How to Stay Married (even after the wedding)

I wondered out loud last week how couples stay married, after tying the knot.

I theorized that it’s easy to be in a good relationship when dating but there’s a serious plot twist after marriage.

The chase is more enticing than the catch.

The journey is richer than the destination.

The engagement is juicier than the wedding.

Prior to marriage, you’re fighting for the relationship and to stay together.

Post marriage, you take the relationship for granted.

I reached out to you for insight and thoughts about how to stay married when the sizzle of the wedding day is gone and all that’s left is writing thank you notes, paying the wedding photographer and oh yeah, living a lifetime together.

It was Ambrose Bierce who defined marriage this way, “love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.”

So, what’s the deal? How do you stay together when you have to stay together?

How do you stay together when you are bound by wedding vows and traditions? How do you stay together in the container known as marriage?

9 Wise Ways to Stay Together Even After Marriage

1.You stay friends first.

Simply because you exchange rings or garlands, doesn’t mean you have to change the dynamics of your relationship. The best partners are best friends first. The best couples remember that they are first friends, and then spouses. You are more likely to maintain and build upon relationships you have with friends. You are more likely to give your friends the benefit of doubt.

2. You marry each other to enhance your lives, not complete your lives.

Couples that stay together are each rooted in their own power and their own self-worth. You can’t have a partner to complete you or fill in the missing pieces. Contrary to popular romance fiction and Bollywood movies, you are not complete just because you have a partner. If you place your happiness or completeness in another person, you’re at the mercy of their behavior and actions.

3. You accept each other unconditionally.

When dating, you find your partner’s quirks and flaws cute and charming. In marriage, you feel like you want to choke your partner for not being the person you want them to be. Married couples that survive marriage realize you can’t change your partner. Only your partner can change your partner and only you can change yourself. You each accept each other for who you are, quirks and all.

4. You don’t expect your partner to meet all of your needs.

It’s high pressure to expect your marriage partner to be everything in your life; friend, mentor, counselor, lover, coach, motivator, therapist, etc. You may get most of your needs met from one person but don’t expect this one person to replace all the other people in your life. It’s healthy and normal to have a support system of friends, family and your partner in your life.

5. You don’t take each other for granted.

This means you value, prioritize and care for each other. You don’t take your partner for granted. You still ask, make requests and honor their opinions and choices. You don’t expect them to do things because they are your partner. You make time for each other even if you’re both super busy and you continue to work on the relationship. You don’t allow the relationship to turn into one of default and convenience.

6. You let small things be small things.

Prior to marriage, you’re willing to give your partner the benefit of the doubt and be more forgiving. After marriage, you take every small thing and blow it out of proportion. For healthier post-marriage relationships, keep things in perspective. Your partner did not intentionally hurt you or try to ruin your life. S/he could have been forgetful, inconsiderate or careless. An act of daily forgiveness can help smooth over much of the conflicts that arise in the course of a relationship.

7. You keep your egos in check.

When you don’t have something (like a spouse), you tend to be more understanding, forgiving and accepting. But once you have something in your life (like a marriage certificate) you tend to default to entitlement and be filled with expectations. You turn from a place of humility to a place of ego. You go from requesting to demanding, from asking to directing, from extending forgiveness to demanding perfection. Healthy relationships manage egos and flourish from a place of compassion and humility.

8. You practice the art of saying what you want.

You’re much more apt at saying what you want before marriage than after marriage. Before marriage, you seek to be understood and want to understand your partner. You inquire, clarify, ask and communicate what it is that you want. Unfortunately, often times after marriage, you might expect your partner to know things without communicating it. You expect and demand your partner to do something without informing them of what this. Health marriages work on healthy communication. You practice saying what you want and asking for what you need.

9. You live in the present

One way to build and maintain a healthy relationship is to stay in the present moment. It’s easy to always cite past grudges and disagreements in the present. It’s easy to use phrases like “you never” or “you always” in reference to what is happening today. Healthy relationships post marriage don’t try to link the present with the past. You live, fight, and love for today.

For more tips on making marriage work, visit this book review post on the 7 Principles of Making Marriage Work by John Gottman.