If you ask 100 people to share a bit of advice regarding how to make a happy marriage, I'll bet you'll get 100 different thoughts on the subject. I'm pretty sure that everything from housekeeping to home wrecking would be covered in the responses you'll hear.
In my experience, the advice people share comes mostly from their own lives, and more often than not it's advice they might want to consider taking themselves. The advice I have to impart certainly falls in that category. I've been married 26 years and, without oversharing, can honestly say it's been a pretty darn fine ride. Don't get me wrong—there have been difficult days, lessons learned and obstacles faced, but I've always known that's pretty much how life goes.
The way I see it, life is a journey. Sometimes it's stormy and you get caught in a downpour, sometimes you dance in the sunlight and occasionally you get to see a big, bright, beautiful rainbow. What makes the journey so interesting is who travels with you and how you decide to travel. I'm pretty sure the bumper sticker that reads, "The joy of the journey is not in reaching the destination but in the ride," is one of those simple truths and is most assuredly an ancient wisdom.
If along the journey you meet someone you want to marry, my advice in a nutshell is, "Never forget to kiss each other good night." I know it seems like surprisingly basic and pleasant advice, but it is also time-tested and downright good for you.
Let's face it: We are running so fast through life. Our days are packed with work, chores, obligations, dirty dishes, laundry, phone calls, text messages, the Internet, e-mails, high gas prices, low stock prices and more to do than we want to. Although we have every intention of putting our partners first, sometimes we get swept up in the tsunami of life and they get washed out with our good intentions.
Without knowing it, we suddenly find ourselves floating in a sea of things to do and, although not intended, our relationships are taken for granted. We don't plan it—we really don't even see it or feel it—but before we know it, we have floated away from each other.
When you never forget to kiss each other good night, you create a life raft, and you can't float away so quickly because you acknowledge each other, pause, connect and express your love. The golden rule seems to work here. If you treat your partner the way you want to be treated, you'll have a really great shot at creating the kind of marriage that you want. If you stretch throughout the day my advice of never forgetting to kiss each other good night and create small ways to put love in your life, you'll build intimacy and closeness and your kindness and care will honor your partner and grow your relationship.
There are as many ways to connect and express your love as there are stars in the sky. I am not talking about the big stuff like the gift of jewelry or throwing surprise parties. I am suggesting you infuse and nourish your relationship with small, thoughtful, meaningful acts of love. Let your imagination run wild. Be creative, playful, romantic, silly and, above all, be yourself.
- Tape a little love note on the bottom of your loved one's glass of milk or juice. Watch as he or she finds the treasure at the bottom of the glass.
- Start the day off by bringing your partner coffee in bed or with a little love by making heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast.
- Say thank you for the little things you share.
- Be gentle and conscious about creating a relationship and a home that is a safe, loving oasis.
- Instead of dinner at the dining room table, surprise your partner with a picnic on the living room floor or in the backyard if it's a beautiful evening.
- Wrap a candy bar in a note that says, "You're my sweetheart," or "You're the sweetest thing in my life" or "Have a sweet day."
- Leave a little note on the steering wheel that reads, "I love you with all of my heart."
- Have a CD of you partner's favorite music or a book on tape they have wanted to hear waiting on the dash of his or her car, with a note, telling him/her to listen.
- Surprise him or her at the office with a special lunch brought in for two.
- Send a text message that reads, "Thinking of you" or "You're hot" or something sassy and sexy.
- Cut a bunch of flowers from the garden or just one and place in a vase on the night stand.
- Leave a little note under the pillow that simply says, "I love you."
- Create a simple, elegant, handmade card by cutting a heart out of a paper you like (a piece of wrapping paper, newspaper, tissue or floral wallpaper) and gluing it to a blank card. Fill the inside of the card with quotes on love.
Try these ideas and create a million more of your own. Each of these gestures is a small acknowledgment of the love you feel in your heart, and they will resonate with the one you love. I promise you these little acts will multiply in a big way. Simple, heartfelt acts beautifully break through the chaos of your days, infusing them with a gentle order. Time slows, and the person you touch will feel inclined to pass along this newfound sense of happiness and love.
Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at MetroSexual LA