How to Succeed in Marriage (Without Really Trying)

Today is my 20th wedding anniversary. When people find out how long i’ve been married they usually have one of 2 reactions: 1) YIKES okay child bride or 2) WOW you are so lucky – what’s your secret? 

News flash, succeeding in marriage without really trying, is not a thing that exists. If you saw my nerdy reference of a title and said oh boy! my favorite! I need my relationship to be low to no maintenance and be perfect forever and ever like David and Patrick or Wesley and Buttercup. 

You’re telling me you don’t think buttercup had SOME STRONG WORDS to say about the state of the pirate ship revenge? please. 

If you want a relationship in which you are 100%, truly, madly, deeply in love and 100% blissfully happy 100% of the time – you don’t want a marriage, you want a dog honey. 

There’s lots and lots at shelters, go get one and live your best life. 

Oh you want to partner off with a human? You’ve decided you need to do what we’ve all been told we need to do from birth: find ONE PERSON, one magic human that is capable of being your best friend, roommate, and lover forever and ever world without end amen?

Well then, muffin, I hate to break it to you, but you are entering a world of pain.

The more I think about it, the more I think HOW UTTERLY BLOODY RIDICULOUS it is to think that one other person can and should be your everything. Really!? Who’s idea was this? (Oh we all KNOW, but I’m trying to keep heteronormativity out of this so let’s all pretend, shall we?)  

But here we are – and you are reading this because even though I am a young, delicate southern flower, I have somehow managed to stay married to the same person for 20 years. So clearly – I must know what I’m doing!

Here are some things about having a 20+ year marriage if you want one of those. 

1) I do not know what I am doing. 

No one knows what they are doing. This is crucial for you to remember when you are flames on the side of your face, heaving breaths, filled with hatred and rage at your partner because you wanted them to do XYZ and they didn’t. Now think, really think. did you TELL them you needed XYZ?  No? They can’t read your mind. Walk it back and start over. 

I repeat – no one knows what they are doing. 

2) Your partner is not your best friend. 

Your best friend is the person who will listen to you bitch about your partner, give you wine and or coffee and or tea and listen as you tell them the but they forgot about XYZ! *sob* *rage* tale, and they either offer sound advice or comfort depending on what you need and they will still really like your partner after all of this – because they KNOW man. they know. 

That’s your best friend. 

Are you one of those terribly obnoxious people who actually did marry your best friend on a beach in Bali it was so sacred and beautiful and spiritual

aren’t we spiritual??!??!

Good for you. Now, get a new best friend. Your partner is awesome – yay. You want them to stay awesome? Absolve them of being your everything all the time – you are A LOT honey. Let the good people rest. 

3) Don’t get a divorce. 

haha I’m so witty.  Hear me out. you will NOT make it to 20 years without questioning whether or not you are going to keep doing this at least once. and probably more than once and honestly probably a fucking lot. If you want to create a life with someone and hold on to it, you need to decide on your deal breakers, TELL THEM TO EACH OTHER, and then unless one of you breaks one – don’t get a divorce! Easy! While we are at it, don’t threaten divorce either. I know it will fly across your mind as you rage against the forgotten XYZ and sometimes it might just fly out of your mouth.  Stop it. Don’t say it unless you mean it. The number of people sitting in a tiny apartment surrounded by boxes wondering what the hell just happened can tell you, yes he said he wanted a diveorce, but he said that all the time – i didn’t think he really MEANT it. Only say it if you mean it. And if you say it and you mean it – sit with it. I’m pretty sure every single married person alive can hard relate to the opening of that obnoxious Elizabeth Gilbert book where she’s sitting in her bathroom sobbing at 3am because she doesn’t want to be married any more. You will have those nights – have one of those nights? That doesn’t mean you should get a divorce. Have 75 in a row?  You should probably move on to number 4 and call your therapist. 

4) Everything changes. 

You will change, they will change, your deal-breakers will change. Learn to listen to your tiny voice, your third thoughts, your secret heart. It is actually okay to stop being married if you need to. Stay married when it’s hard because you remember what it felt like when you first met and every once in awhile it still feels like that sometimes. Stay married when it’s hard because you enjoy being together mostly and want to build the same type of life. Stay married when it’s hard because on more days than not, you want to. Because 

5) There’s no such thing as a soul mate.

or rather there is but not like all those shitty movies want you to believe. There isn’t some magic person who will appear out of nowhere and kick down the door to your life and heart and once you meet you will never have troubles or fights or problems ever again. (If that’s what you want, see above re: dogs). A soulmate is simply someone you’ve gone around with before. Maybe your little spark and their little spark keep finding each other. You can have multiple soul mates. My best friends are my soul mates, my daughter is my soulmate.  Soulmate does not mean perfect romantic partner. 

OR maybe – soulmates are created. You found this creature that amused you and you were like I think I’ll keep it! and over time your hearts and lives became so intertwined that extracting each other is worse than staying together.  Congrats! you’ve made yourself a soulmate. 

Aside 1) on the subject of deal breakers – here are some that are universal, and if you are in a situation, stop reading this list and get help. 

abuse of any kind – yes, even if it wasn’t always like this, yes even if it’s not physical yes even though you love him. abusers will not change and you deserve better. 

substance abuse or addiction of any kind – see above statement*

she wants kids and you don’t or the other way round – don’t wait till its been 20 years and the egg factory is closed. this situation will not resolve itself.  

*yes, addicts can get better – you cannot be their therapist – they need to get better first and then they can call you. 

Aside 2) okay remember when I said I wanted to keep heteronormativity out of this? Well I do – but I do have a special note or 4 specifically for ladies in relationships with men. 

That man is not as woke as you think he is. 

He is not as woke as HE thinks he is. 

I’m sure you agree politically (at least where it matters) and he proudly calls himself a feminist, and has lots of lady friends that he isn’t gross at and was raised right by his mama and one day you will wake up and realize that he has never once bought toiler paper without being told. 

and thinks there are things that are “his chores” and will MAYBE do those without being asked.

or you will look up while you have a screaming child literally attached to your leg and you are cooking dinner and the smoke alarm goes off and the water boils over and he is drinking a beer with literally no awareness that he should be doing anything else at all.  

This isn’t necessarily his fault, the patriarchy is bad for everyone, but it is his RESPONSIBILITY to get better than his programming.  Don’t wait until you’ve hit the rage ceiling for the 57th time to talk about it – talk about it now. It will not be a fun conversation. Have it anyway and see number 3 above.