I get a lot of questions about relationships, especially marriage. I think people see the perfect picture we, as bloggers, paint regarding our married life. While I feel incredibly lucky to say that I am in a happy marriage, it’s not all based on luck. Yes, I happened to find and fall in love with an amazing man. It’s also been work to keep the beast of marriage calm and happy on a daily basis.
One metaphor that resonates with both of us, is the idea that marriage is a sport. We’re on the same team. Like all team sports, it doesn’t work unless we work together to win the game. We consider the game to be whatever we’re going through at the time.
I thought it would be helpful to share three of the ways that we apply it in real life for a happy marriage.
1. Team Roles
Every player has a role in team sports. In baseball, the pitcher has a very different job from the shortstop. In football, the quarterback and a line back not only have different roles, but they have to have a totally different build to play their positions. Our playing field isn’t a basketball court or soccer field, it’s our home, so I’ll start there. While Anel and I have a “traditional” heterosexual marriage, our roles don’t always play into the antiquated rules of being a husband and wife. When we moved in together six years ago, we set some rules around the house that have evolved into a system that is fair, equal, and makes us both happy.
Julia’s role: I like to think of myself as a quarterback in our home life, thinking up plays and planning ahead. As an abnormally organized person who works from home, I have more time and energy to keep all of the pieces moving. My everyday list of chores includes shopping for groceries, cooking (except for weekend breakfasts!), prepping lunches for Anel to bring to work, taking care of the dog when Anel isn’t home, paying the bills, managing our money/taxes (It’s complicated with two entrepreneurs!), keeping things neat and organized, and staying on top of things like running out of toilet paper and dog food.
Anel’s role: While I might be creating the lists and planning our weeks, Anel executes like a boss. I’m lucky that he is both handy and smart. He can pretty much tackle any project around the house and in the kitchen. His everyday list of chores include washing the dishes after meals, being the main point person in charge of the dog when we’re both home, owning all things car-related, dealing with the exterior of our house (including lawn, landscaping, and snow shoveling in the winter), folding the laundry, making breakfast on weekends (the only days that he’s actually home for breakfast!), and any handyman work that doesn’t require a professional.
Designated hitters: We run two businesses, so we simply can’t do it all. We’re definitely a couple on a budget, so we try to keep as much work in-house as possible, but sometimes you just need help. We bring in these “designated hitters” to keep us moving: An accountant (Like I said, tax stuff is tricky when you have two separate businesses!), a cleaning lady who comes once a week, a handyman for bigger projects like painting rooms, a dog walker to deal with Boots once a week so I get a break on weekdays when Anel is with clients. Our dog is amazing but requires a ton of exercise so when Eric comes to take him on a hike with his doggie buds on Wednesdays, it’s a sweet relief and been a real help for a happy marriage!
2. Strategies for Game Days
While we have our day-to-day roles down pat, life is about more than taking out the garbage and feeding the pup. Life is sticky, it’s gritty, and it get get downright tough. Anel and I are both firey, stubborn people that like to get our way. I’m Italian and he’s Bosnian, so it’s in our blood! As you can imagine, fire tends to fuel fire, so the first year or two of our relationship brought some serious arguments that weren’t quiet, per se.
At some point after we got married, we realized that we couldn’t live our entire lives that way. We both committed to creating a strategy that we can use during an argument or a hard day. We used the help of a couples’ counselor. Since that’s not for everyone, I’ll share a few of the strategies we learned to keep our team on a winning streak. We’ve put these in place and our life is infinitely better. I can’t even put it into words!
Take frequent time outs: Sometimes in a marriage, you just need to hit the pause button. I don’t mean a week break or anything dramatic. Take an hour to yourself to get away and gain some perspective. We use this time to work out, read a book, get a manicure (me), watch The Knicks (him), or meet up with a friend. When you live with someone and share your entire life with that person, it can get overwhelming really quickly. Spending time apart is hugely important for a happy marriage. I personally believe that while time with friends and other family members is a big piece of the puzzle, time on your own, doing something that you love, can make a world of difference.
Create a language: Our therapist helped us learn that we have a problem more with how the other person is speaking, not necessarily what they’re saying. Anel hates being told to do something, so I try to always respect that and ask nicely, appreciating him afterwards. I often find myself taking issue with his tone of voice which he never even realized was a problem. Now he knows not to speak in certain ways, especially if we’re already in an argument.
Don’t hold a grudge: This one was harder for me. It’s easy for Anel to come and apologize after a fight. I tend to stew in it for a little longer, waiting for him to say sorry first. He made me realize that this is insane, and I’m hurting both of us by acting that way. It’s taken a few years, but my grudge-holding time has gone way down. Small arguments used to be able to ruin an entire weekend for us. Now they’re just that: small arguments. Gone in a flash!
2. Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
Like in any sport, it’s only fun to win if you have fun playing the game.
Date nights: We take our weekly date night very seriously. When we skip it for a week or two, we see an actual difference in our relationship. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Taking the time to enjoy a beautiful meal without any phones or distractions gets us talking about things we might have missed earlier in the week. On top of that, we try to take trips with just the two of us a few times a year. Romantic getaways can rejuvenate your relationship really quickly. Plus it’s fun to travel, so win/win.
Laugh: Some of my favorite memories of my husband don’t involve fancy trips or a night out. It’s the times when we laugh so hard our bellies hurt at home, just the two of us.
Appreciate each other: On a more everyday level, we continue to “date” by appreciating each other. If he makes me a cup of tea or does me an unexpected favor, I thank him. I try to show him I appreciate him. And with more than a quick “thanks.” One thing that I love is that every single night at dinner he looks me in the eye and says thank you for cooking this beautiful meal. It makes me feel good about what I did. It also helps me know that he’s noticing every little thing that I do.
Anel and I have learned so much in our seven years together and our learning have contributed to a happy marriage. Now, I hope that some of our learnings help you!