It was 1997. Arizona was getting pretty toasty as the summer months loomed ahead, and I was taking a plunge into an institution that had been around for millennia.
I got married. Jennifer and I were twenty-one years old and were so cute together. High-school sweethearts who failed at long-distance (long distance is the wrong distance) had a rekindling two years later.
We were the first of both families to get married, and a little under a year later, we were the first to birth a grandchild. Now that child is in college and twenty years have flown by.
It’s a special day for sure, too many marriages fail before this point, but I’m not going sit around talking about how well we have done, I’m instead going to give some advice.
Marriage isn’t about love, lust, or “toughing it out through the hard times.” In my experience, lasting marriage, partnership, is about respect.
Too many of the failed marriages in this country are because spouses no longer respect their partner. “He’s lazy.” “She’s a harpy.” “He never helps out around the house.” “She’s just like her mother.”
Take some time every year, month, week, whatever it takes, and remind yourself of the reasons you married your spouse.
Maybe he made you smile like no one else could, but lately, he’s so stressed with work as the sole provider that he’s forgotten to laugh. Maybe, instead of unloading on him when he comes through the door, thank him for tirelessly working for the family under a boss he can’t stand, fighting traffic that he hates.
Maybe realize that she’s been stir-crazy in the house with toddlers all day long, and she just wants to talk to an adult. Really listen. Get a babysitter and go get ice cream together. Realize that she’s had just as stressful a day as you, if on a different emotional level. She’s just as worried about finances as you are.
Just two examples, but I could go on and on. Both genders are vastly different in their wants, desires, and methods of communication, and there are plenty of books out there, but really, you wouldn’t have gotten married in the first place if you didn’t already know how to communicate with each other.
Above all, put your partner first.
I’m serious. I had told my wife before our first child was born that if it came down to my wife or the baby at the birth, I would always choose my wife. No offense to my kids, I love them to death, but I can make more of them. I can’t get another Jennifer.
I’ve tried to be as consistent in this ever since. No matter the situation, we don’t undermine each other in front of the kids. If we have a difference of opinion on how something should be handled, we hash that out behind closed doors. Nothing your kids do good or bad should ever drive a wedge between you as a couple.
She’s the one I will spend the rest of my life with, not my kids. My kids will leave the house and leave me here with my spouse. Do I want that day to be one of high-fiving and cheering, or one of regret, realizing the only thing we had in common was our kids?
In four years, we will be empty-nesters (though they’re millennials, so maybe I should add a decade). I am so looking forward to the day when that happens. It means I’ll be able to hang out with the love of my life, just the two of us. Unable to heed each other as both our hearing dwindles, and we spend our days wandering around the house looking for each other.
Or, you know, we could just text.