I am not a relationship expert. My experience is limited to my over 20 years of marriage, observing my parents’ marriage of 48 years and watching a lot of romantic comedies on television. Nonetheless, it’s still more experience than my teenagers have, so I’m always doling out relationship advice when the opportunity presents itself (which, in the case of my 17-year-old son, is now every week).
My son has been dating someone for eight months and I feel compelled to check in weekly to make sure all is well. While I do ask some typical embarrassing and nosy questions, it does not stop me from letting up on my weekly lecture.
I realized recently, however, that I was leaving out some important information. Sure, communication is critical (as is respect and safety), but what about humor and shared interests? I don’t want my boys to think that the relationships that are presented in movies and TV are the best examples of healthy couplehood. High drama only really works in Hollywood…and high school.
Then I remembered a wedding present that I pulled together for one of my best friends who recently got remarried. The first time I met her fiancé, he seemed particularly intrigued by the fact that my husband and I had been married for 20 years. An anomaly these days, I guess. When he asked us what our secret was for staying together, we gave our stock answers: selective hearing and separate vacations.
We were only half kidding.
That conversation was the impetus for me to pull together my list of “5 Steps For a Successful Marriage” that I passed on to my friend and her husband on their wedding day. I will now try to include some of these points every time I discuss dating with my kids:
1. Cultivate selective hearing. Sure, you could read that as “Ignore your partner,” or you could read it as, “You can only take in so much information so, if you only hear every third or fourth word that your significant other is saying about his fantasy soccer team, it’s OK.” Just don’t ignore the important stuff.
2. Nurture common interests. This one seems easy, but I know a lot of people who pretended to like something just to please his or her partner only to be stuck later. It never works. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and fake it. Just remember this post when you are forced to go ice fishing, shoe shopping, or curling because you swore you loved it when you started dating 10 years ago.
3. But don’t forget your individual interests either. Again, this seems easy, but you really don’t want to do EVERYTHING together. It’s good to have your own stuff, otherwise what will you talk about every day for 48 years?
4. Find an effective way to deal with conflict. Our friends use “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” to decide who drives the kids’ carpools and who sets the table. My husband and I have been known to break out “Rock’em Sock’em Robots” when things get really heated. Find your approach and modify as necessary.
5. Always maintain a sense of humor. Laughter can’t make everything better, but it sure does help.
Connie Lissner is the founder of lifestyle blog i suck as a parent.
More from Manilla.com:
- 3 Financial Topics to Discuss Before Marriage
- Manilla.com Data Shows 65 Percent of Couples Argue About Money
- How Getting Married Affects Your Finances