My Best Advice on How to Have a Happy Relationship

love

I got married young. I hadn’t even been 22 years old for two months. I graduated college one week before my wedding day, and had a job offer exactly three days after my graduation and four days before my wedding. The job was in Florida. We lived in Missouri. We did it, all of it, in 2 weeks. Graduated, got a jobs, got married, went on our honeymoon, packed up our stuff and moved to Florida.

My husband and I met at the end of our freshman year in college. We went to different schools about three hours away from each other, but he just happened to be working near where I would be living the summer right after we met. We started hanging out fairly regularly, he met my parents and siblings, and three months later as I left to go back to my University for the fall we hadn’t really defined what was going on.

The night I drove back to school, he called me. He called me every single day after that until we got married three years later. We would stay up until 2, 3, 4 in the morning talking on the phone about anything and everything until we were so tired we had to go to sleep. Often one of us fell asleep while on the phone.

After a few months I had a mini meltdown (because we hadn’t had a DTR yet). We had hung out for three months that summer then talked on the phone every day for months but we weren’t “together” yet. My mini meltdown — yep, it was in front of him THE EXACT NIGHT he was planning on having the said DTR! — almost stopped him from wanting to be in a relationship with me at all, but after a week (of him thinking about it) we finally became us.

That was my sophomore year in college. We lived in different cities and we saw each other about once a month, but we would talk every day. Personally I thought it was the best way to have a relationship in college. I had the security of a boyfriend that I got to see once a month, but I also got to have the freedom of being present with my friends and could also focus on school without being distracted by my boyfriend.

To have a long distance relationship in college you really have to like each other, and communication has to work because that is the bulk of the relationship. I thought starting out our relationship with three years of distance created a great foundation for us. A foundation of 100% trust and good communication. Two very important things in a relationship.

So if there’s one thing I know a lot about, it’s about marriage and long relationships. This May we will celebrate 12 years being married, and 15 years of being together.

I can’t really give dating advice, I don’t even know what the hot apps are right now! I had to ask someone what Bumble was! But I can tell you a few key things that have worked for me that might help you have a great relationship or marriage.

I can say that part of it is that I honestly just got lucky. Not many people marry the person they started dating at 19, and after 15 years (people change a lot in their 20s!) are still madly in love with each other. It’s sappy and gushy (don’t hate me!) but I am beyond happy with my Mr. We just fit so well together.

But we are just a little different than most couples. We are both extremely independent. I’m also super laid-back about a lot of things and I’ll tell you why plus all the reasons I think we have a great marriage that I think could help other people in their relationships.

 

LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO BE MAD (for long)

In my mind, life is just too short to be mad for very long.

When I was 16, a guy friend of mine died (actually he was a little more than a friend). He and his girlfriend at the time died together in a car accident (not drunk driving or anything, a car that was following an ambulance hit them while they were turning left at a green light). It was so sad. It rocked a lot of the kids in my high school. But after that there was a fatal car accident almost every year for several years after that where either a friend or an acquaintance of mine died.

Then in college and for a few years after I graduated college I had several friends die in freak accidents. I’d also had several family members die by that time as well (I’m from a large Irish Catholic family). So I’d been to a lot of funerals by the time I was in my early 20s. Which in my experience with people I know now, is pretty rare.

I’m not the dramatic type with these deaths. I internalized a lot of it. Crying at home by myself about it or with close friends. Trying to be the strong one for others to lean on. I also think my personal nature is just that way — keep it inside. Strong hard outer shell, but if I think about something sad too long I can cry just about anywhere. Literally tears are welling up in my eyes right now as I think about this and of more recent deaths of people who left this earth very young.

So by my early 20s I already felt like — you just never know what’s going to happen or when you are going to die. I didn’t take this into some crazy morbid direction, but again, I internalized it into what I think my personality is now. I’m not extreme and reckless live every day like it’s your last but I do think that way and it makes me skew a little on the risky side. I’m definitely a responsible person, but I try to live my life in the now, and while yes, I save for retirement and such, I don’t feel like a long life is guaranteed. Death just seems like something that could happen at any moment to me or someone I love. It sounds morbid, but with my experiences it’s just realistic.

Honestly I feel like I’m always just waiting for another phone call with bad news. I don’t dwell on it or anything, but if someone I’m close to calls me at a weird time, or twice in a row, I pick up in a panic like WHAT’S WRONG!?! Instead of, sheesh why are you calling me at this hour. This is because I’ve just had a few too many calls in the middle of the night with bad news.

This was heightened in me to a completely different level in 2010 when my husband was in a really bad car accident when he was in the Air Force. At the time, we didn’t even live in the same state (I couldn’t live with him during his training). I got a call at 3 in the morning that he had been in an accident, he couldn’t feel anything below his neck, and he was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

I got on the first flight I could three hours later at 6 am to go be with him (thank goodness my employer at the time was so awesome about this as I was gone for over a month). He had to be cut out of the car, and without telling you all of the awful details he was in the hospital for 5 weeks, had surgery on his spine/neck, etc., and I lived in what’s called a Fisher House which was basically in the parking lot of a military hospital during this time (it’s just like a Ronald McDonald House but for military hospitals). He had months of rehab and is mostly completely fine (I count my, or his, lucky stars for this). But because of this experience, where I almost lost him, my sense of how precious life is was heightened to a new level. And I feel like I’ve been on that level ever since.

I just have this overwhelming need to live life NOW. Try all the things I want to as soon as I can. Do everything I really want to do as soon as I can (or can afford to).

So what does this have to do with having a great relationship/marriage and being mad? Well, I think because of all of these death and near death experiences, I just don’t really want to waste one minute of my life being mad about anything. Ok being mad for a few seconds is fine, but then I let it go. Like really let it go.

Now I actually see humor in the things that irk me sometimes. Like the little things that I think normal couples would fight about, me and my husband just don’t. We literally never fight. I mean we agree to disagree on certain things, and we might annoy each other sometimes, but we rarely argue and honestly never fight.

If something does make me (or him) legit mad and it’s worth saying something about, we have no problem talking about it. And those times do happen, very rarely. But when they do, I personally cool down and think before I ever say anything. But I DO say something (don’t be a wallflower!), and then it’s fine. He’s the same way. There’s usually an apology by whichever one of us need to apologize and we both MOVE ON. Like really move on. No holding it over someone’s head, bringing it back up, etc.

When you are in a good relationship, you don’t want to piss your partner off. You want the best for them, you want them to be happy, and they feel the same. You bring out the best in each other, you challenge each other. If this isn’t the case for you, it might just not be a good match …but that’s for you to decide.

For us, if on the rare occasion one of us does get actually mad about something (because we just let all the little unimportant shit go and there isn’t much of that anyway, which I’ll tell you why in a minute) we address it as soon as we can (once we have our emotions under control), we talk about it, then it’s done. Neither of us wastes one more second being mad! Because to me, it’s just not worth it. Being mad at anyone is really just ruining my day, and I don’t want to ruin my day.

The caveat is that yes, there are things you ABSOLUTELY should get mad about, but the trick is that you need to first THINK about it really hard, and ask yourself why you are mad. Think about how are you reacting to these situations? Could you say things differently or react differently that wouldn’t escalate things? Articulate what happened to yourself, calm down, and then COMMUNICATE about it however works best for your relationship, DEAL with it, and then LET IT GO.

 

LOVE THEM FOR WHO THEY ARE

I think another reason why what I just said works for my relationship so well is because my husband and I just honestly love each other for who we each are. I find everything about him endearing. Ugh I know, it’s annoying and heart-eyed, but it’s true. Even the things that might annoy me, sometimes I just look at whatever those things are and laugh and smile to myself. Because it’s just him, and I love him. And usually whatever it is, is not a big deal anyway.

So think about your partner and the things you might fight about or the things that annoy you. Are they really worth the fight or your time to be annoyed about? In some cases, yes, but in other cases, probably not. It’s like all my parent-friends say about dealing with their kids — pick your battles!

Let me tell you, this is an awesome way to live. At the same time, I have an awesome husband, so I know that this will look different for every relationship. He just doesn’t really give me much to be mad or annoyed about! (Don’t hate me.) Our personalities just click so well together. I can admit that I’m not that emotional of a girl, and I’m not really dramatic, or sensitive, or anything and I think that helps a lot. But then again, he would have never been in a relationship with anyone that was.

But I know that he loves me for me and all my weird quirks and magazine obsessions, and vice versa.

 

YOU DO YOU

This relates to loving someone for who they are but our relationship is very you do you. If he wants to go do something, he does it. When I want to do something, I do it. Really we just do whatever we want — we don’t ask each other for permission. We do things we both want to do together, or we’ll do things together if we just want to be with each other, or support the other person, or just because we know it’d mean a lot to each other to be there. I never assume that he’s going to want to go to all the things I want to go to or go to events with me, etc. So I don’t force him, I don’t try to talk him into going with me, or pressure him unless it is really important to me, which is rare but does sometimes happen. 

What’s so great about this is that there isn’t any resentment. You aren’t setting each other up to be upset about it. My outlook on it is that I’d rather go have a good time and not worry about him not wanting to be there, and vice versa. This allows both of us to be ourselves. It’s not something we ever discussed, it’s just how we are.

Just because your partner doesn’t want to do the same things you do, or wouldn’t have a good time doing them — use it as a time to do something alone or do something with friends! It’s like that saying — distance makes the heart grow fonder — so giving your partner some space/alone time is usually a good thing.

 

LOW PRESSURE & COMMUNICATING EXPECTATIONS

Lastly, I think this one — especially with Valentine’s Day being today — is really important.

You partner CANNOT READ YOUR MIND so having high expectations for things that you’ve never discussed is just setting each other up for failure.

Personally, we don’t really celebrate anything besides our anniversary with a dinner or a trip, but even that is usually low key. If there’s a certain place I want to go on our anniversary, then I’ll book it! These low expectations (for both of us) save all problems of being let down, and open it up for lovely surprises. I don’t want the typical roses and chocolate on Valentine’s Day, I don’t really care about receiving gifts on holidays — I’d rather buy myself what I want if I want something. But I do love when he does something for me randomly or for another reason like I’m stressed out about work or something.

We prefer random thoughtfulness. It’s so much more fun to receive a gift when you aren’t expecting it versus when you know the aisles of the drugstore are crawling with red and pink candy reminding everyone that they need to buy their partner something just because it’s February 14th, not because they just actually thought about you want wanted to get you something.

Now, some people love giving and receiving gifts, or love to do certain traditions on the holidays and that is TOTALLY FINE. But I think assuming your partner knows exactly what you want or what your expectations are without really telling them, is just setting them — and you — up for failure. And well, that’s just no fun. And of course in my mind, it seems like a waste of time to spend your precious life being upset because your partner wasn’t romantic enough and didn’t read your mind about what you wanted on your birthday, Valentine’s Day, or any holiday! SO, discuss it, or drop very obvious hints that can’t be missed — set your partner up for success. Some people just honestly aren’t great at giving gifts, or planning romantic things, and need they a little help!

On your end, try to be really extra thoughtful. Because if you go the extra mile for them, and you surprise your partner with something they barely mentioned off hand and they are so surprised that you remembered and thought to get that special thing or do that special thing for them, then they’ll realize how special that feeling is and be much more likely to reciprocate it for you. SHOW THEM, tell them. Make it easy on each other to meet expectations versus just assuming they already know.

When my husband gets me gifts they are so thoughtful, well I’ve never been able to top them. Sometimes they are on a specific date, sometimes they are random, but they are always really thoughtful.

 

Well, I hope there’s one nugget in this post that can help one person in their own relationship or in future relationships! This is just what works for us, I know everyone is different!

Do you have some great relationship advice? Please share!

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Photo by Brigitte Tohm via Unsplash

Comments

  1. katie Johnson

    Aw, how sweet. I love to hear about good marriages. While I’m single, I totally agree with the communication aspect of any relationship. Sweet story. Congrats to y’all!

  2. Yp

    This is a really sweet and informative post – it’s so refreshing to hear non-BS relationship insight from a couple who is married, truly happily and is in a partnership that seems so natural.
    Happy chocolate marketing campaign day! Xx

  3. Kristin M.

    Thanks for digging deep, being honest & sharing what works for your marriage! It obviously sounds like you have an incredible union. Yeah! Question – because we totally relate to you in that I don’t “make” him go to things that just aren’t in his interest so that I worry the whole time how he’s doing. What I hate though is being asked “where he is” or “why didn’t he come?” How do you respond to that typically?

  4. mom

    DTR?

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