Take a moment and think about your favorite fairy tale romance. Start imagining Eric and Ariel, Aladdin and Jasmine or Cinderella and Prince Charming. I was always a sucker for Snow White. If only real life were as easy as a handsome Prince riding in to plant a smooch to wake you and you are off to live happily ever after!
As I approach my 10th wedding anniversary, I began looking at my life compared to the fairy tales fed to me as a child. Ariel was tricked by a sorceress before finally landing Eric; Jasmine was lied to, almost married to Jafar, and almost lost her father before Aladdin swoops in and Cinderella was her step-family’s servant before sneaking out to a ball to land her Prince Charming. I quickly realized these couples had a rough time before the good times came rolling in, just like me. I am not saying things were ever horrible or a piece of cake, but wow, marriage is crazy!
I won’t go into juicy details, but I’ll just say that our decade-long romance has persevered through 3 children, financial crisis, 2 bachelor’s degrees, in-law housemates, religious conversion and major (100+ pounds!) weight loss just to name a few. If our wedding day was any clue to what lay ahead, the bride and groom having the flu should have done the trick.
Here we are, 10 years later and loving each other deeper and in ways we never knew possible. Along our journey, I’ve gotten a lot of advice and have figured out a lot on my own on how to build and keep our relationship going. If you are just starting to look for Mr. or Mrs. Right, preparing for your upcoming wedding day, or even been married for a while, these relationship tips are sure to help you too!
1. Get to know one another.
Ideally, you would get to know your significant other before deciding on a commitment, but it is never too late! Ask tough questions like: What are your beliefs in religion, politics and raising kids? Do you even want kids? What about adoption? How about in-laws? What sexual expectations or limits do you both have? If you don’t agree on something, find out how willing both of you are to compromise. If no compromise can be met, how much of a deal breaker is it? Play “What If?” by posing different scenarios to see how you both would react.
Examples could be: What if I lost my job and you had to start working or work more? What if we did not want any kids but found ourselves pregnant? What if one of us wanted to make a major change (change religions, wanting to change careers, wanting to relocate hundreds or thousands of miles away)? Taking care of these questions early will help eliminate and prepare for future surprises.
2. Assess what you do know.
List 5-10 things you like and 5-10 you dislike. Are these characteristics complimentary to you? Would you change them if you could? If you cannot accept these characteristics, do not expect them to change, because they probably will not. Remember: looks fade, financial and social status change, but mean can last forever.
3. Be each other’s best friend.
How often have you wished you could just marry your BFF? What if I told you it is possible? Rough day at work or school, someone giving you the stink eye on the subway, did you have the best (or worst) sandwich ever? Take advantage of having someone to share that with! I’m not saying don’t have other friends, but don’t be afraid to lean on and turn to each other!
4. Argue with a purpose.
Disagreements are going to happen. Try to see the positive in a person or situation. If they had good intentions, do not punish them because their good intention did not work out. Don’t be petty, if they are trying to make you happy or help you, accept it or explain (in a nice way) how you appreciate their actions but also how it made you felt (good and bad). Never argue about money unless it is a one sided problem. If both of you have talked over finances and both are working hard to maintain a budget yet there are still struggles, arguing will not help!
It is only going to add stress. You are a team now, work together to lift each other up while trying to problem solve. If one spouse works and the other spends money without consideration, it is time to create a budget with clear boundaries of what is expected. If the budget is ignored, it is time to have serious conversations about how the spender is going to contribute to the finances.
If your significant other suddenly starts to annoy you, think about why. Is this something you do that you wish you could change about yourself? Is it dangerous or just plain annoying? Talk it out!
5. Know when to walk away.
This is by far the hardest part of most relationships, walking away. You may have tried to salvage the relationship and no matter how valiant the effort, sometimes it is better to cut your losses. When the same negative things are happening or your significant other seems to do things out of spite or do not care that it hurts you, seek outside assistance! NO ONE IS WORTH LOSING YOUR LIFE! If you or someone you know needs help, seek help. Starting points can include websites like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, The National Domestic Violence Hotline, a trusted religious leader or a friend.