My ten year anniversary is coming up this year, right around the time my fiancé and I are getting married. It’s a pretty epic milestone, considering my longest previous relationship lasted all of four months.
A decade gives you plenty of time to see each other at your grossest, funniest, kindest, meanest and every other “est” you can imagine. I've noticed a few things that’ve helped my fiancé and I weather the ups and downs over the years, and figured I’d share them here. By no means do I follow these tips all the time, but I try my damnedest. Take from this what you will.
1. Check in often. It doesn’t have to happen at a preordained time, but it’s a good idea to occasionally ask your partner how he feels about the various ways you guys are managing life stuff, whether it’s your money habits, parenting styles, work/life balance, social calendar, communication methods, etc. It’s best to chat when things are feeling chill in that arena — not in the middle of a crises. This helps prevent future conflicts by course-correcting if you find that you’re not on the same page.
2. Build each other up. You know this person’s flaws and weaknesses better than anyone else, and it can feel so satisfying to complain about them to a friend or remind your partner about how terrible he is at X, Y or Z. But this is a shitty thing to do. Your purpose in each other’s lives is to make each other feel better about yourselves, not to cut one another down. Resist the temptation to focus on the negative and instead, look for opportunities to boost your partner’s self-esteem. Trust me, you can never give out enough compliments, even if they’re the same ones you’ve been giving each other for years.
3. Learn how to let stuff go. You’re going to push each other’s buttons sometimes. It’s human nature. People get in bad moods and turn into jerks, especially with those they’re closest to. But you can’t let every button-push turn into a fight. You both have to be willing to bite your tongue and let whatever comment pissed you off float away into the abyss. If the jerkiness becomes a recurring theme, apply tip #1 above: Wait until a chill day when you’re both getting along, and check in with the person on how you can improve the way you communicate together.
4. Plan for romance. Life’s busy and you probably have a day-to-day routine that keeps things humming along without a ton of effort. It can be easy to ride this comfy wave for the rest of eternity, but eventually you’re gonna end up bored with each other. You gotta plan interesting dates and romantic trips and every so often, bring home a surprise present or just slow-dance in the living room instead of watching that new Netflix show. Routines are nice, but for many people, too much is an eventual relationship killer.
5. Prioritize each other over technology. This one is surprisingly difficult, but I’m guessing it comes up daily for most couples. We’re so often absorbed in our phones, TVs and tablets that we don’t really respond to our partner’s bids for attention. Just as I was typing this, my fiancé made a comment about the spice level of the soup he’s making. My first instinct was to just murmur, “Hmm,” and basically ignore him, but instead I said, “Oh, is it spicier than you wanted?” and we had a little conversation. It took a conscious effort for me to do this as I would’ve preferred not to be interrupted, but he comes first over my computer.
6. Respect each other’s wishes. This one can be so hard! I’m a persuasive person by nature, so when my fiancé says no to something, my first instinct is to convince him to say yes instead. As you can imagine, this is less than fun for him. I have to actively stop myself from launching into 10,000 reasons why my way is better. Typically what I do instead is test the waters with a little bit of persuasion and see how he reacts, and be prepared to drop it like it’s hot if he starts bristling. I also regularly remind myself that there’s no one correct way to live a life, and even though my way feels SO VERY RIGHT at the time, his way is also right too.
7. Consider the random Tuesday night. It’s easy to feel head-over-heels in love with your partner while you’re on vacation or super annoyed with him when you’re distracted by a crazy-stressful project at work, but guess what happens way more often? Boring ol’ Tuesday. You come home from work, cook dinner, maybe watch a show or two and then go to bed. The ideal companion is someone whose weeknight vibe jibes well with your own, because you have a whole bunch of Tuesday nights in your future.
8. Recover from fights quickly. Arguments are unavoidable, but you don’t have to let them ruin your day. It’s normal to experience uncomfortable tension right after a fight — just try not to let the feelings stew for more than, say, 15 minutes. That should be long enough for you to set aside your disagreement and get back to having your boring ol’ Tuesday. Start up a new conversation. Make a joke. Rub his shoulders a little. Do something to reconnect with your normal loving ways and signal that you’ve moved on from your spat.
9. Be polite. You know each other so well, it’s easy to just treat the person like an extension of yourself, but he’s still a separate human being who needs common courtesy just like a random stranger. Say please, thank you and excuse me. Hold open the door for one another. Ask for his opinion before doing something that affects both of you. Just be the considerate, respectful human you already are outside the house INSIDE the house too.
10. Set clear expectations. Unmet expectations are probably the #1 source of arguments. You thought he was going to do something that he didn’t realize he should do. He thought you thought something that you weren’t thinking at all. This is classic miscommunication and can be solved by telling the person exactly what you want in advance and confirming that the person is on the same page. And vice versa. The trick is thinking of it ahead of time. You just have to get into the habit. Even for the simplest things, like who’s getting groceries tonight or whether you need to call if you’re going to be late. Get on the same page with your expectations and you’ll have far fewer causes for argument.