Not quite three years ago, Jared moved out of our home and we began a trial separation. It lasted about a month before I begged him to come back and we began the process of putting our marriage back together. Actually, it was probably then, in 2009, nine years after we’d first said “I do”, that we first started really building our marriage.
I retell that history because I know that there are people who are still there and not quite here, and that makes my heart hurt.
I know that there are those who contemplate leaving, if only in their secret fantasies. I know that there are those who wonder why their lives don’t look like what they see on the movies.
And I know what it is to hear someone gushing about their husband and wonder what the hell is wrong with them, because resentment and annoyance has become the new normal.
I want you to know that things can get better.
3 Secrets to a Happy Marriage, According to Me
1. Spend time together.
The less time we spend together, the more likely we are to bicker and pick at each other. And here’s the thing: family time is not the same as couple time.
I realize looking back that Jared and I spent almost no time alone together in the beginning of our marriage. We went out together with friends, and we’d inevitably split off into boy-girl groups and speak very little to one another. We spent our evenings with the kids and most of our weekends with extended family. We were in the same room with one another nearly all the time, but we very rarely spent time really being together.
You can’t nurture a relationship if you don’t spend time having that relationship.
2. Spend time apart.
The flip side of that is that when we would occasionally try to go out together we sat in awkward silence for most of the evening. Part of the problem was that we weren’t used to being alone with one another, but another factor was that neither of us had anything interesting to bring to the table. We didn’t have our own hobbies that we pursued or ideas to discuss with one another. We were almost always in the same place together, witnessing the same events, except when we were at work. Guess who long we wanted to talk about each other’s work lives? Not very.
I began to pursue my own interests long before Jared did. I started blogging, for one thing. It came more naturally for me to get out and do things on my own than it did for him.
After we separated and he realized I might be leaving him all alone, Jared seemed more determined to create something for himself that wasn’t connected to me. He took a class and got his motorcycle license. He started working out more. He spent more time with his friends, even leaving me home along with the kids to do so.
He became a fascinating person that I can’t wait to talk to every day.
3. Go to marriage counseling.
If it wasn’t for marriage counseling, we’d be divorced. Or maybe we’d be unhappily married. The fact is, there was just no way we could teach ourselves what we didn’t know we didn’t know. Counseling taught us how to communicate, and that has made all the difference.
I know that some people never go to counseling and they stay married forever and ever until someone dies. I have no idea how they manage that, and I’m impressed as hell. However, I can’t think of a single married couple that I personally know – ourselves included – that couldn’t benefit from some quality time with an expert. It is really that good.
It’s also expensive. I get that. So is divorce.
Secrets to a Happy Marriage, According to Everyone Else
As someone who has come perilously close to the edge of divorce, I am keenly aware that I am not an expert on marriage. At all. If I had my way, I’d still be going to marriage counseling at least once a month forever. With that in mind, I took to the Internet (aka Facebook and Twitter) and asked them what they thought was the secret to a happy marriage.
Here’s what they said:
Couples counseling – having a neutral party, as well as to teach us how to be on each others side during arguments. – Daniel Pelfrey
Laughter is number one. Communication — remembering your partner can’t read your mind — is right up there, too. – Dawn of Red Pen Mama
Just be in it for the long haul. Don’t go in unless you’re sure it’s the right thing. When you have blow-ups, just remind yourself they are temporary bumps, but the road goes on. – Sherry Hall
not trying to control or change the other person. having an independent source of happiness instead of expecting the other person to give it to you. – Michael Moebes (the muskrat)
Choosing to accept that our partners cant be the be all and end all that we need (after all, thats why we also have friends). Accepting that they cant be at their best at all times (because Lord knows we ourselves fall often enough) and choosing to not take it personally when they arent. The best relationships can be picked apart, if someone chooses to not accept that perfection doesn’t exist. – Tammy Gamman
Never be just comfortable with each others company. Invest into each others interest and go on weekly dates. – Christy Carritt
Communication and sex. Without those two, a marriage is merely a legal agreement to have a roommate. Also it helped me to be able to cook well. He knew he’d miss that if he ever screwed things up! LOL We’ve been together almost 15 years and married almost 14. I’d say my tips are working pretty well! – Cissa Fireheart
A sense of humor and shared interests, plus away-from-each-other-time. Oh, and living in adjoining condos has always sounded like a good idea to me. As a friend of mine once said, “Don’t get married if you can’t take a joke!” – Jane Pecorella
Communicating with respect – @asilentstorm_
Laughter. – @FireMom
Separate bathrooms. Hand to God. – @Mir
The Internet is pretty smart.
If you’re at the point where all of this sounds too good to be true, too easy, too completely far away from where you are – you don’t have to give up. Believe me when I say that we were at rock bottom, and then I crawled under the rock just to be sure I couldn’t get any lower. Consider finding a marriage counselor in your area. <–that’s a link to the type of counseling we did.
And if you’re ready to walk away, that’s OK, too. In some ways, admitting that I wanted a divorce was one of the best things I ever did for myself.