blog article. I truly do. You clearly have tapped into some very important secrets to making a relationship last...and last happily.

    However, as for myself.. (and we are all different so some things work differently for others than they will you) 11 is the only one i dont fully agree with. Ex's are Ex's for a reason. There should be no threat there. It recommends having separate friends earlier in the article... wouldnt NEW friends be MORE of a threat than Ex's? If its possible for trouble to come between you at all its certainly NOT because you allowed yourself the company of another human being...its cuz theres trouble WITHIN the marriage in the 1st place that you would feel all your needs are not being met and then those needs are being met by someone else. I say STAY friends with your Exs...they gave you the gift of knowing what you really want. they were a part of your life for a reason. If your mate is a worthy one...you will be able to talk to them about your feelings of needs not being met or your attraction to another and then it can be dealt with openly and honestly.
    I also do not believe all relationships need be monogamous. I abhor jealousy and possessiveness. BIGGEST turn off ever. Keeping the relationship communication open and not being possessive and TRUSTING that person to stay with YOU till old age regardless of who catches the others attention now and then is what i think REAL love and commitment are about. There is an irrational fear that sharing love with another means there is LESS love for YOU....not true. not true in the least. Unless youre CHOOSING to shun the person for showing love to another and not welcoming that into your relationship... if you love a person...you should understand and be open to hearing and accepting your mates needs and desires. There is no room for shame in love.

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  147. Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts and successes with us. My husband and I are having a lot of trouble after just 5 years of marriage and this entry has given me quite a lot to think about!!

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  148. Great suggestions, but I wouldn't advise a woman to bitch to her mate's mother about him. Few mothers want to hear that their sons are defective, since it reflects directly upon their mothering skills. I'd suggest that women bitch to their friends, just like you suggested the men do. Keep mothers-in-law out of the loop when it comes to any type of bitching. http://diaryofadisillusioneddater.blogspot.com/

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