I've been contemplating marriage. Not getting married. I took care of that task years ago.
I've been contemplating marriage as in the concept of. My daughter recently tied the knot and I've been reminiscing about my own newlywed days — and some of the lessons learned since way back then.
When I signed up for this deal called marriage, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Neither did my husband. If someone had told us marriage might be challenging and difficult, we wouldn't have believed them. How could loving another person be difficult? (Ha!) Thank goodness for our naivety, and optimism.
Now, all these years later, I think we'd both say marriage can be challenging (not to mention a bit of hard work). But it is good work, and challenges are opportunities for growth. And when done right, it gets easier and more fulfilling as the years pass, most days.
Since saying "I do," my better half and I have learned a few tidbits (Dare I say rules?) about successfully navigating this thing called wedded bliss. If we were to give unsolicited advice to our daughter and other newlyweds (which of course we never would), here's what we might say:
• First, realize there are no rules, really. Think of these as starting points.
• Over the years, you will break most, if not all, these rules (aka starting points). So will your spouse. Forgive him or her, and just as importantly, forgive yourself. It's not about you. It's about both of you. If you live out your marriage as though it's about you, you'll likely have a short marriage — or at the very least an unhappy one.
• Eat meals together at least once each day. They will serve as an anchor and provide an opportunity to share time and conversation with each other. It's the seemingly small habits like this that fortify your relationship. In a marriage, small things can be big things.
• Sleep in the same bed even if it seems more convenient not to — even if the one of you snores or kicks the covers off (not that I'm implying anything). Love is hardly ever convenient.
• Waking together gives you a few moments to plan your day, and plot your strategies — if you have children. It also gives you the opportunity to experience morning breath and morning hair. It gives you the chance to say good morning before the chaos of the rest of your day proceeds.
• Always kiss each other goodbye. It's also nice to kiss hello and goodnight and happy Groundhog's day, but goodbye is the one to make a priority. You never know if a goodbye will be your last, and you'd regret forever if you hadn't paid enough attention to seal it with a kiss.
• Realize you do not have to agree on everything. Chances are even after decades you won't have come to terms about the thermostat. It's the bane of many a great marriage and a war that can't be won. There are countless similar battles involving laundry folding techniques, vacation destinations, parenting practices and driving habits (which could be a category in itself).
• Falling in love is easy; staying there not always so. Work to keep things new. Don't be distracted by the multitude of life experiences that could come between you and your spouse. This includes your job and your children.
There are more (there always could be more) but eight is enough for one day. When we got married years ago, our pockets may have been empty, but our hearts were as full as our hair was big. Now we relive those emotions (but not the hairstyle) through our daughter and son-in-law, and we are glad for times when life comes full circle.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don't miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.