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9 Realistic Tips for a Happy Marriage

I consider myself extremely happily married, but that doesn't mean I won't check out the articles that occasionally drift through my Facebook feed offering advice on maintaining a well-balanced, satisfying relationship. After all, there's no reason you shouldn't try to improve on a good thing, right?

I've seen a ton of those posts lately though, and I have to say I'm usually a bit disappointed when I click through. Google it for yourself and you'll see, most of the articles you find repeat the same tired old obvious marital platitudes: "make time to be together," "remember to make time for yourself," "keep the romance alive," and so on and so on. These are all great ideas, but they're also the kind of intuitive tips that most 14-year-olds with some common sense could probably come up with. I mean, who doesn't know that you can't have a healthy marriage (or platonic friendship, for that matter) if you don't "say thank you" when your partner does something thoughtful?

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Marriage requires a lot of compromise, of course, and it requires a lot of common sense behavior. But it also requires some advice for real-world situations—because "take a week-long vacation, just the two of you" is a fabulous idea if you have loads of vacation time and an extra $15K to pay the babysitter. But what are you going to do when something more realistic happens, like a week-long standoff during which you both refuse to wash the mounting pile of dirty dishes?

Here are a few pieces of advice I bet could actually benefit newlyweds and veterans of marriage alike—tips you won't find in the lists offered up by most of those relationship experts.

1. Find common interests

Especially if your common interests include not wearing a ratty old, hole-riddled AC/DC shirt that you've had since high school to the dinner table when you have company over.

Please remember ... rolling over at 10 p.m. and whispering, "You wanna?" is not considered romantic by most people.

2. Pay attention to one another

For example, pay attention to the right way to roll the tube of toothpaste and then just do it that way. Hint: The right way to roll the tube of toothpaste is the method used by whoever actually bothers to clean globs of toothpaste out of the sink and buys new toothpaste when they notice it's running low.

3. Be practical about finances

This roughly translates to: Hire a professional the first time instead of just pretending you know how to fix plumbing and then calling a plumber.

4. Call your partner's bluff

Oh, you're keeping those 15 boxes of Maxim swimsuit back-issues because they're probably worth a ton of money? Fine, prove it. We're having a garage sale.

5. Be spontaneous

Leave yourself open to the possibility of fun and adventure by agreeing to activities like ballroom dancing lessons, long weekends at her parents' house, and the occasional Girls' Night Out for which the husband will no doubt generously offer to bathe, feed and take care of bedtime for the children.

6. Avoid stupid questions

I know, they say there's no such thing as a stupid question, but whoever said that forgot to note the exceptions for relationships. Stupid questions you should never ask your partner include (but are not limited to):

  1. What did "we" get my mom for her birthday?
  2. What are you so mad about? And, most importantly...
  3. Are you on your period or something?

7. Make time for romance

Please remember—just in case there's any confusion—rolling over at 10 p.m. and whispering, "You wanna?" is not considered romantic by most people.

8. Stop nagging

This one's tricky, because telling someone to stop nagging is itself a form of nagging, not to mention it's likely to make your partner super cranky. So ... good luck with that!

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9. Be considerate

Put the toilet seat down. Gas up the car instead of bringing it home on empty when you know your spouse has to drop the kids off at daycare at 6 the next morning. And for the love, locate the hamper with your eyeballs and USE IT.

Image via Robyn Welling

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