My seventeenth anniversary is coming up at the end of this month. Staying married for that long is something I am proud of and that I don’t take for granted. One of the biggest lessons I have learned in marriage is that it takes two to make it work. And I don’t use the word “work” lightly. My grandmother once told me when I asked for marriage advice, “Sometimes marriage is work.” I remember thinking, “How unromantic!” After all these years, I have to agree that sometimes marriage is work and that it is worth the work! After all, everything in life takes effort and we often enjoy it more when we have to put out more effort. There are some important rules for staying married. Today I have expert Joryn Jenkins to share 5 marriage mistakes you don’t want to make.
Rules For Staying Married
I think staying married is the end goal for married couples. After all, why would be exchange rings and vows that say, “Till death do us part” if we didn’t want to spend our lives with that person? Marriage is a serious commitment and when there are children involved the commitment is even more sacred because it effects the lives of those that depend on you. Today, Joryn Jenkins will share her rules for staying married. As a trial attorney with 40+ years of courtroom experience, she has a lot of experience to share. She is the author of many books including “War or Peace (Avoid the Destruction of Divorce Court)”. Here are five marriage mistakes that she suggests you avoid in order to stay happily married.
5 Marriage Mistakes To Avoid
by Joryn Jenkins
What kinds of activities have the potential to drive a couple apart . . . and what habits can make it difficult for a couple to stay together? As a divorce lawyer, I have an insider’s appreciation for the secrets to staying together long-term, that is to say what types of mistakes one should actively avoid if one wants to stay married. So here are my five top marriage pitfalls to stay away from if you want to maintain a happy, healthy marriage.
1. Don’t connect with old sweethearts.
In my practice, I find that the most common marriage mistake people make these days is either to reach out to a high school or college sweetheart or someone similar, or to respond when such a connection reaches out to you. “The grass is always greener” was never truer than it is today, when it’s so easy to connect with people from far away, especially on-line, and especially if you have a shared history (and so feel “safer”).
Talking on-line at first seems so safe and inconsequential, but it often quickly escalates into something more, something that seems better than your mundane relationship with the guy to whom you’ve been married for years. “Familiarity breeds contempt” applies when this happens; the guy you know so well seems boring while your new flame seems romantic and mysterious and special, and makes you feel special when he continues to be interested in you over time. The same goes for coworkers. Something new is not something better. Don’t do it!
2. Don’t run errands separately.
I also can’t help thinking of a comment my husband made very early in our marriage when I told him I was going out to run errands. He said “I’ll go with you.” I suggested “Why don’t we split the list in half? I’ll do one half and you do the other. That way we’ll be done twice as fast.” He replied, “I’d rather be out running errands with you for twice the time, than be out running errands by myself.” I initially thought that was foolish, but we’ve run our errands together ever since, for 24 years. After a time, I began to realize that we spend a lot of time talking, sharing what’s happening in our workplaces, and simply enjoying each other’s company while we are errand-running. It’s actually quality time for us because we’ve made it that way!
3. Don’t expect your partner do all the chores.
In most marriages, each spouse has specific chores for which he or she is responsible. Maybe you actually enjoy certain tasks and despise others that your spouse doesn’t mind so much. Maybe you’re really good at something that your spouse is not. For example, I enjoy mowing the lawn, but my husband does not trust me to edge or weed whack because he thinks I’m too clumsy and will hurt myself. He’s probably right. Meanwhile, he doesn’t let me near the laundry because he likes his clothes too much. (I turned all of his white underwear pink the first week we were together.)
That being said, if one spouse is solely responsible for a large number of chores without the other’s help, that spouse may become overwhelmed and resentful. While one spouse’s household chore list may be longer than the other’s, it’s important for each to feel that he or she can ask the other for help to avoid conflict. And, like the errands, this can be turned into quality time, as well.
4. Don’t be afraid to show public (and private) affection.
Once you have been with your partner for several years, it is natural to allow the romantic behaviors that you exhibited towards one another when you first fell in love to fall by the wayside. You may stop holding hands as much. You may not touch each other affectionately over lunch out. The snuggling may stop when you watch television together. While that’s normal, I would argue that it’s not healthy, and you and your spouse can make the conscious decision to continue those habits.
I’ll never forget, when I was engaged to my husband, I would always scratch the back of his head, whether in public or in private. I didn’t even think about it. It was just something that I did. One day, a relative noticed me doing it at a family function and told me to never stop. Now that my husband and I have been together for decades, I try to continue this behavior because we both enjoy it, and it shows the world the strength of our relationship, even after all these years. Just as smiling makes one feel happier, continuing your early romantic behaviors throughout your marriage will make you feel closer and your marriage that much more solid.
5. Don’t assume you don’t need to reconnect.
Don’t forget to take the time to reconnect, for the two of you to do things that you both enjoy. Go for a bike ride together. Attend a sporting event or a concert. Take a walk around the neighborhood. Relax together in your pool. Whatever it is that you both enjoy doing, make it a priority to spend time together, regularly, just enjoying one another and remembering all the reasons why you fell in love and chose this person for life. Don’t forget to have sex every week. Don’t assume you don’t need to reconnect regularly; if you do, when that old sweetheart reaches out, you’re very likely to forget my first rule and ruin a perfectly wonderful marriage. Yours!
Thanks again to Joryn Jenkins for sharing these rules for staying married.
I would add a 6th marriage mistake to this list that becomes more important the longer you are married.
6. Don’t Use “Never” And “Always”
When you have been married for years, it is easy to get into grooves and think you know everything about the other person. It is easy to hold things against them. Don’t. This is the way we begin to tell ourselves an unhappy story. Never and always are big words that carry a lot of weight. Don’t use them if you don’t really mean them.
As Dr. Gary Chapman says, “Sometimes what we think we know about a person or their behavior becomes an obstacle to reconciliation. When we find ourselves labeling others or putting them into the box of ‘you always’ and ‘you never,’ we miss critical observations because we are no longer curious. Our defenses have been raised and our ‘relational circuits‘ turned off.
So how do you know when you’ve shut down relationally? Ask yourself, ‘Am I curious?‘
The key to restorative communication is curiosity and understanding. When you are authentically curious, you’ll ask clarifying questions. You’ll seek to understand the person, rather than judge their behavior. You won’t be passive aggressive, but rather will seek to resolve differences in order to restore your relationship. You step closer instead of stepping away.”
Some of these marriage mistakes seem pretty obvious but those are often the ones you need to avoid the most! Don’t forget- your spouse is on your side, so work together and love each other as you both deserve to be loved. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” should be your marriage mantra.