As this Marriage Mantras series comes to a close, I thought I’d conclude with 50 bite-sized pieces of advice that you can implement today, tomorrow and forever.
1. Say “I love you” multiple times a day.
2. Spend as much time together as you can…
3. … but don’t be afraid of time apart.
4. Buy small gifts for each other. A bunch of flowers or a Mars Bar can go a long way.
5. Take baths together.
6. Eat dinner together.
7. Volunteer to do the crappy jobs.
8. Sex is important but snuggling afterwards is imperative.
9. Touch often (research consistently shows that touching more creates a stronger bond by releasing oxytocin).
10. Learn how to argue productively and without hurting each other.
11. Write love letters.
12. Say thank you.
13. Realise that romance isn’t all flowers and chocolates. Bring a take-away home now and again… take-aways can be totally romantic.
14. Accept each other 100%.
15. Realise when it’s better to just let things go.
16. You can never kiss too often.
17. Sometimes going to bed angry is better than arguing when you’re tired.
18. Be kind, gentle and patient with each other.
19. Have a regular date night.
20. Put down your mobile phone.
I’ve been away from Gareth for three weeks today – the longest time we’ve had apart since I was at University. I’m not going to lie, it’s been really, really difficult. As a couple that spend 99% of our time together when we’re in the same country (!) I’ve missed him terribly. Although I’ve been busy working and having an awesome time with my girls, every night I’ve been going to bed wishing he was beside me.
9. Time Apart
For many couples, spending a lot of time away from each other is an unavoidable fact of life – it might be that one of you travels a lot or works away, or it could just be that you work very different shift patterns and have limited time together each week. So just how do you do it without the relationship suffering as a consequence?
I think the most important thing is that you still need to make quality time for each other. I’ve written about this before in this series but I feel that it’s even more vital when your schedules clash or you have a lot of other stuff going on.
So how do we personally make it work? Well it sounds simple but keeping that communication going is vital. While we can’t speak on the phone when I’m on the other side of the world, daily emails and scheduling in time for online chats has been really crucial (we used to do this for hours at a time while I was at Uni – on MSN Chat, remember that!?) Otherwise, it can be very easy to get into the habit of not thinking about them because they’re not there with you. Daily communication where we share what we’ve been up to, as we would if we were together in person, has made being physically apart a whole lot easier.
It’s not a very sexy topic (the important things rarely are!) but working out how the two of you will run your home together is crucial. Of course the likelihood is that most of you probably already live together before you get married but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t something you should still discuss before walking down the aisle.
8. Housework, DIY & Everything in Between
I hate housework… and cleaning… and tidying… and DIY. In fact I’m always joking that I’m a “terrible wife”. The roles are very much reversed in our house, with me earning the money and him, for the most part, looking after the home. Even before I started my own business I was always the main breadwinner in our house so this set up isn’t weird for us. However it could have caused problems if we didn’t sit down and discuss it before we got married.
Money, the root of all evil. Not the most romantic thing to be discussing with your future husband or wife, but if you’re incompatible in how you view it, it can be the ruination of a relationship.
If your ideas on how money should be spent or saved are at odds with each other before you get married it can become a big problem, not only after your wedding but even throughout the planning process as you discuss how much you’re each willing to spend on every element of your wedding. You don’t necessarily have to have the same opinions, but you have to come to an agreement about it.
7. Money, Money, Money
Gareth and I view money very differently. You can probably guess that I’m a ‘spend! spend! spend!’ kinda girl. It burns a hole in my pocket and I love nothing more than shopping up a storm. I’ve never got myself into debt, had a credit card or spent money I don’t have, but I always think “I’ve worked hard for this, I deserve to have fun with it!”
Gareth is much more sensible and thinks we should be saving to pay off our mortgage (BORING!) and setting up pensions (even more boring!) But its OK that we have these differences of opinion, what matters is that we respect each other’s wishes and have an agreement in place. We have a joint account but I also have my own account for my own frivolity which he can’t complain about!
When Gareth and I got married, there was one couple we really looked up to as an amazing example, a benchmark if you will, of a successful marriage – my parents. They not only got married around the same age as I did (at 24) but they have now been married for over 30 years. Although their backgrounds were quite different (my Mum grew up in Dublin and my Dad in the UK) we admire how they always seem so happy and in love, even after all those years.
As a child, I don’t ever remember them fighting. As the oldest of three girls, I got in trouble a lot (especially as a teenager – yes, I was absolutely terrible) but they were always a team. They never allowed themselves to be played off each other. At the time this was incredibly frustrating (I honestly couldn’t get away with anything!) but looking back that’s another thing I deeply respect about them. It’s definitely something Gareth and I have learnt from them too – we are Team Williams all the way!
So as we’re just over the halfway point to this Marriage Mantras series I thought it might be kind of awesome to have a chat with my Mum and see if she had any secrets to spill. She is also a trained marriage counsellor so if anyone knows what makes for a happy and successful long term partnership, its her!
You and Dad have been married for over 30 years! What’s your secret?
We are compatible on many levels and we like and admire each other a lot, as well as loving each other. We love our family and our friends but we also enjoy being on our own. We want the same things out of life too, despite our very different backgrounds.
Yet we are not identical clones! Our gifts compliment each other so that together we are a stronger team.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt since being married?
We are both loveable, we both have significance and we can make a difference to others. We are accepted as we are – ‘warts & all’ as Dad says…
Why should people get married at all? What’s the difference from just living together?
Marriage is a public, legal, emotional and spiritual declaration of your love for and commitment to each other. Unlike just being in a long term relationship its not easy to get married – or to walk away from a marriage – so it shows your intention to love each other through thick and thin, for better for worse.
Being in a committed relationship can also make a big difference to our self esteem and our sense of being significant and loveable.
It’s inevitable at this time of year. Up and down the wedding industry comes those oh too familiar rumblings through blog posts and tweets about work/life balance, wanting to spend more time with loved ones and needing some time off. As we near the end of the busy summer season, everyone is desperate for a break, a marathon of their favourite TV show and a bloody long lie in.
5. Making Time
But it shouldn’t just be when we realise we haven’t been doing it for a while that we stop and take stock. We need to constantly be setting time aside each and every day for our partner.
When you’ve been married for a while you can easily forget just how important spending quality time together is. It’s too damn easy to get into a routine and to not make the effort to step back, get away from your desk and make the time to reconnect. It can seem incredibly unromantic to have to schedule things like talking, dates and sex, but if they’re happening less and less often maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all.
And while we’re on the subject of sex, let’s not ever underestimate just how important it is. if you have differences in sexual preferences, desire or expectations it will eventually tear you apart. Make sure you’re taking about any issues around the subject before you get married. If you and your partner are unable to, or if your fiancé doesn’t see any real problem when you do, it should be a big red flag for the future of the relationship.