In two days, I will have been married for three years! Three years feels like a really long time, especially considering I'm only 23, but I also realize that it is nothing in the grand scheme of things. My marriage would only be a Junior in high school, and we all know that Juniors in high school are definitely not as old as they think they are.
Regardless, my husband and I are reaching another milestone and it has caused me to be retrospective. I've spent the last few weeks ruminating on our three years of marital bliss, our year-long engagement, and our three year relationship that spanned high school and college--because, yes, we are high school sweethearts--and I now feel like I have valuable information to share with the wider public.
Like anything else these days, you can find relationship advice anywhere. Whether from older relatives, strangers you meet in the park, your friends and family, or Google, the world wants to tell you how to live and how to be happy. I've received my fair share of this advice--most of it entirely unprompted--and the school of experience has taught me that while some of it is valid, a lot of it is complete garbage. So, I present to you the best and worst marriage/relationship advice I've ever received.
Starting out with one of the best: Say "Please" and "Thank you"
We all learned to use our manners as a kid, but it can be hard to maintain politeness when you are with someone day in and day out for years on end. You get comfortable, complacent. You no longer notice or mention it when the dishes are magically done or the lawn discreetly mown. It's natural to grow accustomed to your routine, but you shouldn't let your spouse go unappreciated for their work. Say "thank you" when they take the dog outside to go potty or refill the ice cube tray or make the bed, not just when they go out of their way to bring you Starbucks or rub your feet. Be appreciative for the everyday tasks they do that keep both of your lives running smoothly.
This is something Cody and I have never had a problem with, and I think it is one of the biggest reasons we fight so little. We simply appreciate each other every day, even if it is forced. (Because honestly, there are times when I'd rather flick his ear than tell him thanks for FINALLY completing a task I asked him to do three days earlier, but he responds much more positively when I instead offer up a polite, albeit sassy, "thank you.")
Now for one of the worst: Fight more often
This was a legitimate piece of advice I was given during our engagement. I told someone that Cody and I had never had a big fight before, and they responded with shock and disapproval. "That's not healthy. You'll struggle in your marriage if you've never fought. You should have a big blowout before you get married so you're prepared."
I'll be the first to admit that Cody and I may not be "average." We are two of the most compatible people I've ever met. (Is it weird to say that when I'm talking about myself? Unsure, but it's true, either way.) We were friends for several months before we started dating and he has been the best friend I have ever had in every single way possible. We laugh non-stop when we are together and we share most of the same interests, meaning that we spend 99.9% of our free time together. This seems like it should be a recipe for disaster, but we have had very few fights. Even then, the fights we have had are kind of ridiculous. Example: one of our bigger fights sprung from our differing opinions over what color beads I should use for a Christmas gift I was making my sister-in-law. Sad and pathetic, but true.
Because of this less than stellar advice, I entered into marriage afraid that Cody and I wouldn't be able to deal with one another during stressful times. However, we were married during the last two years of college, during which we were extremely busy and broke, and we never fought. Then, we moved halfway across the country to Texas, where we had almost no friends and were both away from our families for the first time ever, and we never fought.
All of this is to say, there is no hard and fast rule about relationships. Some couples fight. Some don't.
Another good piece of advice: Don't go to the bathroom with the door open
Remember when I mentioned how you can become complacent in relationships? For me, excreting your body juices with an audience is another sign of that. You may do everything with your spouse, but the one thing that should always remain private is your private potty time. Why? Because there is no faster way to kill the romance in a relationship than to see your significant other crouched over a toilet dropping a big old stinky deuce. Basically, recall how awkward it feels when a dog is in position, releasing a poopy nugget, and they maintain eye contact with you. Now, imagine your significant other was doing this instead? Does it create a fire in your loins you can't contain? Yeah, I didn't think so.
There are a lot of things in marriage that aren't glamorous or sexy or romantic. However, your bathroom practices are basically the least glamorous, sexy, and romantic of all of those other things on the list. Close the door and help keep that spark alive.
Finally, the worst piece of advice: Make each other happy
I know this advice was given with the best intent, and was meant to inspire Cody and I to treat each other kindly. So, in that way, it is great advice. However, this particular piece of advice inspires the notion that marriage should make us happy. Meaning, being married to Cody is where I find my joy in life and it is his responsibility to make sure I am satisfied and full. When seen through that lens, this is the worst advice anyone could ever dole out to a new couple. Why? Because you should never find your self-worth, your happiness, or your fulfillment from your spouse. Ever. That is a burden too large for any one human to bear.
The fact of the matter is that your spouse will disappoint you. They will enrage you. They will hurt your feelings. There will be times when you wonder whether you can really spend every moment of the rest of your life with this person. Do any of those things sound like the definition of happiness? Of course not, because marriage isn't about being happy. If it were, we wouldn't have to vow to stay married until one of us dies. Marriage is about being in a partnership. About coming together to form a stronger unit to tackle life's challenges. Your own personal happiness is between you and Jesus. So, I urge you, if you are depending on your spouse for joy and fulfillment, find another way. You are setting yourself and your spouse up for supreme disappointment.
There it is, the best and worst relationship advice I've ever received. What do you think? Have you received any great and/or horrible marriage advice? Share in the comments below!