1. Make yourself an easy person to apologize to. When your spouse says, “I’m sorry for being moody” or even “I’m sorry for driving 500 miles in the wrong direction,” do NOT take that as invitation to say anything other than, “Thank you for that apology,” or, if you’re feeling really big, “I forgive you.”
2. Remember that what you think is the “right” way is simply “the way you’re used to” and may, shockingly, even be “the wrong way.” So keep an open mind. Weird is simply when someone else’s mishugas is different from your mishugas.
3. Never diss your spouse’s family members. It’s wrong and pretty much never worth it.
4. Don’t keep anything important a secret. Besides the fact that secrets usually leak, this will most definitely build barriers and walls between you and your spouse. Whatever it is, it’s better off shared and dealt with honestly. (Ladies, whether you deem a $200 impulse purchase at Nordstrom Rack “important” or not… is up to you.)
5. Learn that you will never, ever change your spouse. If you married him/her, unconditional love means loving the faults. Strive to get to the point where you love even your spouse’s faults, because that’s what makes her exactly who she is. Weirdly, unconditional love often leads to people wanting to become their best them.
6. Never prioritize your kids over the marriage. If you haven’t been away without the kids, at least overnight, for longer than you can remember, you are prioritizing the kids over the marriage. Remember that a strong, close, and mutually supportive marriage is the best thing you can do for your kids. Take their therapy money and use it for your vacation. You’re welcome.
7. There’s nothing wrong if each of you eats something different for dinner. It’s far more important that you eat at the same time, even if one of you has a full-on meal and the other sips tea, even if your kids are making normal conversation, um, elusive. Hang out together over food and drink. (I am aware that kids often make this difficult… see #6.)
8. Keep a list of things you need to discuss over the week (examples may range from “the washing machine is making weird noises” to “I think our child is bullying others” or even “I’m scared of dying”). Then make regular time, at least half-hour once a week, whether in person or even on the phone, to discuss them. This will prevent throwing upsetting issues out there at the wrong time. And we all know when the wrong time is. Hungry, tired, stressed, you said it.
9. Find couples who are happy and pump them for info. Be on the lookout wherever you go. Elderly people in long-lasting marriages often have great nuggets to share. Maybe one day, you’ll be one of them.
10. My favorite: don’t each of you give 50%. Each of you give 100%. Then you will have not only a marriage, but a loving one. Let no task be beneath you so that your spouse understands that giving is the most important thing to you.