5 Tips for a Happy Marriage

5 Tips for a Happy Marriage

The couple that drinks together, stays together

In a few weeks, it will be 12 years since my husband, Russ, and I stood in front of a Bahamian minister — in what was generously described by our travel agent as a “garden,” next to the swim-up bar at Sandals All-inclusive Royal Bahamian Resort — and said our “I do’s.” It’s hard to believe that it’s been 12 years since either of us made out with a stranger in a club, wondered how we got home the night before or worried that we were pregnant without wanting to be. But here we are! Two kids, three dogs and hundreds of loads of laundry later, and we’re still married! In honor of the occasion, I thought I’d share some tips on how we’ve managed to stay that way.*

Tip #1: Keep a running list of conversation topics that don’t involve kids, money or your in-laws.  

Russ and I avoid these subjects at all costs when we go out. The reason? They’re too depressing. Having a list of shit to talk about that in no way relates to kids, finances or in-laws prevents arguments and forces us to be more interesting. I used to panic when we had plans to go out just the two of us. My worst fear was that we would  become one of those sad couples that sit in silence, staring into their breadbasket or wine glasses, only coming to life when the waiter delivers their food.

For real, Russ and I ran out of things to talk about roughly a year into our relationship, but we haven’t become one of THOSE couples. Why? I never leave home without a list of conversation starters. I keep the list in the Notes app on my phone, and as soon as the conversation well runs dry, I sneak a look-see. Here are some topics I currently have on the list:

  • Mad Pooper (I feel this needs an explanation. Mad Pooper refers to a story I read about a female jogger who was repeatedly caught taking a dump along trails and sidewalks in some small town in Colorado.)
  • Topless car washes
  • Almond butter or peanut butter?
  • Hurricanes
  • James Woods still alive?
  • Your mom

Tip #2: Identify a person you can both enjoy hating together.

It’s important not to suggest to your spouse that this person be a family member—no matter how much you despise your mother-in-law. (I LOVE my mother-in-law.) Distant cousins are usually OK; mutual acquaintances are better. I always get excited when Russ and I both agree that someone is a complete douchebag. It really brings us closer together. The feeling takes me back to my high school years. Some of the greatest friendships I ever forged were fostered over a deep dislike of a dude.

Although we had a few practical things in common, what really brought Russ and I together was my desire to own property and our mutual dislike of politicians and salespeople. We especially dislike cable company reps, insurance brokers, real estate agents (with the exception of Patty and Kelly, you guys are cool) and the 20-something barista at the Starbucks on Highway 96 with the blue hair who is way too fucking happy and always asks, “Have any fun plans for the rest of the day?” when she can clearly tell by the screaming toddler emptying the contents of my purse onto the floor that the rest of my day would not involve anything remotely fun.

Tip #3: Watch more TV.

A lot of marriage therapists will tell you to “turn off the TV and tune-in to your spouse.” I reject this advice. A good show can serve as a distraction from the monotony of your daily lives. More importantly, it gives you something healthy and safe to talk about. (See Tip 1) It’s been months since “Stranger Things” ended, and Russ and I are still debating whether or not Barb will be resurrected from the Upside Down in Season 2. It may not be the most meaningful of conversations, but it beats talking about his plantar fasciitis for the hundredth time.

Tip #4: Purge your grievances.

Keeping a journal is a great way to get out any personal grievances that come up during the day. I like to carry a little reporter’s notebook with me wherever I go, David Sedaris-style. I’ve filled more than a dozen of them over the years. Whenever I notice something that annoys or angers me—crusty, food-covered dishes left in the sink, for example— and I want to lash out, I channel all that rage onto the blank page. This always seems to make me feel better. More importantly, it prevents me from sending a nasty knee-jerk reaction text message the moment I see *someone* forgot to refill the water in the Keurig.

Tip #5: Stick it out.

Here’s my last bit of advice: Stick it out for 10 years. If you make it that far, your chances of remaining married increase. I have no proof to back this up, but I read it on the Internet, so it must be true. And to me, it makes sense. After 10 years, who wants to start over again, right? (Unless you’re 30 or under, then go for it.) At this point, you’ve invested too much time and energy to call it quits. And consider, for a moment, what being single again would entail: You’d have to lose 10 pounds, buy new clothes, figure out how to use Tinder, lie about how much Netflix you watch. Sound like fun? Of course it doesn’t. So you might as well stay together. Besides, if you get a divorce, you’ll lose the house. And you don’t want to lose the damn house, do you??? Also, please don’t expect to be happy all the time. Marriage isn’t about happiness; it’s about love and it’s about commitment. If you want to be happy, get a puppy — and maybe a prescription for some good antidepressants.

*Disclaimer: I have no fucking clue what I’m talking about. For real marriage advice, please see a professional.




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