The funny thing about marriage advice is that the main people giving it are not married.
They’re either divorced and judging YOUR relationship from disappointments of THEIR past or they have unrealistic #RelationshipGoals of what a healthy relationship should be. My first year few years of marriage have been spent making sense of sharing my life with another person and navigating situations by what’s best for my family and not just what works for myself. It’s one thing when you’re standing at the altar promising to love someone for “richer or for poorer” but it’s completely different when your spouse gets laid off and the bills don’t stop hitting your doorstep although that direct deposit stops hitting the account.
One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about being in a long-term relationship is discovering me and my husband's style as a couple instead of asking, “What would Boris and Nicole do?” Or trying to make our relationship look as good for the ‘Gram as Dwyane and Gabby.
And one of the things that comes with a relationship is making your own rules as couple.
Just like the same rules that apply to the workplace, don’t apply to your home, every couple has to decide what rules are necessary for their own relationship. A week ago I was having a conversation with a male friend that I have had for years and dated for literally a few days in the past. He mentioned that some of his friends were hitting him with the side-eye when he revealed he still talks to me from time to time. “Isn’t she married?” they’d question as if being married meant breaking ties with everything and everyone from my past out of respect for my husband. While marriage includes making traditional vows loyalty and support, it doesn’t mean you have to completely change your personality or abandon any trace of the life you had before. What matters most is that you and your spouse are on the same page and share the same goal of what works best for your family. If that means “Mama” needs a taste of something different from time to time to be happy, so be it. (Actually that doesn’t apply to my marriage, but I’m not knocking Monique for it either.)
Here are a few pieces of marriage advice that I’ve chosen to ignore:
1. No more #MCM.
Let’s be clear: Becoming a Mrs. doesn’t not mean I’m suddenly legally blind or that my sexuality has closed up shop unless my Mr. is the one shopping. Posting Drake or one of The Have and Have Nots honeys as my #MCM doesn’t mean I’m one step closer to dividing up the dogs and cars with my husband. I can find another man attractive, funny or intelligent without wanting to spend the rest of my life with him. You also won’t catch pictures of my husband flexing in your Instagram feed every Monday morning to confirm I still love him and am attracted to him. Being married doesn’t mean you won’t be attracted to other people and hash-tagging someone doesn’t mean they will be the one you’ll break in your AARP benefits with one day.
2. You can’t be friends with ex’s or members of the opposite sex.
Obviously a major trait of any good relationship is trust, but I’d argue that an even bigger part is acceptance. I’ve witnessed many people get married and think that a piece a paper is suddenly going to take their relationship from this:
You have to accept the person you fell in love with in the first place, and that includes their past. I don’t think it’s fair to ask my spouse to cut off all contact with people who are important to him, especially if they were in the picture before me. What’s most important is that boundaries are clear, as well as maintaining trust and respect.
3. You have to open up a joint account.
I have so many friends that have gotten married and rushed to start combining finances. Months later they are bewildered as to why there isn’t enough money in the account to pay daycare fees, the mortgage and the electric bill. Another magical thing marriage doesn’t do is make everyone fiscally responsible. Just because you love someone doesn’t mean that everything else will work itself out. You still have to sit down with your spouse and decide what works best for your spending habits.
For my husband and I that meant keeping our accounts separate and deciding on a case-by-case basis what we would split the costs for. I remember an older colleague once asked me in amazement, “Your husband doesn’t handle the household finances?” I'm more comfortable with expenses I brought into the relationship being pulled from my own account, You have to create a clear plan about how money will work in your household and adjust it according to the different experiences that can occur whether you win the lottery or someone loses a job. For us right now that means keeping two separate accounts so we all can remain under one roof.
4. Domestic duties should be shared.
Every once in a while my parents will check in on me to ask if I am “happy in my marriage”. Well “happy” to my mother means that my husband and I should trade up dinner-duty and household chores every once in a while since we both work full-time. When your husband’s idea of dinner is hot dogs and Rice-a-Roni with a side of cereal, you don’t mind having to change out of your work clothes into an apron every evening. I’m a big believer in taking advantage of other’s strengths instead of dividing up tasks equally just so things can be fair. Since I know my way around a kitchen a little better, I don't mind being the one to make the meals and my husband can focus on other things like taking out the trash and shoveling snow.
5. Don’t go to bed angry hungry.
I’ve witnessed up close and personally that an occasional night spent on the couch is the saving grace some marriages need. As a child, I saw my mom spend a night or two in our basement with only the Lifetime Movie Network and our pet Yorkie to keep her company just so she could escape my dad’s nervous midnight pacing that occurred regularly for some time after he lost his job. It was then I learned that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. His footsteps back and forth to the kitchen to light a chain of cigarettes mixed with the sounds coming from the TV of a housewife weeping after learning her husband is cheating with the nanny were a lot more comforting than hearing my parents argue over pensions and misspent money. And the morning after those occasional nights they’d wake up early, go to the mall and come back happier than ever.
Apologies can be hard to come by in the heat of a moment after an argument. You may not always catch me saying, “I’m sorry,” just to get some shut-eye in my marriage but one thing that’s important to me is that my husband never goes hungry. Even if we’re going into the third hour of silent treatment, it’s almost always broken by, “I’m ordering a pizza. Do you want anything?” I believe marriage is about making sure you and your partner survive each day together, even if it means being angry as hell but not hungry.
I think the best marriages are filled with inside jokes and rules that make your household a better place to be when the outside world gets ugly. No matter how untraditional or questionable the rules of your relationship may be, as long as you make each other happy, that’s all that matters.
What are some traditional relationship rules you’ve broken for the better?