- Michael Thompson
I was at a wedding and throughout the day the groom walked around with a little pad of paper asking everyone in attendance for their best piece of relationship advice. I thought this was cool and it led to some interesting and fun conversations.
I can’t remember exactly what I said when it was my turn. It probably wasn’t something very clever — hence why I write: I get time to think. But a few weeks ago my wife and I celebrated our eighth anniversary and lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my friend’s question.
If my friend asked me today about how to keep a marriage strong and long, the 8 tips below are what I’d say.
1. Never stop noticing the details that make your partner smile
My mom shared this little gem with me while I was in college and at the time I thought it was cheesy. But I’ll be damned if allowing yourself to be cheesy from time to time isn’t one of the best things you can do for your relationship.
If your partner smiles while watching people dance in a plaza, grab their hand and take the lead.
If your partner smiles when they hear a song that reminds them of young love, crank it up while your old ass makes them dinner.
Little moments of happiness sprinkled throughout the day help long-term relationships stay that way.
2. Support their career choices
Trust is not only about staying faithfully and pulling in your wandering eye. It’s also about having your partner’s back through their big life decisions.
If your partner isn’t happy at their current job, sit down with them and map out a way to free up some of their time so they can look for something new.
If your partner dreams of striking out on their own, talk about how you can cut down on your spending so you can work together to make it happen.
My wife has never questioned my career dreams for a second. The day-to-day sacrifice she has made in order for me to reach my professional goals is something that has truly blown me away.
3. Choose your battles wisely
The only certainty in relationships is that there will be times when your blood beats red. But when it comes to small disagreement with your partner you’re better off just shutting up.
Does this really matter? Will I have really won if my partner concedes? Is this the best use of the time we have together?
Arguments will happen. But not all of them have to. The next time you want to start one — or throw a flaming log onto a barely lit fire — take a moment to breathe. Then remind yourself that you are much better at communicating your feelings when you’re not steaming.
4. Surprise your partner as often as you can
Instead of making plans together on a Friday night, make a reservation at their favorite restaurant and tell them to keep their calendar clear.
If the house could use some positive energy, buy a couple of sunflowers and scatter them throughout your home.
If seeing a little note next to their morning cup of coffee helps them to kick-off their day, then post away.
A lot of relationships die because people get lazy. Reminding yourself of the benefits of giving your partner an unexpected gift at an unexpected time is one way to avoid this trap. Plus it’s hard to get angry over dinner while screaming across a vase of tulips
5. Make sure your partner leaves the house in a good mood each day
Most mortals don’t have the time to do the 8 things self-help gurus recommend doing before 8am in order to be unstoppable. But we do have time to do something thoughtful for our partners and it can be just as powerful.
Days rarely start off on a bad foot if the first thing you do in the morning is roll over and tell your partner how beautiful they are.
6. Find common ground with their parents and friends
When you get married you’re not only committing to your partner, but also everything and everyone that’s important to them. You don’t have to love everything about their parents or friends. But you do need to find a way to get along with them. Finding just one thing in common with each of them is a good place to start.
If your mother-in-law loves to read, I’d be willing to bet she can recommend some books that can offer you a different perspective. If her best friend loves football, ask them to meet up to watch a game. Not every conversation we have with people has to be ground-breaking, but when it comes to the people who are important to our partner’s at least try to break some bread.
Quick but important aside: If you just returned home from eating dinner at your in-laws, take a moment and shoot them a quick message saying it was great. It matters.
7. Make it a point to do something outdoors once a week together
I don’t have the stats on this, but I’d be willing to bet that couples that hike together stay together.
I don’t have the stats on this either, but if you were to circle the days on your calendar when you had a recent argument, I’d also be willing to bet it wasn’t after playing volleyball on the beach.
Relationships need the occasional shot of energy and few things provide that better than the sun.
8. Don’t pack your days too tightly
Make sure there is plenty of white space on your calendar so you have the energy to truly listen to your partner — and so you don’t feel rushed when either of you is sharing your feelings.
Ensure you have time to be spontaneous and reap the rewards of being a couple that takes advantage of random ideas.
Allow space in your day to be alone if you need to or offer your partner time away if you can sense they need a break from the day-to-day.
Busyness is not a sign of success. It is a sign of a lack of clarity. This is not only true in our careers, but also in our relationships.
When reading back over this list a theme became very apparent — if you want to have a successful marriage no matter what is happening in your life your partner has to always be your number one priority.
Think about ways in which you can improve your partner’s day. Make sure you are putting in the effort to support the things and people she cares about. Take them on adventures while allowing them the space to explore the world for themselves.
The vibration in my pocket just reminded me of one last piece of advice: answer the phone when they call — your work can wait.