What are you missing in your life? More advice from me...
A friend of mine solicited my advice on the keys to a happy marriage (One of her friends was getting married and in a very touchy/feely gesture decided to ask for anecdotes from everyone so they could write it down in some book, and likely never look at it again.).
What amazes me is that anyone would solicit my advice on what constitutes a happy marriage. Although I recognize the rationalist view I tend to err on the side of empiricism when it comes to relationships. In spite of this I felt obligated to pontificate. Most of what I wrote I learned by observing my parents, who are the paragon of a happy couple. After writing this it made me realize how high my expectations are for a relationship when my reference is almost perfection itself. Fortunately I achieve perfection is nearly all areas of my life so I suspect that eventually my relationships will fall into line (I know who is reading this and, of course, I am kidding).
Here are my thoughts for the world. As my hit counter went above 1500 hits/day for the first time I thought I might as well start trying to make your lives better via my genius as well as my wit.
What is the key to a happy marriage? There are a few easy answers,
love, caring, mutual respect, but they all seem to be abstractions,
really feelings rather than actions. Feelings and emotions are
notoriously difficult to consciously control so I would focus on things we
can control. I believe that by doing things and creating habits we
create an atmosphere which reinforces those emotions.
Do something everyday completely for that other person. Don't expect
anything in return. Don't "add it up" so that you can one day say "I
did this for you". Whether it be making the coffee, cooking breakfast,
cleaning the downstairs, or writing them a note to tell them how great
they are, just do it. Selfless behavior transmits how much you love
that other person and it reminds you that they are worthy of your love
just because of who they are, not because what they do for you.
Remember, appreciate, and keep perspective. There will be times in
your marriage when you will feel like you are floating on a cloud. The
wedding will be the most obvious point but even that even will
eventually pale in comparison to the simple joy of waking up to someone
you love. Burn those thoughts into your mind; remember the time without
that person and how happy you are now when they are in your life. These
times may be easy to forget when things get difficult (And you will go
through hard times, vide infra). When you are hurt, or angry, or
lonely remember what this is all about. Forget the pain, remember the
love. This is a long road you are walking together; you don't need to
add rocks to your pack (anger, hurt, despair). Those thoughts and
memories of love will make you lighter on your feet when the hill gets
steep. Write them down if you have to but keep them close.
It isn't always 50/50. It would be great if you both got home
everyday, in the same great mood, ready to tackle the house, the kids,
and whatever work is leftover from the day at the office. Of course
things won't always be like this. Sometimes one of you will have more
problems, more concerns, and less strength. You will need each other
during those times. They may last a night; they may last longer but at one
point or another one of you will be giving 99% and the other just 1.
You'll both have carried each other through the rough points in each
other's lives. It won't be easy but you'll be closer because of it.
Stay together but keep Separate. Have you ever noticed how old couples
tend to look alike? Have you ever wondered why that is? I suppose it's
because they have gone through so many of the same experiences. They've
laughed at weddings, smiled when their children took their first steps,
and wept when they had to walk them down the aisle and off to their new
lives. These events leave marks on our characters and our faces. You
will both experience them together, and you will change together, but
you shouldn't forget about yourself. Marriage means devotion, not
sycophancy. Keep up with the things and people that were in your life
before you got married and remember that happiness you find in yourself,
satisfaction in what you do, and bliss in those you love.
It actually pained me to write something so filled with "feelings" and "emotions". I hate to paraphrase the Matrix but apparently knowing the path and walking the path truly are different things.
I don't want to have to spend the day deleting comments so please, I know this is waaay lame but, as I had already written it in an e-mail, it is an easy thing to post.
And yes, I am aware of the irony that this is posted directly above "Celebrate Penis Day".