The Fighting Couple has been married for 18 years. It’s a miracle! There were some who didn’t think we would last 18 minutes! When you’ve been married almost 20 years, it makes you think how you’ve survived. Here’s seven tips to stay together, and keeping sane (fighting and all)!
1. Recognize Mismatched Expectations:
Mismatched expectations were a huge issue for us. People bring views of how marriage should work from a variety of places: their imagination, their parents, and every form of media from books to movies to YouTube. Wake up call: You married a person, not an idea. When we got married, I thought Mike should be like my Dad, because that’s what I had observed. When he didn’t do the things my Dad did, I was angry. But, I didn’t marry my Dad. I married Mike and overtime, we’ve developed a system of expectations and roles. This took us at least 10 years and a lot of trials in between. With both of us working full-time, we struggled with who should do what. There wasn’t a natural division of labor. Household chores should not be determined by gender, but by what works best for each couple. We split cooking responsibilities. Mike is a much better cook than me! I do the dishes. Mike does the grocery shopping. He mows the lawn, but I control the flower beds. Like most working women, I feel like I do the majority of the housework, but I’m grateful Mike pitches in!
2. Don’t Make Your Partner Guess What You Need:
Marriage shouldn’t be a game of Clue. Tell your spouse what you want, need, and why. When partners say, “You should know what I want.” That’s an excuse because they haven’t done their job of adequately articulating their expectations. If you want something, say it. Mike and I have a phrase that has saved us a couple of times. There are a lot of things that matter and a lot of things that don’t. If we have an event, purchase, or request that’s super important, we say, “This is really important to me.” Code word: pay attention. This request needs to be taken seriously.
3. Spend Time Together:
A divorce lawyer is more expensive than a date. Invest in your marriage, like it is forever. Go on a trip without your children, even if it’s for a weekend. That’s the mission of this blog. It gives you time to reconnect and realize what you love about your spouse. As a couple, we have often skipped dates and expensive babysitters and put that money towards a trip. If you can’t do a trip, make it a priority to go on a date at least once a month. It’s hard to leave your children when you both work and feel like you don’t spend enough time with them, but a functioning marriage is a child’s best example.
4. Fight Fair:
When couples say they haven’t ever fought-then one person isn’t needed. The fact is fighting is healthy. I worry about couples who acquiesce so easily that they don’t even know who they are anymore. You are an individual. You have thoughts: talk about it. If you are going to fight, fight fair. Don’t use the “D” word. Divorce has become the “power” word in arguments. Suggesting divorce deflates your partner. Don’t be mean to be mean. Stick to the issue and don’t get personal. Deal with the here and now and not what your spouse said to you at 3 a.m., 9 years ago.
5. Deflate Not Agitate:
Mike is a pro at this. When I raise my voice or get mad at him over something, most of the time he is calm and works to deflate the issue, not agitate it. This is hard for me, because I am a natural fighter and want to win and win big. But Mike has taught me that drama is only good in the theater. If your argument is getting heated, take a break. Say, “I’m really emotional about this right now and I need some time to process my feelings.” I’ve spent more time in timeout than my children.
6. A Time and Season:
Raising toddlers and teenagers is a full-contact sport. You take it one day at a time. When our kids were little, I wondered if I could make it to the next day with all my responsibilities. Marriage seemed like just one more thing I had to add to the “list.” It won’t always be like that. Shuffling kids to football practice finally ends. Dance recitals mark the end of the carpool. Eventually, kids grow up and you wonder how it went so quickly. There will be times where you wonder, “How will we ever get through this?” You will. Don’t make a rash decision just because of a “time and a season” that will pass. I recently received some great advice: “Don’t make promises when you are happy, reply when you’re mad or make decisions when you are sad.”
7. Recognize the Good:
Easier said than done. If you spouse does something super nice, don’t say, “What alien took over your body?” or “What have you done with my wife?” When your spouse makes an effort to be kind or help lift your burdens, cracking a joke about how pigs just flew out of the house or a meteor struck the earth, doesn’t make your spouse want to do it again. Say “thank you!” instead. Praise your spouse for what they did well. As the old saying goes, “Honey always gets more flies than vinegar.” By recognizing the good, you show your spouse that you are paying attention to their efforts and in return, they will want to do more. These are just a few things we’ve learned along the way. What are your tips for staying married? We’d love to hear them! Comment below!