Disclaimer: While this year will mark my 25th wedding anniversary, I’m no marriage expert.
Those who have been together for 50 or more years will probably chuckle a bit at my cute little attempt to understand what makes a marriage work (or not.)
All I can ever really talk about is my own experience. I am indeed still learning about and growing with the man I married. And every day, I learn a little more about myself too.
When I think about it intellectually, I come up with a list of things a “good” marriage might have: great communication, respect, love (of course), honesty, and willingness to compromise, to name but a few. All of these things work to “make a marriage work,” but are they really the only things to consider?
What about the small stuff?
I believe that it’s the smaller moments between two people that make a marriage special and rock solid. It’s shared history and friendship for sure, but day in and day out, it’s all about the little things. It’s how we contribute to—and, yes, tolerate—our relationships.
When we marry, and decide to live the rest of our lives with one special person, keeping our vows of faithfulness and working together to build a life, (which possibly includes raising children), we give away pieces of our individual selves in order to contribute to the union.
And throughout our married years, we just keep on giving. Freely giving away pieces of ourselves means that our partner is collecting those pieces from us.
Finding someone who is willing to give those pieces of ourselves back is, in my opinion, important fuel for a happy marriage.
Here are some small things that work like glue:
Inside jokes. Sometimes my husband and I break into our alter-egos, who happen to be an old couple with New York accents, and we just talk to each other like that for a while. Weird, right? You don’t get it at all, and that’s okay. It’s our inside, shared joke, and we get a funny stupid kick out of it. It makes us laugh. Small, silly moments like these are fun.
Tolerating quirks. I hum in a nonsensical way when I’m thinking or writing, and my husband just shakes his head. I repeat myself and it annoys the living crap out of him. He somehow pins the covers down with his leg every night and I must kick him (gently of course) to gain release. He drives aggressively occasionally, and it scares the living crap out of me.
Separate interests. Whether I’m into what he’s into or not, I act excited and I listen. I give him some ear time and I ask questions even if it bores me to tears. Because when he’s happy, I’m happy. Doing things without our partner helps us remain individuals. We can cheer each other on without being involved.
One, (maybe two) common activities. We both love thrift stores, and we love to ride our bikes. If that’s all we ever did together aside from eat, I would be okay. We don’t hang off each other’s coattails, and it makes a huge difference in how we treat each other when we are together. It makes our shared time more special somehow.
Humor. This is never a bad thing. Laughing is the perfect ego-checker, especially during a disagreement. It’s good to find humor in our own stupidity, and affected behavior.
Personality differences. Opposites attract, and we need to celebrate it. I’m spontaneous (impulsive, fun) and productive (industrious, task-oriented). He’s a saver (thrifty, savvy) and a careful decision maker (it could take him up to six months to pick out a new car). It creates much needed balance in the land of couple-hood.
Mood swing avoidance. Need I say more? When something is brewing on my husband’s stove, I hightail it out of dodge, and he does the same for me. We respect each other’s processing time.
Physical touch. Sometimes we simply stop what we are doing for a quick hug or a kiss, (or some hilarious dry humping complete with exaggerated porno moans in old people New York accents). Getting physical outside of the sack tends to sprinkle a bit of tender loving magic upon a marriage.
The long haul agreement. We both know that not every moment of every day has to be a super exciting, loving marriage adventure. Not every moment of anyone’s day (or week, or month for that matter) is all that. Marriage can feel like a long-ass car ride. We eat, we laugh, we argue, we tolerate, we stop to look around for fun things to do along the way, but a good portion of the time we’re just rolling down the road together.
Small moments are about simply being. They are about humor, and avoiding each other’s mood swings. When we encourage individuality in our marriages, we are essentially giving bits and pieces of our partners back to themselves.
And all the silly stuff? It is indeed heroic in that it becomes the required intimacy that keeps the bond tight.
As time passes, a married couple realizes that it’s not grand gestures or big proclamations of love that make their union work. It’s not gifts or vacations or apologies. It’s not over-celebrating anniversaries or lots of PDA.
A marriage needs the smaller moments—the little threads of friendship that weave life stories together, creating a strong family fabric that is difficult to unravel.
Author: Kimberly Valzania
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Sara Kärpänen