My wife and I just celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary, and more than 40 years of knowing each other. That seems like a long time, but then again it doesn’t at all. At the risk of looking like a piker compared to some of the people we’ve written about on the pages of this paper who have made it to 75 years, here is some marital advice:
Agree that on some points you will never agree. You have to accept that for some reason my wife foolishly thinks Skippy creamy is the best peanut butter, when clearly Jif crunchy is the better choice (It smells like fresh peanuts!) So you always buy two jars.
Eat meals face to face: As much as you possibly can, don’t eat in front of the TV and don’t eat in your car alone. Sit across from each other and talk, even if you have to do like we do regularly, read a joke from the page-a-day calendar to get conversation started, like: “Last night I had a dream that I was a muffler. I woke up exhausted.”
Never go to bed mad: Give your spouse a kiss good night, and sort out all your messes before you go to bed. It won’t be easy, but you will sleep better and stay married longer.
Agree to learn more about your spouse’s interests: My wife regularly takes me to art museums and I have come to appreciate them to the point where I actually like going. I am not sure my wife likes watching football every hour of the weekend during fall, but she pretends not to mind it.
Find similar things you both like: Lately, my wife and I have gotten into listening to jazz music and rating fine wine. We have no idea what we are doing, but that’s the fun of it, and it means for the first time in our marriage neither of us is wrong.
Never air your dirty laundry: It’s easy when frustrated with your spouse to turn to a friend or family member and gripe. Resist it! There are some things sacred to a marriage and one of them is privacy, except, of course, when my wife needs advice on how to clean my overly dirty laundry.
Spend time together: There’s a lot to be said for each person indulging their own passions, but not if it supplants the time you two spend together doing what you love and enjoying each other’s company. Spend time with just the two of your alone, no kids or other distractions.
Communicate: This is captain obvious, but you should share worries, frustrations (even if its about your spouse, which is something I am sure my wife never has), problems or anxieties, just as you would hopes and dreams. Listen before you speak. Truly listen; don’t just pause while you formulate your next argument.
Admit you are wrong: First, if you think your spouse is all wrong, most likely it is you who is to blame. It’s like the old saying that when you point the finger at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at you. So get over your hubris and admit you are wrong and if not, do some self-examination until you can clearly see your own flaws, too. How much easier it is to find someone else’s failings and completely overlook your own. Look at it from your spouse’s perspective. And remember that compromise is healthy; determining winners and losers is not.
See the recurring argument for what it is: My wife and I have had the same arguments for years. She likes to save money; I prefer to spend it. She wants comforting and consolation from me in hearing her problems; I always want to tell her how to solve them. She gives me a suggestion and I think she is scolding me; I say I don’t like something around the house and she takes that as a personal attack. We keep having these same fights until we look at each other and shake our heads in disbelief that we did not recognize it sooner and back off.
Do everything you do out of love: We have had some humdinger fights over the years, but we always find a way to get over them and that was because underneath it all, love is the bedrock of our marriage. Without it, marriage does not stand a chance.
And always keep an extra jar of the good peanut butter around. If your wife runs out during a COVID shortage and you have to share the same jar, maybe she will finally realize she was wrong about this one thing at least. And that reminds me about one last thing: A sense of humor is imperative to a good marriage, too.