I recently celebrated nine years of marriage. Nine years feels like a lifetime ago. Truth be told, I wouldn't trade a minute of it to end up anywhere other than where we are today. That doesn't mean we haven't made our fair share of mistakes. I've realized as the years have past that the best part of it all has been the overcoming. We all know marriage isn't constant rainbows and butterflies and through the challenges marriage is one of the greatest journeys and blessings a person experiences in their lifetime (if they choose to).
With that said, here's a list of what NOT to do in order to grow your marriage and feel successful at the 9 (or 59) year mark, too.
1. Don't ignore the cues when something is amiss. What our partners say and sometimes don't say is always front and center. It can be in the words or in their actions but our partners words, tones and moods communicate how they really feeling. Don't ignore when something is off. Go with your gut and listen to the cues that might be pointing you in the direction of communicating more fully to ensure all is still in sync in your marriage.
2. Don't complain. Seems so basic and yet too many couples spend time complaining. I've wasted years doing this very thing and I've only now begun to curve the habit because I see my children mimicing this unnecessary behavior. Our latest counter is to tell ourselves or whoever complained in our family to follow up with five positive statements. That habit works wonders to shift from nag-ful to grateful.
3. Stop waiting. Too many couples plan big for tomorrow. Get after if today. No matter what it might be. Be better today. Do that thing you've always wanted to do together or for yourself and do it now. Finally scratch those on-hold plans off the list and watch yourself evolve and grow your happiness. Accomplishments enrich a marriage, so get after it!
4. Don't get lazy in bed! Feels like this might go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: keep the sexual passion alive and it will work wonders in your marriage for decades to come. Don't let your partner off the hook if they're the lazy one. There's no excuse for a decline in sexual chemistry or activity. Besides this could be what ruins a great marriage. What began as a lack of sexual compatibility ends up destroying many marriages when ignored.
5. Stop only talking about the kids or work. Remember the foundation of your marriage is your marriage. Kids and jobs play a role but they shouldn't become the sole focus of everything. Watch yourselves because when kids leave the nest or careers fade you two have to have something more than kids and work in common.
6. Don't hold on to resent. We all feel it at some point. Communicate your way out of his hurtful space. Sure, your pride might get in the way, but screw pride. No one will eulogize you by remembering what a resentful son-of-a-gun you always were. Let it go and move on.
7. Never stop dating each other! Stick to a routine date night and fill your relationship with romance. Sure romance changes with years but it must evolve and exist. It's easy to get into a new routine without the initial romance but depleting romance is more harmful than we might realize. Romance is love in a very tangible form. Fight for what you can grasp in the romance department and feel more connected to your spouse because of it. Keep in mind, romance is as simple as spending 10 minutes of every day genuinely talking and actively listening to each other.
8. Don't meet half way, instead meet all the way. Chores shouldn't be split 50% down the middle though that technically works. It's better to expect to give 100% of yourself, always. Having yourself in 100% on all things leads to a better place of understanding. A couple giving 100% each is a couple working at 200% capacity without expecting anything from their partner. Think about it? This concept really takes marriage to new heights. This isn't to say you don't help each other and you don't compromise. Just don't spend too much energy meeting "half way" after all before marriage "you-did-you" 100% of the time! Also, too many fights are because of this 50/50 goal. Save the aggravation. I know this because I've learned the hard way. Today, I actually expect less from my husband and yet I've seen him evolve into someone who gives our marriage and family 100% of himself because he chooses to and wants to and not because I tally us up some scoreboard that keeping our efforts at 50/50.
9. Don't compare yourself to other couples. Grass might seem greener on the other side, but every marriage is unique and you'll drive yourself nuts speculating about the rest or imitating them. You are you. Enjoy the uniqueness that is your marriage and aim to be the best couple in spite of those other couples around you. This isn't to say you shouldn't admire other couples - this just means don't measure yourselves against others. Instead measure yourself against the couple you were one year ago, 5 - 10- 20 years ago. Now that's a great comparison that hopefully illustrates just how far you've come, how much you've grown and how much better your marriage has become.