My anniversary is coming up this month. November is also the time I specifically take time to look inward. Okay, I do that way too damn much, but in November I intend to shuffle the deck and scratch at the skin. I suppose that one year, sooner or later, someone will ask me how we did it. How do two people, who married young and have three kids, stay married and apparently have no plans to murder each other? Now, here's where I get up on the soapbox and bore the hell out of everyone…
Be on the same team. This may be the toughest one to explain. When we were first married we were super broke and super stupid about life. It was all of those struggles put together that strengthened our relationship. Those times, hopefully, relax eventually. We still bump and bumble through life but that youthful fear is gone. We had to find a new plan or a new strategy. When I say be on the same team, I mean follow the same game plan. Know each other's game plan for life. One thing you may find is not only will they differ often; one person may have no goddamned clue what they want to do. That's okay. That's when you get to be the coach for awhile.
Don't talk about it all the time. Marriage and love are unusual in life. An institution and an emotion that we do not fully understand, but have strong annoying opinions about. My secret is to avoid analysis. If you feel something is wrong in your marriage, your first mistake is to assume your instincts are correct. Most likely, you have a problem and you are looking for you spouse to solve it or be a scapegoat. A long marriage (it's not really a marriage until four years have passed) is not full of thrills and romance and all of those lies women are told. It is tepid, soft, dry life. The key is to not have a rollercoaster. You want to avoid throwing up.
Don't compare and contrast. The reason you re-examine your marriage over and over is the dumb couples you meet or see on TV. First, TV marriages are staged like pro-wrestling and photo-ops. And those people you met last weekend who seem to have it so together are probably assholes to each other on the way home. They might be thinking the same about you. (That you have it so together, not the a-hole part. But, maybe…) You must avoid comparing your relationship to others because like snowflakes, they are six-sided crystals of water. That, and they are all unique. What works for them may not work for you. There are quiet couples and loud couples and reserved couples and nutbags. There are mixes of all of that in between. And don't listen to Oprah. She's not even married.
Have a movie star crush. This is an odd one, and it could be one of the aspects of a marriage I just got through explaining that would not work for everyone, but give it a try. The Mrs. and I used to watch "X-Files" when we were first married and somewhere in Season 2 or so we talked about how she thought Mulder was a cutie and that I had a thing for Scully. I mentioned this to a handful of co-workers months later and they each looked at me with awe, like we were swingers or something. They thought if they even mentioned to their spouse, for even a split second, that they thought another person in the universe was attractive the world would explode. Smashed windows, screaming and six weeks of fights ending up in divorce. What the hell? It’s a movie star. If you are a guy that talks about wanting to hump the babysitter in front of your wife, than you are retarded. (Unless you're into that. I've seen the movies!)
Other than that, loosen up. If you've put some years in and you love each other, it's okay to let your wife know that you have a serious thing for Kate Winslet. And I do.
Leave a wide berth. There is one consistent piece of advice I've heard from every article and sociologist and book on this subject. It is simple because it is a great idea and all great ideas are simple. Leave each other the hell alone. Respect space. Period.