No married couple gets everything right. Here, a few pieces of marital wisdom that didn’t make it into Matthew and Rachel’s story.
1. Figure out the money thing. Different plans work for different people. The key is to do just that: plan.
2. Figure out which kind of fight you’re having. Is the fight about what it seems to be about–money, in-laws, whatever–or is it about feelings and egos getting wounded? If it’s the latter, deal with the feelings first. Then circle back to the mother-in-law’s casserole catastrophe.
3. Make it into a joke. I hinted at this one several times, but seriously–no, not seriously–this is funny stuff. Marriage is funny. Kids are hilarious. If you can laugh even while fighting, resentment and tension lessen considerably. (The kids will appreciate it, too.)
4. Keep the chores separate. Yours are yours and theirs are theirs. This minimizes chore fights and nagging considerably.
5. Figure out what you can control and what you can’t. Marriage is the Serenity Prayer all over the place.
6. Use “I” statements. You’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating: No matter how unnatural or uncomfortable it feels, make the negative comments about you. After all, it is about you. Otherwise you wouldn’t be dealing with it.
7. Don’t punish your partner. They won’t learn a darn thing through it except to escalate and solidify their bitterness and anger. No one wants to feel like the bad guy. Whenever possible, make them into the good guy and yourself into the good but struggling guy. They’ll become the person you show them in your mirror.
8. Don’t yell. Ever. What is the point?
9. Most important, notice the small resentments and don’t let them grow any bigger. Seeing a few of my married-couple friends repeatedly pass entire evenings together barely looking into each other’s eyes caused me to suspect the discomfort in their relationships. I realized that I never wanted my marriage to get to a place where we could no longer really look at each other.