We have been hitched for almost 10 years now, and until recently our number one piece of advice would have been: Don’t write about how to make your marriage divorceproof. It’s hubris! But we like to take risks (that’s piece of advice number two), so we knocked on wood, threw salt over our shoulders, and forged ahead with all the unstoppable energy that a couple with two kids under the age of five can muster. (Eating a pile of old Halloween candy helped, too.) Ultimately, we came up with this list of marriage rules and reminders—all of which, we hope, are cheaper and more fun than therapy.
1. Realize that if you can agree on what constitutes a clean room, you can agree on anything. If you are the kind of person who wants the vacuum tracks on the living-room carpet to last all week (as in, Jason), you need to understand that your spouse is physically unable to hover three inches off the floor when traveling from point A to point B. You may have to shoulder the burden of raking the shag rug twice a day yourself. Conversely, if you are the type of person who “gets around ” to wiping up a raw chicken–juice spill on the counter (for example, Sam), you should know that if you want to live with other humans, you need to surpass the hygiene standards of, say, the average fraternity-house bathroom. Fortunately, if you can compromise on the red hot–button subject of cleanliness, your marriage is unlikely to be thrown off course by comparatively less volatile topics, like politics, religion, and money.
2. If you’re irritated by your partner, imagine him as a small child. We know! You totally don’t want to try this! It sounds awful! (And maybe even not that much of a stretch.) But trust us—this is an amazing way to see him from a fresh angle. Here’s what to do: While your partner is puttering around and looking idle, imagine him at age five. Awww. Isn’t he adorable? And so smart! It’s easy to forget how appealing your spouse is when you are looking at him through a prism of all the chores that he has yet to accomplish (fixing the garage-door opener, booking the tree-removal service…we could go on).
3. No fisticuffs in public. Take this example: We were at a picnic with a group of friends when the wife of one of the couples present casually announced that she had bought their family a house. In another country. Without consulting the husband. He turned about 14 shades of red, and they began fighting at the top of their lungs. Cut to everyone else with their heads down, forensically examining their egg-salad sandwiches as though they contained the secrets of the human genome. You do not want to be That Couple Who Ruined the Otherwise Delightful Picnic.
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