Those of you who follow my work know that I rarely, if ever, write about my own marriage (at least not in my posts and articles; I did write about my marriage in my last book.) Seems kind of silly, really, considering the things I write about.
I’m not even a particularly private person; I just don’t want anyone to think my marriage should be some sort of model. My marriage is no different from anyone else’s, and half the time I write about relationship stuff—or about anything, actually—I’m trying to sort through my own troubles. (That’s a shared secret of all nonfiction writers.)
That said, I keep coming back to the reasons why my marriage works despite the problems we’ve faced, and I believe there are three specific reasons. Here are 3 things my husband and I do that keep our marriage on track:
- Keep our goals and priorities in the forefront of our minds. You’d be amazed how much easier it is to work through problems when two people share the exact same vision for their lives. Seems obvious, but it isn’t always. My husband and I are both products of unhappy homes: his parents were divorced, and mine had a high-conflict marriage. Both left scars. I still find it fascinating that some kids come from environments like that hell bent on doing things differently, while others fall back into the same patterns. Fortunately for my husband and me, we’re in the first category. Somewhere along the line, he and I—before we ever knew each other—made up our respective minds that when and if we married and had children, nothing was going to get in the way of creating a healthy and happy home environment. Nothing. Not work, not individual desires, not cultural pressures, not friends or family—nothing.
- We always function as a team. We simply never think in terms of “I” anymore. It’s always “we.” That means our finances are joint, and our major purchases outside of coffee and chocolate are always discussed. Always. Neither he nor I has ever wondered or worried if the other is spending large sums of money without consulting the other. It just wouldn’t happen. This attitude toward teamwork is also true when it comes to work & family, or parenting/employment/household chores and childcare. I’m always amazed at couples I read about who have ongoing conflict in this domain. If there’s genuine understanding that all these roles are equally valuable and together comprise one giant task—raising a family—there needn’t be any conflict. It’s when couples start playing tit for tat, or when they’re both competing for identical roles that trouble starts.
- We are 100% transparent with each other. Seriously, no topic is off limits. Did you know that avoidance of conflict is the #1 predictor of divorce? Not the presence of conflict but the avoidance of it. In other words, it’s not the existence of conflicts or problems that make or break a marriage. It’s what you do with them that matters. For example, let’s say one partner in the marriage is drinking too much and it’s negatively affecting your relationship. That needs to be addressed and dealt with. If you walk around pretending it will go away on its own, it will destroy the marriage. The same is true of any big topic: money, sex, whatever. Your marriage needs to be an open book because silence fosters resentment. And resentment is the death knell of any relationship.
So there you have it. There are, of course, many more things that keep a marriage strong—I think humor and playfulness are critical, as is liking (as opposed to simply loving) one’s spouse. But when I consider the glue that keeps my own marriage together, I keep coming back to the significance of the above three things. I hope they help in whatever way they can.