(Location: Dominican Republic, after Nat and I spoke at the What If Conference. Photo Credit: Josh Solar.)
Our marriage is one year older, one year wiser and one year stronger since last year’s post on this topic, How to Be Happily Married: 10 Years, 10 Lessons. Thanks for being my girl, Natalie! As I’ve reflected on our good times and challenging times, I’ve tried to encapsulate some of the lessons I’ve learned.
Note: This is more of a post for me to remember what’s most important so I can stay centered when life throws us a curve. I share it with you as a glimpse into my life in the hopes that you too can reflect on your own life lessons in creating a strong and happy marriage.
A GIFT FOR SHARING
I want to hear your own life-lessons-learned in creating a happy marriage in the comments below because I know your insights will help me and others. As an anniversary gift for sharing, I’ll send out 11 copies of my book, The Power of Starting Something Stupid (1 book to 11 different individuals) at my expense to those with the most interesting / useful comments. I’m assuming that all comments will be important, but I’m limiting myself to only choosing 11. Don’t feel bad if you don’t get picked! :-) If you already have a book, you can give the book to someone you think could most benefit or have me mail it directly to their address. This offer is good for mailing addresses in the United States only (sorry!).
*Note: I’d still really appreciate your comments, however, this offer is now closed.
11 TIPS TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE
Surprisingly, people (strangers even) often ask Natalie and I about our marriage and what we do to keep the love alive. It’s amazing what can happen over 11 years. Natalie and I could write entire books just on the craziness we’ve experienced alone. Based on some of those experiences, I’ve come up with 11 tips (principles, really) that make us happy that when practiced I believe will increase your happiness too. These tips are based on the roles we play as a husband and wife team and what we try to do for each other to support one another.
#11. Lighten up, laugh it off, and live it up.
Life’s too short not to.
#10. Slow down, relax and take vacations…lots of them.
Long vacations are awesome. Short ones are too. Schedule time to take breaks. Take a weekend off, a day off, an hour off and just hang out together. Take time off alone, together, whatever, whenever. You need both alone time and together time. Whatever you do, take time to rejuvenate your soul. Spending time just doing nothing together has done a world of good for our marriage. Few things could be more important (and rewarding) to your relationship.
When you’re talking to your spouse, be present…don’t let your mind be off in another world. This one’s hard for me because my mind is always racing from one idea to another. Sometimes I get so caught up in my thoughts that I actually don’t hear people talking to me. True story. That said, I’ve asked Natalie to help me out when she notices that I can’t hear her or I don’t appear to be fully listening by using my name. From there, I do my best to focus on her and only her. I’m nowhere close to good at this, but when I refrain from thinking of what I’m going to say next and simply listen, our conversations seem to be way more productive.
#8. Express deep gratitude.
Don’t let a day go by without expressing sincere gratitude for the little things (and big things) your spouse does.
How many fights start and end with whose right, when in the end, being right only pulls you apart and leaves you alone with your rightness? Does anyone really
win in that situation? Next time you’re caught up in the “I’m right, you’re wrong” trap, remember the words of Rob Base & D.J. E-Z Rock
, “It takes two to make a thing go right.”
#6. Give each other courage.
I’m scared of a lot of things. I’m not talking about the dark. I’m talking about art. Creating. Business. Family. Getting out of my comfort zone. Being human. I need Natalie to give me courage. No man is an island and boy do I know it. Nat encourages me and helps me move from one stage of life to the next. We all need a boost. There should be no one better than you to give a boost to your spouse and vice versa.
#5. Confide in each other.
Don’t keep secrets from your spouse. Share secrets with each other. Be best friends. The key word here is trust. If your friends and coworkers know secrets about you that your spouse doesn’t know about, you’re on a slippery slope.
Everyday has the possibility of being the best day of your life. Everyday has the possibility of being better than the next. Gently challenge yourself to be a little better. Don’t nag your spouse or be self-righteous in your efforts. Don’t point out your spouse’s flaws. Simply be a little better spouse yourself. Look for specific ways you can improve your relationship and watch the magic happen.
#3. Celebrate with each other.
Why wait to celebrate? Celebrate the small wins, the big wins and everything in between. Celebrate! Celebrate! Celebrate!
Probably the single best advice any couple could receive.
#1. Experience life TOGETHER.
The key takeaway from the last 11 years is this: We experience life TOGETHER. We celebrate successes TOGETHER. We suffer losses TOGETHER. We share our dreams TOGETHER. I don’t mean we are always physically together, what I mean is that we don’t lead separate (or secret) lives with separate dreams and separate goals. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have different lives, dreams and goals. It means that we share in one another’s lives, dreams and goals.
They say that an airplane off course 90% of the time. I have no idea if that is true or not, but the principle is that when a plane is off course, the pilots realign to get back on course. In a happy marriage, the husband and wife are co-pilots on this big airplane called Life; realign your lives together so you arrive at the same daily destination: happiness.
Marriage isn’t always easy. I love this poem about the strength we can gain through adversity. Enjoy!
The tree that never had to fight,
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out on the open plain,
And always got it’s share of rain,
Never became a forest king,
But lives and dies a scrawny thing.
The man who never had to toil,
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share,
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man,
But lived and died as he began.
Good timber does not grow in ease,
The stronger the wind, the stronger trees
The farther sky, the greater the length
The more the storm, the more the strength,
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In tree and men good timbers grow.
Where thickest lies the forest growth
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
This is the common law of life.
– Douglas Mallock