“Soulmate” is a silly term. I believe this wholeheartedly. Not always a popular opinion, but one that I feel makes relationships, love, and marriage a bit more realistic and therefore, more likely to last. Life is not a Nicholas Sparks novel. Couples do not ride off into the sunset.
Before you accuse me of being overly pragmatic, please know that I believe romance plays a very important role in any relationship, but it does not sustain a relationship on its own, long-term.
So what about the rest of the details that make up your marriage?
There are fundamental, non-romantic, ways to make the day-to-day parts of you and your partner’s relationship something that works as a foundation for the rest of your lives.
Teammates from the beginning
While planning our wedding, Ryan and I both wrote a short blurb about our families to be read during our reception.
I penned the following: “Alaina says her dad is her hero, her mom is her best friend and her brother is her other half.”
Ryan’s snarky response began with: “Uh huh… and where does that leave me?” (We too, had already covered that I don’t believe in soulmates.)
I backtracked quickly… “you’re my partner… my teammate.”
Looking back at this scenario, I stumbled a bit for the right term.
Now, nearly 6 years later I realize that, perhaps accidentally, I hit the nail on the head.
This mentality is why we are where we are, working together and living the dream. I say this because I truly believe that picking your partner for life is one of, if not the most, important choice you’ll ever make.
He doesn’t wash dishes or lock up the house at dark quite as quickly as I’d like him to.
And I don’t get the mail or go through bills quite as quickly as he’d like me to. (Note: our mailman literally drops our mail INTO our house through a slot near our front door.)
Don’t even get me started on either one of us trying to give directions while the other is driving.
We work despite these things.
We work because we are each other’s lifelong teammate.
Six rules to be a good teammate in your marriage
There are six things Ryan and I try to follow each and every day. We don’t always succeed and some days it’s definitely harder to follow through on some of them, but we do our best to uphold them regularly.
1. No one should ever hear anything bad about your spouse from you. No one.
It’s one thing to joke with your friends and tell them about how your spouse does the dishes so slowly you might as well just do them yourself. It’s another thing to demean your spouse’s character by discussing details of issues in your relationship such as money or disciplining your child. Know the difference and always discuss the latter with your spouse and no one else.
2. Over communicate.
You cannot read each other’s minds. Never assume the other person knows what you meant. Give each other the benefit of the doubt when miscommunications happen. Double check if necessary. (Ladies, this is difficult for us. We would rather telepathically tell our husbands what to do and seethe underneath when he doesn’t do it – am I right?)
3. Try new things together.
Even if one of you is a foodie (Ryan) and one of you is a picky eater (me), that doesn’t mean you cannot have fun at that new Asian Fusion restaurant together. Trying new things gets an individual out of their comfort zone and is often easier as a couple, allowing you both to grow stronger together.
4. Be each other’s champion. Celebrate wins and encourage each other.
Bring home champagne after a promotion at work, back each other up when engaging in that tiny battle with your heathen toddler, work out together or keep each other accountable in separate workout regimens. Never cut the other person down when they are struggling.
5. Be grateful for each other’s contributions.
Whether it be money, time, chores, childcare, or anything else, no one contribution is greater than another. And don’t keep score. If you truly value each other’s input, then the scorecard shouldn’t (and doesn’t) matter.
6. Trust and respect each other. Especially in front of others, including your children.
If you do not respect your spouse in front of other people, why should those people respect your spouse? Enough said.
I’ll leave you with perhaps the best marriage advice we ever received in a recap of a conversation between me and a random woman on the beach in Jamaica:
Me: “We just got married over the weekend. This is our honeymoon. It’s our last evening here.”
Woman: “Want some advice?”
Woman. “The secret to a long marriage is easy… just stay married.”
Simple, but true. Marriage, or any long-term relationship, is not all about love and romance. It’s about working at it day in and day out. It’s about choosing your partner every day. Whether you love them or hate them on that given day – and trust me, there will be days that you hate each other – choose to stay married.