In my nine years of married life, I have learnt the following nine golden rules that are the key to any successful marriage. While some are specific to my personal relationship with my spouse, I feel the themes are general and valid for most marriages.
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1. This is the single most important relationship
This relationship will most likely be the longest relationship of our lives and has to be top most priority.
And we should treat it as such. Our marriage is more important than the relationship we share with all others, be it our friends, co-workers, family or even children. As our children understand this, it actually goes to increase their own security.
The spouse needs to remain the centre of the universe, even though temporary deviations may occur. It always helps to appear united outside (no matter what your internal differences are). Arguments or showing your spouse down in front of an audience, even when in jest, may inadvertently affect the relationship adversely.
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2. Compromise is necessary
My husband and I come from different backgrounds and cultures (He’s a Tamilian and I’m a Punjabi). Our families have lots in common in terms of core values, but there are plenty of differing opinions as well. That shapes the way we structure our time, our communication style, hobbies, etc. It’s not a matter of who/what is the right way. It’s about meeting somewhere in the middle. We have consciously tried not to change the other person but worked through the differences. He liked staying at home over weekends to relax after a stressful week at work and I craved to go and eat out having eaten at home all week. In the initial years of marriage it was a potential pressure point but we have worked through that to reach a stage where we stay at home one day of the weekend but make it a point to try a new restaurant on the other day.
3. Disagree respectfully
It is only natural to disagree with your spouse. The ‘happily ever after’ ending happens only in fairy tales. Married couples don’t have to agree every single time to avoid a fight. Instead of arguing or becoming frustrated, calmly discuss the matter. Give each other a chance to speak. Discussion should never lead to lack of respect. Also, don’t take your fights to bed – no fight or argument is worth losing your sleep over. Sort it out before you go to bed. Remember in this relationship there should be no room for ego. You have lost much more the moment you think you have won a domestic argument against your spouse.
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4. Balance between individual and together activities is hugely valuable
There are things I enjoy that my husband isn’t really interested in (like a shopping spree at the mall) and vice versa (like following a tennis Grand Slam). We relish these activities on our own or with friends who share our interest, and we are supportive of each other taking time out for those things regularly. But we also share common interests/hobbies (like watching movies together) and have found a way to balance alone time with together time.
5. We are only human!
We’re not perfect, nor should we expect perfection of ourselves or our spouse. Marriage requires patience, encouragement and forgiveness. Holding onto grudges is counterproductive. There have been times when I have made his meals super salty and he has sometimes given away a magazine I haven’t read! But we move on.
6. Communication is the key
I used to expect my husband to read my mind and thankfully I learnt (a few years into our relationship) that expecting him to just ‘get me’ all the time is completely ridiculous. Sometimes I have to literally spell things out to him – This is how I feel and why I feel that way.
Men tend to be much more straightforward and women tend to go all over the place in how they express things.
We now understand and respect each other’s communication style. I’ve encouraged him to open up more and he’s rubbed off on me in a way that I’m better about telling him exactly what I want. From the time we met, he has been wonderful at making me feel special and pampering me on special days. He used get the most beautiful flowers. After the first few times I had to let him know that I don’t like flowers much. They don’t last long and I feel sad when I have to throw away something that was brought so lovingly. He understood and now I get the best gifts which he realises I need and enjoy!
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7. Understanding each other’s unique style is extraordinarily helpful
My husband expresses his love every single day either verbally with expressions of gratitude and praise, or simple gestures like getting me something I’m craving. My love language is more grand and larger than life by giving him expensive gifts, celebrating every occasion or planning a lavish meal. We now understand these and sometimes switch roles to make each other happy. This awareness of knowing what matters to the spouse helps in strengthening the bond further.
8. Sharing the responsibilities
My husband and I divide all household and child related chores. We do many of them together and for others take turns. This helps us do the mundane household tasks without boredom setting in. We rarely fight over whose job it is. We appreciate each other’s contribution each day and grab opportunities to express the same. For example, after every meal at home my husband thanks me and now our son has picked up this habit as well. As reciprocation, I thank my husband for every meal outside home.
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9. Love conquers all situations
Be generous with love when it comes to your spouse. Just because you both know you love each other does not mean you can’t say it. Say those three words as often as you can – when departing for work, before heading to bed or texting ‘I love you’ in the middle of the day. Date nights or special outings are equally important where you get away from regular routine and just spend quality time with each other.
As they say, marriages may be made in heaven but they have to be made to work on earth. That requires perseverance.
I would love to hear if you have more such rules to add to the list based on your experience.