Stressful. Miscommunication flying everywhere so that both of you feel as though you’re in a perpetual state of talking to a wall.
The fact is relationships are imperfect, messy affairs. And it’s for the simple reason that they’re comprised of imperfect, messy people-people who want different things at different times in different ways.
The common theme of the advice about the logistics of running a relationship was be pragmatic. If the wife is a lawyer and spends 50 hours at the office every week, and the husband is an artist and can work from home most days, it makes more sense for him to handle most of the day-to-day parenting duties. If the wife’s standard of cleanliness makes a Home & Garden catalog look like a hovel, and the husband has gone six months without even noticing the light fixture hanging from the ceiling, then it makes sense that the wife handles more of the home cleaning duties.
It’s economics 101: division of labor makes everyone better off. Figure out what you are each good at, what you each love/hate doing, and then arrange accordingly. My wife loves cleaning (no, seriously), but she hates smelly stuff. So, guess who gets dishes and garbage duty? I don’t give a fuck-I’ll eat off the same plate seven times in a row, and I couldn’t smell a dead rat even if it was sleeping under my pillow.
On top of that, many couples suggested laying out rules for the relationship more generally. To what degree will you share finances? How much debt will be taken on or paid off? How much can each person spend without consulting the other? What purchases should be done together, or do you trust each other to shop separately? How do you decide which vacations to go on?
Have meetings about this stuff. Sure, it’s not sexy or cool, but it needs to get done. You’re sharing a life together, so you need to plan and account for each person’s needs and resources.
One person even said that she and her husband have “annual reviews” every year. She immediately told me not to laugh, but seriously-this couple have annual reviews where they discuss everything that’s going on in the household and what they can do in the coming year to change the things that aren’t working. Even if you think this sort of stuff sounds lame, it’s what keeps this couple in touch with each other. And because they always have their fingers on the pulse of each other’s needs, they’re more likely to grow together rather than grow apart.
I have been married for 44 years (4 children, 6 grandchildren). Sometimes you feel a deep love and satisfaction, other times you want nothing to do with your spouse; sometimes you ling at each other. It’s like a roller-coaster ride, ups and downs all the time, but as you stay together long enough, the downs become less severe, and the ups are more loving and contented. So even if you feel like you could never love your partner any more, that can change, if you give it a chance. I think people give up too soon. You need to be the kind of person that you want your spouse to be. When you do that, it makes a world of difference.
Out of the hundreds of emails I received, one stuck with me. A nurse wrote to say that she used to work with a lot of geriatric patients. One day, she was talking to a man in his late-80s about marriage and why his had lasted so long, and he said, “relationships exist as waves-people need to learn how to ride them.” The old man went on to say that, just like in the ocean, there are constant waves of emotion going on within a relationship-some waves last for hours, some last for months or even years. The key to success is to understand that few of those waves have anything to do with the quality of the relationship-people lose jobs, family members die, couples relocate, switch careers, make a lot of money, lose a lot of money. Your job as a committed partner is to simply ride the waves with the person you love, regardless of where they go. Because ultimately, none of these waves last. And you simply end up with each other.