After each year of marriage I try to look back and put into words what I’ve learned about married life in the past year.
“Never Go to Bed Angry”
…is the worst advice I’ve ever been given. In any long-term relationship, stress, fighting, and anger are natural, so it happens…don’t be afraid of it. It’s okay to go to bed angry; those stresses will still be there in the morning. Refusing to go to sleep angry just means arguing when you’re tired (which isn’t going to help anyone). It also means that you’re going to be exhausted the next day, which also won’t help anyone (especially if you still haven’t resolved the problem…which you probably haven’t, since arguing when you’re tired is usually fruitless). Sleeping on it is the best thing you can do. The things that seem like a big deal in the night may not seem so big in the morning, and if they do it will be so much better to discuss them after a good night’s sleep. Agree to disagree for eight hours, remind the other person that you love them, and say “see you in the morning”. (Yes, I’ve slept on the couch…and that’s okay, too.)
“The Correct Response to I’m Sorry Is Thank You”
I’ve learned that it’s surprisingly hard to take an apology gracefully. I don’t know why. During year two I found myself responding to “I’m sorry” with something like “It’s not your fault” or “That doesn’t make it better”. When someone says “I’m sorry” look at what they are saying. It’s not necessarily taking the blame for something or offering to make it better. It’s much simpler than that. All they are saying is “I have sorrow.” They are saying that they have sorrow that something in your life isn’t so good. Perhaps it’s their fault…perhaps not, that’s besides the point. The point is that hardships in your life make them sad. They are just saying that they are aware of some difficult thing in your life, and that deserves gratitude in return. You run into a lot of uncaring people in your life, so you should be grateful when someone recognizes your sadness. Recognize that you have someone in your life that holds your well-being at such a high level that they feel sorrow when things aren’t how you want them to be. Try it out. Anytime someone says “I’m sorry” try saying “Thank you” in return regardless of who they are, what they are sorry about, or if you feel grateful. You’ll find surprising results.
“Always Hug Your Spouse When They Get Home”
Not doing this sends a powerful message: “What I’m doing right now is more important than you”. If this happens on a daily basis, it starts to take a toll. There’s really nothing that you can’t stop for thirty seconds to hug your spouse. Dinner will not burn in that time, the person you’re speaking to on the phone won’t be able to hear it, the toilet paper will still…okay…perhaps that’s the one exception. Except if you’re using the bathroom, put whatever you’re doing on hold and hug them. Thinking about it unromantically there are things in your life more important than your spouse, but you’re probably not doing surgery, negotiating hostage release, or signing universal health care into effect in your apartment. The things you are likely doing are completely banal and these are the things that you should never make more important than your spouse. If you’re watching TV, don’t wait for a commercial break…your spouse is more important than whatever you’re watching. If you’re on the computer, don’t finish what you’re doing…your spouse is more important than whatever website you’re on. If you’re reading something, don’t finish that section…your spouse is more important than any book or periodical. Literally…as soon as your spouse comes home, drop everything, and hug them. It’s the easiest way to show them that they are more important than anything else.