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Rule #1… do shots during your ceremony!
Those shot glasses are filled with water and we timed it to The Proclaimers, I’m gonna be. You know the line, “If I get drunk, well I know I’m gonna be…
How many times have you heard that the first year of marriage is the hardest?
Makes sense, right? It’s a huge transition and requires a lot of figuring shit out. All of a sudden it’s not all about you anymore.
Now you have to consider this other person and your relationship with every decision you make.
There is definite truth to this, but Mike and I are proof that it doesn’t have to be. Was it easy? Ehhh, not sure I would use that word, but we got through it gracefully and compared to a lot of stories I’ve heard we did pretty damn good; so far year 2 is going well also.
We credit a lot of different things when it comes to why our relationship is so awesome and “easy.” (Stay tuned for more in another post.) The most important of those though, is how we treat one another and nurture our relationship.
You may be wondering, what the hell can we know after such a short time… valid.
But it’s not only our marriage that has taught us these things, but it’s also all the failed relationships that came before. It actually wasn’t all a waste… yay!
While we wish we met earlier in life so we could have more time together, we know it wouldn’t have worked if we met at any other time.
We needed to have all those experiences and learn all those lessons so we could do this one right.
Communication and money management have proven to be a big deal in our marriage, so you need to get those right and we are going to talk about those. But, the small things matter too; and when you compound them all together – they’re definitely a big thing.
We’re no experts on love and marriage. If you’re having serious trouble or on the verge of divorce you should seek the help of a professional.
However, if you’re looking for some guidance and inspiration from a happily married couple, here are our Top 10 rules for a happy marriage.
1. Stay Connected
Think back to when you first met, remember those sparks you felt when their hand brushed yours? How about those late night chats where neither of you wanted to hang up the phone?
What about that deep, overwhelming connection you felt to your partner?
Now that your hormones have leveled out, it’s possible some of that has faded. Don’t worry, it’s completely normal! That chemistry is still there, you just have to work a bit at it.
Self-awareness is also important here. If you feel disconnected, make sure you’re taking action on that feeling. Don’t sweep it under the rug and think it’s going to fix itself. Talk with your partner and come up with ways to stay connected that work for both of you.
Mike and I have a few go-to behaviors that help us stay connected. Most of them happened naturally, but we’ve committed to consistently practicing them and it’s made a huge difference.
Always Kisses First
Our number one rule for staying connected in our marriage is, always kisses first.
This has literally become a mantra in our home. We’ve even gone so far as to have it printed and framed. It sits on my nightstand as I write this post.
A great example of this is getting home from work at the end of the day. Whoever gets home first usually gets wrapped up in something that takes all of our attention.
But, when the other does get home, we make it a point to pause whatever we’re doing and kiss each other hello.
We know, it sounds so simple and silly…
…but life has a way of distracting us from the important things. And we easily take the people around us for granted.
When you’ve been away from each other for a while, those first few minutes when you’re together again can set the stage for the rest of the evening. Take that time to connect and feel the spark when your lips touch.
Go to Bed Together
When Mike and I were first living together, we pretty much always feel asleep together at night. We were usually up late talking and acting like fools in love, then passing out. Oh, the joys of early relationships!
As time has gone on though, we’ve taken more time to ourselves and fell into our own schedules.
This is not a bad thing, by the way, and we’ll be talking more about it later on in this list.
Mike is an entrepreneur and night owl with an unpredictable work schedule, while I need to be out of the house by 8 am every day. I naturally go to bed earlier than he does, but Mike will still come to bed when I do and hang with me until I fall asleep.
He does get back up and go about his business until the wee hours, but it’s the perfect way to end the day and get in some cuddle time.
Prioritize Physical Touch & Intimacy
What’s the one thing that sets apart your romantic relationship from the one you have with your best friend?
If you want to have a successful marriage, you have to treat the relationship like the intimate connection that it is!
Look, life gets busy. We have competing priorities, a fuck ton of things to do, and it’s so easy to find yourself going through the motions without any thought to when the last time you and your partner actually got busy.
Then, before you know it you and your spouse are roommates instead of lovers.
We all prefer those moments to be spontaneous; it’s more exciting, right? But, let’s get real… if you wait for it to happen on its own, it may never happen!
We know, you can’t (and may not want to) have sex constantly… but you should still be working in as much skin to skin contact as you can, even when you’re spending a lazy Sunday binge-watching Netflix. Let’s be serious, when you’re married – Netflix and chill actually means Netflix and chill.
Physical touch might not be your love language, but it’s still necessary to maintain connections. This article talks about how important touch is in relationships and notes that touch actually outranks sex in traits of successful marriages.
Think of it as constant PG rated foreplay. Even if it’s as simple a hand on the small of your back or tangled legs, pay attention to how it feels when you touch. Make it a point to nurture this as much as possible.
Date Your Spouse
We know you’ve definitely heard this one before, and for good reason… because it works!
Date night is my go to if I’m starting to feel a little disconnected from Mike. Even though we spend a lot of time together, it’s not always quality time.
We can be in the same place for 12 hours at a family function, (yes, we have 12 hour days with his family) but we’re surrounded by so many other people it feels like we haven’t seen each other the entire day.
How often you do this is unique to you and your life. We don’t have kids, so it’s much easier for us to schedule a date night, but it still takes effort. With demanding work schedules, side hustles, and family commitments it’s easy for us to get wrapped up in everything other than us.
Carve out time to do things together that you enjoy, and it doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. Cook dinner together at home and crack open a bottle of wine; or play a game together. Do whatever it is that you enjoy doing and focus on nothing other than your partner.
Put your phones away and live in the moment. Need some inspiration? Check out these 100 Date Night Ideas you can do this weekend!
Talk to Each Other During the Day
Some people say talking to your partner during the day is co-dependent, but I call bullshit.
Ultimately you and your partner should do what works for you, but when I’m having a tough day at work and I get to facetime with Mike during my lunch, it makes it that much easier to take on the rest of the day.
We don’t get to facetime every day; sometimes it’s a text, and sometimes nothing at all. The trick is knowing that if you don’t talk, that it doesn’t mean anything negative.
That can be a slippery slope when you’re dating someone, ugh – I don’t miss those days – but in the context of a healthy, and happy marriage, it should add an extra bounce to your step.
It’s the same reason we had a first look at our wedding. When you’re at your most vulnerable or stressed out, who is the one person you want to see or talk to? I felt like a zombie on my wedding day, that first moment when we saw each other during the ceremony brought me back to life.
Bonus points for flirting when you’re apart too. Constant foreplay, right?
2. Talk About Money
Talking about money is something you should be doing before you get married, and ongoing throughout. Truthfully, it should be the number 1 rule to live by for a good marriage.
Money is still one of the leading causes of divorce and has the ability to create major strain in relationships. There is way more on this topic than we can unpack in this blog post; the main take away is to talk openly about your attitudes and expectations about money with your partner.
Mike’s parents have been happily married for 40+ years. They’ve been together since they were teenagers, and they’re still so damn cute together. For our wedding, we put out marriage advice cards and his Mom’s advice… don’t fight about money.
It’s a simple statement about a complex subject, but I took it to heart. I’m pretty conscientious about money, and Mike is much more relaxed and generous. It makes sense when you consider the examples of marriage we saw were the complete opposites.
These conversations about money were not easy, and we didn’t necessarily do it well at first. But Mike & I knew that if we wanted our marriage to be successful, we’d have to figure this shit out.
The first big money decision we had to make… how much to spend on our wedding. That’s a story for another day, but know that while it wasn’t easy, we got through it with a lot of communication and patience.
Combining Your Finances in Marriage
We were married for a year before we actually combined our money. At first, we kept everything separate and split the bills.
We didn’t meet until much later in life and were already in our mid-thirties when we got married. Having spent so many working years single, and managing our money alone, it was a little scary to put that sort of trust in someone else and to give them that sort of visibility into our habits.
For us, we knew we would eventually get to that place, but we wanted to work our way there slowly and on our terms. How did we know all this? Because we talked about it, a lot!
We also had to figure out how to handle Mike’s personal business expenses, what would get allocated toward gear investment, and how we were going to manage it operationally.
Now that we’ve combined our finances our life so much easier. Instead of figuring out who owes who what every month, we’re sitting down to create our budget and deciding what we want to spend our money on.
This has been invaluable for us. Not only in our ability to communicate, but also for locking down our future plans. And I swear, it’s like we have more money! Not to get too woo-woo on you, but I’ve witnessed first hand – the more time you spend with your money, the more money you will have.
How We Manage Our Budget
When we first started managing our money together, we kept track of everything in a google sheet. I had already been doing this for myself, but Mike wasn’t much for budgeting.
In fact, when we did combine our finances and were moving everything into our joint account he found about 6 months worth of the rent money I sent him sitting in his square cash app! Needless to say, I do most of the actual budget operations, though we make the decisions together.
Once we got really serious about paying off school loans and saving for a home, we upgraded to the YNAB (You Need a Budget) software and started using the zero-based budgeting technique. Stay tuned for more about budgeting with your spouse in a future post.
If you’re interested in trying YNAB out, this link will get you a 30-day free trial and another FREE month if you choose to subscribe after your trial period.
Note: This is an affiliate link, and we’ll earn a free month if you sign up for YNAB after your trial. Rest assured, we wouldn’t recommend anything we didn’t actually believe in. We’ve been using it for 6 months now and we love it.
3. Communication is Key
Want to make your marriage last forever? Master the art of communication.
If you and your partner can communicate well, it will make everything else on this list easier to do. In most cases, Mike and I do communicate well. But, we all have our moments.
Here’s what we’ve learned.
Listen With Intention
When you and your partner are talking, especially about something important, pay attention. You want to not only listen but hear what they’re saying. This is something I’m definitely always working on. I usually have a million things going on in my head at any given time, and I can easily space out and miss what Mike is saying. It’s terrible, and I’m working on it.
If you find yourself unable to focus on the conversation, whether it’s because you’re preoccupied, or because you just don’t have the capacity to talk about something serious in that moment, tell your partner. You won’t be offending them by admitting you’re not ready to have the conversation nearly as much as if you pretend you are.
Mike and I went through this when we were planning our wedding. There were times when he just could not talk about it, and I had to respect his boundaries. Sometimes he’ll want to talk about something, and I’ll be reading or doing something on my phone. Instead of saying, “I’m listening,” I should just say, “Hey, I’ll be done in a second.”
Verbalize Your Needs
How often do you find yourself annoyed that your partner didn’t do something you wanted them to? Do you find yourself complaining to your friends when your partner doesn’t accompany you to that family function, or help you around the house?
Ask yourself, do they know you feel that way? Have you actually said out loud “Babe, I’d love it if you would…”
If the answer is no, it’s possible they have no clue how you feel.
Your partner cannot read your mind, and it’s unfair for you to expect them to. Mike and I have had many instances where we’ve had to remind ourselves to use our words. Lucky for us we tend to figure it out pretty quickly, but left untended, all those little annoyances can turn into a lot of resentment.
It wasn’t until months after Mike and I took our first trip together when he told me, but it turns out that he was frustrated with me on our vacation. As we were getting ready to go home, he wanted to take a minute to appreciate and reflect on the awesome time we had, but I was so wrapped up in packing I barely gave him the time of day.
In hindsight, I remembered him trying to have that conversation with me, but I didn’t realize how important it actually was to him. Now I know, and will definitely make a conscious effort to revel in that moment with him.
Don’t Be Dismissive
The two of you are not going to agree on everything, and you need to understand that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’re married, but you are still fundamentally two separate individuals with different points of view and experiences. Instead of being dismissive to their thoughts, ideas and opinions, welcome another perspective and be open-minded about different possibilities.
This could be about something as simple as where to go to dinner, or as big as where you should live.
Compromising and finding the middle ground does NOT mean you have to sacrifice your individuality or your opinions. You don’t have to agree on everything, and depending on the topic you might just decide to agree to disagree.
The goal here is to have open communication and provide a safe place for your partner to express themselves.
If you and your partner tend to have a difficult time communicating, there might be something else at play here. It’s possible that you aren’t actually hearing each other, or there’s something else blocking your ability to be compassionate. If that’s the case, consider talking to a professional.
4. Be Patient, Kind, & Appreciative
You know how the saying goes, “You always hurt the ones you love.” You may not be able to avoid this completely, but focusing on being patient and kind to your partner is the first step.
Patience is something I’m definitely lacking. As a supercharged New Yorker who married a laid-back California boy, I’m often tested on my patience… especially when we’re trying to leave the house, lol. Mike doesn’t quite have the same sense of urgency that I do. It definitely takes a conscious effort on my part to go with the flow and not get uptight.
My husband, on the other hand, is so patient. It must be a gift, I swear.
When you are talking or fighting with your partner, remember that this is the person you love. Be compassionate, and understanding. If you can’t because you’re so worked up about it, it’s probably best to just take a moment to chill out.
When you’ve been with a partner for a long time, it’s so easy to take all the little things they do for you for granted. The way they fill your water when you’re already in bed, or remember to pick you up your favorite snack from the store.
All these little things are their way of showing you that love you and are thinking of you. Don’t forget to continue to say thank you and be appreciative. You’ll want to figure out what resonates with your partner, but verbal appreciation is a great start.
5. Don’t Try to Change Them
I’d be lying if I said there was nothing about Mike I wish was different. Shit, I wish a lot of people were different; but it does me no good to spend my energy trying to change them. Please excuse the cliche, but a leopard really does not change their spots.
I’ve heard so many stories of relationships that go bad because their partner wasn’t __________ enough, they didn’t do __________, or they always did __________. But if you think back to when you were first together, often they’re exactly who they always were.
Disclaimer: This is not a pass for being abusive in any way, whether verbally, physically, emotionally etc.
Will My Partner Change on Their Own?
Yes, people can grow and become better versions of themselves… it’s what life, and marriage is all about! It’s the reason we started this blog.
But fundamentally, we will continue to be the same people we always were.
I’m still going to stay at work late some nights to finish up projects and get testy with Mike when I’m stressed out, and Mike is going to forget to turn off the lights when he leaves a room and take forever to leave the house – but these behaviors are ingrained in our personalities.
Will we be a bit more conscious of how we make each other feel and try to adjust our behaviors to accommodate them? Of course. But sometimes we have to be real with ourselves and realize it’s up to us to accept them as they come.
This is easier said than done, of course. But here are a few tips for accepting your partner as they are.
Remove Judgement & Replace With Gratitude
Do you get upset when your partner comes home late from work all the time?
Instead of being angry and accusing them of not wanting to spend time with you, consider the extra stress they might be under if they had so much work to do they couldn’t leave at a normal hour.
Or, what if they tend to make a mess every time they do the dishes, (you know – water everywhere), or load the dishwasher wrong?
Try changing your reaction and appreciating that they are helping you with housework.
Tell Them What Bugs You
Sometimes just saying the words out loud to your partner can make all the difference.
Maybe it’s not a habit or trait they can change, but if they know (going back to using your words) they’ll probably try. At the very least, you’ll feel better and it probably won’t annoy you as much.
We actually recorded a podcast on this very topic – stay tuned for details on the launch 🙂
6. Share Responsibilities, Be a Team
How many times have you had a fight with your partner over something so stupid, like taking out the garbage? We can’t promise that you’ll never get a little frustrated with your partner over the housework, but communication is going to be important here.
Figure out what works for you, and plan ahead. For the most part, Mike and I would trade off tasks depending on who was available. His schedule is a lot more flexible than mine. Most recently, we’ve even gotten more specific. I make the meal plans, he goes to the grocery store. I clean, he takes out the garbage. We also have roles in the kitchen. Burgers, all Mike… more complicated dishes that require lots of ingredients and specific timing – all me.
I know when you’re reading this it all seems so simple. But it’s easy to overlook how important it is to actually work out such small details. It’s made a world of difference for us, and I can’t help but share with you.
7. Continue to Be Your Own Person
While marriage is all about being a team, you’ll still want to maintain your own identity. Continue to see your friends without your partner, don’t give up your hobbies, and don’t be afraid to tell your partner when you need some time alone.
Before I met Mike, I was going to brunch almost every Sunday with a group of my girlfriends. Over the last couple of years, that schedule has dropped off, thanks to moves, marriage, and children within the group. But until it was everyone’s schedule that got crazy, I was still off to brunch every week. Hell, Mike even appreciated the silly, drunk on mimosa Jessica that came home.
Mike has his hobby of flight simulator. He completely geeks out on the process of flying and loves spending time mapping his route, prepping for take-off and everything else included in the process. I tried it once, and it wasn’t for me. But I never stop him from retreating into our office to take a flight.
When you met your partner for the first time they had hobbies you weren’t a part of. Parts of them that made them the person you fell in love with. Don’t stifle those things.
8. Put Each Other First
I don’t remember where I heard this, but marriage isn’t always going to be 50/50. Depending on what’s happening at the time, you may have to give a bit more to your partner to support them in this life. That stuck with me. And it’s already rung true for us, more than once.
Sometimes it’s going to mean you have to leave a party even when you’re having a great time, or say no to something because your partner needs you. You might even have to put a dream of yours on hold temporarily or do things you don’t actually want to do.
The good news is, it won’t always be big sacrifices. Putting each other first can be as simple as prioritizing quality time and focusing on staying connected.
If you want to have a good marriage, you have to come to terms with that fact that it’s not just you anymore. When you’re used to being on your own, this can be really HARD at first. It will become easier as you go, especially when your conscious efforts are followed with appreciation.
9. Be Supportive
Why did you want to get married in the first place? I imagine it was for more than a warm bed at night.
Part of marriage is taking on life together. And the core of that is being supportive of one another.
What your partner needs will be specific to them, and it’s up to you to figure that out. If they don’t tell you, which they should… take the initiative to ask questions. What are their dreams and hopes for the future, where do they see themselves in 10 years, what’s the most important thing they accomplish in their life?
How to Be a Supportive Partner
Supporting your partner comes in all shapes and sizes. The big things include their career aspirations, and raising a family, to the small day-to-day things like being a sounding board and providing them comfort when they’re stressed out.
Not sure how to do this? Here are a few ways to be more supportive of your partner.
Look Below the Surface
When researching this portion of the article I asked Mike how he would feel if I came to him and said, “Babe, I want to start a new career path but it means I’ll have to go back to school, and in order to pay for it and for me to start at the bottom of said new career we’d have to put our plans for buying a home on hold.”
Our main focus aside from this blog and our podcast is saving for a home. We live in Southern California, so this is no easy feat. Making that sort of change in our lives would set us back a significant amount of time.
That’s the difference in marriage right. Your decisions affect your spouse, even if it isn’t necessarily about them.
This particular situation is hypothetical, but if it weren’t it would mean that he would have to put his dreams on hold in order to be supportive of me.
So, how did he feel about it and what did he say?
He said what I would expect any supportive spouse to say.
He would certainly want to sit down and talk about it more before making any final decisions. And while he wouldn’t be excited to entertain the idea, he would enter the conversation with an open mind. Considering all the plans we have, if I’m coming to him with such a big change there must be a good reason.
I said I wanted to go back to school, he heard I’m so unhappy at my current job I’m willing to put all of our dreams on hold.
Be The Escape
Your home and relationship should be the escape from the stresses of life. No one wants to come home after a stressful day only to be accosted with everything they’re doing wrong all the time.
A happy marriage means a place to feel relaxed, safe, and like everything is going to be alright.
If you don’t already know what they need from you when they’re feeling stressed, ask!
Some people need to be left alone, others want to talk about it endlessly… learn what your partner needs in those moments and then execute on it.
10. Laugh Often
Last, but certainly not least… laugh often.