For years, on Facebook, I have been offering Marty’s Marriage Tips, they were tounge-in-cheek memes full of sarcasm meant to give us a laugh that day, sometimes successful, sometimes not so much. They were a bit of a satirical poke at something I used to do when one of my former football players invited me to their wedding. I would give them a book, “How To Throw A Fastball, Cook a Steak, and Tie a Tie”, it was kind of a book that explained some of the basic skills a new husband should have. Inside that book I used to write my 3 tips to a successful marriage, or at least what I think are successful relationship skills that have helped Teri and I make it this far.
For the first time ever, in public, on the internet, (I hope it doesn’t break it), I am going to share the Top 3, Sincere Marty’s Marriage Tips. And gentlemen, you can actually follow these tips, much different than any of those that involved a meme, this for once is not sarcasm:
#1. Do not keep a scoreboard. Simply explained, when the argument starts, you are not allowed to bring up that time 6 months, a year, or 4 years ago, that your partner agreed they were wrong. Old news stays in the past only deal with the argument/disagreement at hand. That is assuming you have actually come to an agreement regarding the disagreement from 4 years ago anyway. If we keep bringing back old disagreements from the past, the relationship will never grow or move on. This also works against the trust factor. We must trust each other to be vulnerable when disagreements ensue. Fights need to be fair and we can’t be worried that the old argument will resurface or we will never trust each other.
Yes, hard at best, it takes much work for most everyone to put this rule into practice. It took Teri and I many years to be able to practice this. Of course, it helps that we simply have fewer disagreements, maybe those two statements are related? But if we can simply get the relationship to the point we are only dealing with the issues at hand, life gets easier.
#2. Keep dating each other. I seriously had a former player who I had offered this advice on his wedding day, within 6 months he was in divorce proceedings. When I caught up with him I jokingly said, “You know I emphasized the “EACH OTHER” part right?” What the heck?
Teri and I have seen many couples go through the courtship process very well, they married, and continued to grow with each other, until…….the kids come. Then the kids become more important than the relationship. They walk through raising the family and the kids become the center of the universe, all functions center around the kids. But then the kids leave and the two partners look at each other and they don’t recognize each other. They don’t share hobbies, they don’t have any common interests, and the room gets suddenly very quiet. Shortly after they are separated and looking for excitement, or at least, companionship from someone else.
For some reason, this came as second nature to us. We always, gladly, would get a babysitter and go out to eat together or travel just the two of us together. We have grown to enjoy just having coffee together in the morning, reading the paper or watching the news, just the two of us. When we were raising kids we would gladly overpay good babysitters so we could always get one to free us up. (We were blessed with great babysitters while raising the kids. We couldn’t have done this without them.) We also joked that we would never receive the “Parents of the Year” award from the local PTA. We were disinterested in joining the growing legion of “Helicopter Parents” back when we were raising kids and an argument could be made that we could have been a bit more involved but after further review, all 3 girls turned out quite well, so no regrets.
#3. Keep falling in love together, over and over and over……….. This may sound a little hokey but it is actually one of the most practical and necessary skills. You will disagree, you will argue. Heck your husband may even do boneheaded things like; buy a house without your knowledge, tear a finger ligament during an ill-advised snowmobile stunt, or bruise his tailbone during another snowmobile stunt, heck he might even drive his car into a silo that is apparently safely 100 yards off the roadway. (Not saying I have done all of these, however, I believe I am currently banned from owning a snowmobile……but I still want one.)
You will not like your spouse at some point in time and even multiple times. Trust me, this will happen. I won’t even need to tell you when it happens, you will know. That part is really easy. The hard part is that same spouse will show up to do exactly what you needed them to do, when you needed it, and you fall in love with them all over again. This may not be a physical action as much as it could just be emotional support just when you needed it. It isn’t a grand gesture and sometimes you don’t even recognize anything happened until later on.
The offending spouse needs to make two things happen. First, admit you are the offending spouse, forget the pride, accept losing the disagreement or argument, just accept it. One of my common strategies when I was being a bonehead and I was getting called on it was…..just shut up. I used to say to myself, “I am in an indefensible position, anything I can say now will just put me deeper in this hole.” I didn’t always do this but I am getting better and better. Recognize it, own it, and as they say in the military, “Embrace the suck”.
The second step, look for your spouses “Love Language”. There are books all over the place written on this, and several fortunes have been made conducting workshops to learn what your “Love Language” is. I usually steer clear of programs of this sort but I have to admit this is a real thing and this provides a roadmap to falling in love with each other all over again. Teri responds to acts of kindness or more specifically she loves it when I make her coffee in the morning. Also important, I love making her coffee in the morning, it means almost as much to me as it does to her.
NOTE: If you refuse to “embrace the suck” and you haven’t figured out your spouses love language yet, I have some divorce attorney’s phone numbers you might need.
For the spouse/partner who is justified in not liking their partner at this point. Yes, there is an acceptable time to be angry, but at some point we have to let it go, (this is where their “embracing the suck” comes in) and then we have to allow them to speak to us in our love language. We need to be vulnerable again. For example, when I would take over football teams that had not won a game in the previous year, I used to preach to them, “You need to approach every game like this is the next game you are going to win. You don’t know when that team you are going to play is going to take you lightly and you are going to get the win no one expected. Those are the best!” This works in football and it works in relationships. We need to be ready for the spouse to come back with something that makes us fall in love with them all over again, and again, and again.
There they are, the only serious Marty’s Marriage Tips you will receive. They aren’t the magic bullet. Marriage is hard, it is a long, tough war, battle after battle, that if both partners are on the same agenda and willing to work together can end in a fantastic partnership and love affair. I am fortunate to have a spouse who was willing to see through my shortfalls (or at least has a horrible memory) and could see the person I was and could grow to be. We are having a blast as a couple today, life is great, and I wouldn’t have done it with anyone else.