Today my wife and I have been married for exactly 5 years. We’ve both changed a lot over that time. From 23 year old idealists to exhausted and hopeful parents of a baby human called Aiden… which was the result of me totally getting it on with Mellisa (BOOM! Score!).
Our marriage has survived these changes and we – seemingly barely, seemingly gloriously, like a 3 legged show pony – live to tell the tales, both good and bad.
I wanted to commemorate this occasion with a short list of tips for marriage, one for each year we’ve survived. This list isn’t going to change your life overnight, but if you follow through these just may save your marriage over the long-haul. So, let’s get started being awesome at marriage:
#1 Decide & Define Your Domestic Roles
I totally hated chores as a kid. And I still hate chores. But now I hate it even more when I walk into my house and feel like we’ve let weeds grow all over our life.
Have you ever felt that before? Like you don’t have any dominion over your domain? It feels a lot like futility — like, “what’s the point in starting to clean the bedroom, because the kitchen’s still going to be there, and after that the garage, and after that the bedroom again… life is suffering.”
I think a challenge Mellisa & I have had, especially since we moved into a bigger home than we used to live in, is that we never defined our individual responsibilities. We expected to play the house like jazz, improvising and artistically creating clean when the sensation bubbled up from within us.
Well, I haven’t been doing much bubbling. And recently the suck-factor of our chore improvising has gotten so bad it nearly killed us all… adding a kid into the mix of two unprepared and driven professionals will do that… it will kill you.
So, we’ve finally started divvying out individual responsibilities. Wifee handles Aiden in the wee hours, I take him between 5 and 8 am. She makes the food, I do the dishes. I get her ice cream (that’s it on that one, see #5). I handle laundry, she does a lot of other stuff, etc.
You should take this kind of cohabitation inventory and make decisions on who owns what, because it can blow up and become a much bigger deal than it deserves to be.
#2 Separate Business & Regular Life Communication
Mellisa and I don’t actually work together, but even so there’s a whole lot of business-type things that go on in our marriage — in any marriage. I’m talking about bills, mortgage, checking accounts, overdraw fees, making deposits, scheduling things like dates and vacations and hanging out with “mandated”friends, etc.
All these things are necessary parts of your life together, but they’re not the good parts… they’re not the parts where you’re having a good time, enjoying togetherness, or really being surprised by the awesomeness of your spouse. These things can even get in the way of your romance and friendship, of being good to each other.
So communicate about stuff like this through more business-type communication methods like email and text messaging. This has totally helped us keep our together time for togetherness, not for un-togetherness-type things.
Sidenote: read Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home. It will take you about an hour to read, and it will help you communicate more betterer through email.
#3 Have A Baby
Want to go on an adventure? Want to do something amazing together? Want to overcome some amazing obstacles and get to the top of a crazy wild mountain and raise your arms and jump and celebrate your victory together on the top of an incredible mountain? Have a baby!
Srsly, it’s an amazing thing to do together. I mean, hell, just surviving labor is enough to rekindle any dim spark to a blaze… cuz labor is f!cking nutzx!
Our son has totally mandated more time together for Mellisa and I, which is a really good thing, especially since sometimes (not all the time, see #4) you’ll be just lying on the couch together watching your fledgling 1 year old galavant around the room artistically philosophizing with you about life’s greatest mysteries through a new kind of free-form gibberish stream-of-consciousness he’s invented. Classic.
Having a hobby, a project, to do together is an amazing tool for your marriage – it forces you to spend time together, which is a huge way to help keep communication flowing. Why not make your project a baby? :)
#4 Don’t Have A Baby
Want to save your marriage? Want to have time to spend together doing cool things like going to concerts and watching movies and hanging out with friends? Want to spend money on great clothes instead of diapers? Don’t have a baby!
Srsly, nothing will bring you to your wit’s end as quickly or as completely as having a kid, an infant, the spawn of some brief moment of carnal passion. I mean, the thought of being in labor at the same time Modern Family airs is enough to encourage spending conspicuously on contraceptives.
“Oh, don’t go in there, that’s the condom room; it’s kinda boring.”
Our son has totally forced us out of things we loved like working long hours and making money and partying hard and having loud sex and sleep… and all we get for it is this … and this … and this i suppose (pardon my nipple, plz.). And this and this. Rubbish trade off.
There’s a slight possibility that the stress and strain and requirements and the general atmosphere of despair and exhaustion that comes built-in to baby-people could damage your marriage, seriously. At the very least parenthood will definitely make you less fashionable. So, be careful here.
Fatherhood is suffering. We try to at least make it the funny kind: FatherApprentice.com
#5 Actively Serve One Another
Listen, marriage is too often just a short name for “the slow erosion of respect for the person you’re most intimate with… and resentment fills the hole respect leaves.”
Many of us know this too truly.
The biggest tool you have against this eroding respect is doing nice things for your spouse, repeatedly and oftenly.
After 5 years of marriage I know exactly what I can get away with. You probably do to. When you move away from “getting away with something”towards serving your spouse you’re actively changing your heart – you’re behaving yourself into different feelings.
When you proactively serve one another you’re also changing your environment – like you’re charging the space around you with intention. And that intention can grow and gain momentum… and that momentum can change both of you and create magic in your marriage – the kind of magic where you get surprised by how awesome your spouse is.
But it’s not easy. So start with small things and work your way up – like not bitching when your lazy-ass wife won’t get up to get her own ice cream. But actively do this over time and you’ll likely behave yourself into an excellent emotional posture in your marriage.
By a long ways most of our 5 years of marriage has been really easy; like, we’re talking fairy-tale sh!t.
I mean, I met Mellisa when I was traveling Europe… in Dublin, Ireland.
Then we decided we’d like to be in a relationship and that we’d never see each other again in Amsterdam.
We lived in Ireland for several months after that (we were wrong in Amsterdam), got married in Canada, then moved to the US a year later.
Finally we moved up to Portland, OR and brought a horribly beautiful dream-eating monster-child into the world.
We’re talking fairy-tale sh!t.
We’ve been in love, in lust, birthers of big dreams and killers of each other’s dreams. We’ve survived career changes, unemployment, idealism, evangelicalism, pentacostalism, atheism, agnosticism, conservatism, and the bay area.
We’ve lost our bushy tails but we’ve still got mostly bright eyes.
This list is catered mostly to me. I needed to write it… because I want Mellisa to be surprised one day by how awesome her spouse is. Onward and up my friends!