‘I do.’ Marriage advice from pros

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‘Tis June — the season when wedding invitations flourish and everyone gets busy pledging forever, in sickness, and ’til death do us part.

Since there is nothing young married folk love more than unsolicited advice (unless it is the question that pops up within minutes of the ceremony: “So when are you two going to have a baby?”), I have been hard at work soliciting advice from the long married among us.

The following wisdom comes from a variety of people married anywhere from 12 to 20 years or more. None are experts but all, just like your meddling relatives, mean well.

Play nice

Manners matter, especially in marriage. The No. 1 thing to remember above all else is treating each other as good, if not better, than we do our friends. If you would say “thank you” to a friend or stranger, you should be saying thank you to the most important person in your life.

As corny as it may feel at first, it is so important to say “thanks for fixing that leaky faucet” or “thanks for that wonderful meal” instead of just assuming that he or she knows you appreciate the effort, or worse, acting as if they just did their “job” as your spouse.

It goes without saying that you should never speak to or snap at your spouse in a tone you wouldn’t dare use on a friend.

In that vein, give compliments. The easiest trap to fall into is “well, of COURSE, I love you” and forgetting to say and demonstrate that daily.

Communicate

This goes out to the ladies. Keep in mind that if he didn’t have ESP when you met him, he probably didn’t develop it during your marriage.

Do not play the “blame game” or keep score. It’s not you and me it’s “we.” We are having a problem. We need to fix it. WE are in this together. We have a problem since I backed our car into that wall (OK, maybe that one only applies at my house?) Repeat as necessary.

Pick your battles. Learn what hills you are willing to die on.

There are things that we could easily get irritated about that don’t amount to a hill of beans in the long run. Learn to overlook those things.

For example, the shoes that my husband leaves by the door used to drive me batty. They don’t anymore. It’s not worth the effort.

It may sound morbid but whenever I get too irritated over shoes by the door, I think of the women I know who are widows now. I imagine they would probably give just about anything to have their late husband’s shoes by the door again and suddenly I feel a whole lot better about those misplaced shoes — and misplaced importance in my life.

Forgive and forget

Forget annoyances as quickly as possible, but remember good traits forever. If I’m going to expend mental energy cataloging a list of things about my spouse, it might just as easily be a list of all the wonderful things he’s done over the years, rather than a list of grudges over how often he left the cap off the toothpaste.

Keep things interesting by staying interested. Make sure you have more in your life than work, kids, and the house. Movies, books, friends, hobbies, current events, it doesn’t matter what, just make sure you have something you can talk about outside of the kids and cleaning the gutters.

Good humor

Never lose the ability to laugh, especially at YOURSELF. If you go around thinking you can’t possibly be wrong ever, you’re kind of a pill and probably a trial to live with.

Do not, however, confuse laughing with someone with laughing AT him or her. Mean-spirited jabs at your spouse are never in style and make others uncomfortable. Whether you are 18 or 80, “I was just JOKING” is never the appropriate salve for feelings you have hurt.

Learn to say, “I’m sorry” and mean it.

Hard work

Finally, sometimes the best marriage advice is the unvarnished truth: It’s not going to be fireworks and fun every single day.

You are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime together. Make sure that your spouse is not only someone you can enjoy during good times and count on during bad times, but, quite frankly, put up with during the long slog of seemingly unremarkable, everyday times.

Remember, we take those vows “until death.” Not, “until we get bored.”

Getting married is easy. Staying married can be hard. Don’t become so focused on your “special day” that you forgot to plan for your “special forever.”

Live, love, laugh, forgive, forget, and good luck. (And, when are you two going to have a baby anyway?)

(Kymberly Foster Seabolt is writing this down. She welcomes comments c/o lifeoutloud@comcast.net; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or http://kymberly.typepad.com/life.)

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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