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By Sara Anderson
No doubt, there are days when you feel as though you deserve the “Best Partner in the World” award: You make sure dates with your mate stay fun, you settle arguments with amazing grace and you don’t always go into whining mode when you find his dirty socks next to, rather than in, the hamper. How did you get so smart? You were given some stellar advice from friends and family. Here, the nuggets of relationship wisdom you’ve stayed faithful to over the years.
#1. Polite Fight “On my wedding-invitation RSVP cards, I left space for guests to write their favorite wedding wisdom. The tidbit that rings truest after almost nine months of marriage is: ‘Attack the issue, not each other.’ How it works: If my husband and I disagree about something, we stay focused on the issue and skip the personal put-downs.” — Melissa Gitter Schilowitz, 31, Metuchen, NJ
#2. Fit to a Tee “My grandmother insisted that I learn how to play golf. ‘If your husband loves to play, you can go along and spend hours together,’ she said. So I took lessons, and now my husband and I hit the links once a month. We both love the game and are thrilled to share a hobby, even when we spend half an hour looking for my out-of-bounds balls!” — Aimee Borders, 27, Houston, TX
#3. Tabletop Trick “My aunt told me that if I’m running late when it’s my turn to make dinner, just set the table. That way my husband thinks he’ll be eating any minute, so he doesn’t start complaining, which buys me some time. It’s a silly trick that sounds straight out of the 1950s, but I have to admit that I’ve tried it a few times in the three years I’ve been married — and it works!” — Dawn Clayton, 34, Holdrege, NE
#4. Boob-Tube Brilliance “Because my husband is such a remote-control freak, my mom suggested that we have ‘my turn’ TV nights. That means three nights a week I get to hold the remote and watch whatever I want, and on the other nights it’s his turn to hold the remote and watch whatever he wants. Now when he starts flipping through the channels, it doesn’t get on my nerves like it used to.” — Angela Clayton, 27, Odenton, MD
#5. Pop the Question “My sister-in-law passed this helpful hint on to me, and it has served me well for our five years of wedded bliss: ‘Marriage is not mind reading, so ask your spouse what he/she wants and believe what he/she says.’” — Clare Graca, 27, Dallas
#6. Nix the Nit-Picking “Before I said ‘I do,’ my mom (who’s been married to my dad for 55 years) told me to take out a piece of paper and write down the top three things that bugged me about my husband-to-be. Then she told me to forget the things on that list and forgive him for not being flawless. Once you make a commitment this big, she explained, you can’t let petty things get in the way. In our eight years of marriage, my husband and I have had two kids, tackled cross-country moves and started two businesses — and so far, so great.”– Rebecca Hart Blaudow, 31, Jacksonville, FL
#7. Space Smarts “Always have separate closets, my best friend told me. It may seem silly, but I listened to her and made sure to find a one-bedroom apartment with two closets (mine being the larger, of course). Now my husband and I each have our own private space, and we respect that: If he wants to keep his shoes in one huge heap or leave his dirty clothes in a pile on the floor, the mess doesn’t bother me a bit!” — Patricia Bontekoe, 26, Lake Hiawatha, NJ
#8. Agree to Disagree “Before we got married, my minister told my husband and me, ‘You are two imperfect people making an imperfect union, and that’s wonderful.’ This advice made me ditch my belief that in a happy marriage, the couple always agrees. My husband and I have learned to appreciate our differences (yes, even differences of opinion!); in fact, we encourage them because we realize now that those differences are what makes each of us unique and special.” — Beth Swanson, 28, Chicago
#9. Comic Relief “Before I headed down the aisle, my stepfather told me to always laugh and never take myself too seriously. After four years of marriage, I know that this trick works. My husband and I often play practical jokes on each other and always try to crack each other up, even in the middle of an argument. Hey, if one person laughs, a fight tends to fizzle, doesn’t it?” — Lisa Giassa, 31, Bogota, NJ
Anti-Pop Advice From the Experts
You’ve probably heard a few of these pieces of marital pop wisdom before. If so, these marriage experts say to promptly forget ‘em.
Love means never having to say you’re sorry.
“Oh, please! In marriage, love sometimes means having to say you’re sorry even if you don’t know what you did or you didn’t mean to do it.” – Trisha Taylor, psychotherapist, Houston, TX
Always be totally honest. “What are you going to do, tell him that he’s just too short and you can’t stand his mother? Sometimes you need to temper the truth.” — Tara Fields, Ph.D., marriage, family and child therapist, Marin County, CA
Children come first.
“This is bad advice if it means your husband always comes second. Of course you should love and care for your kids, but you should never lose sight of your couple-ness. The best thing a child can have is happy, fulfilled parents who are deeply in love.” — Mary Pender Greene, chief of social work services, Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, New York
Always keep the peace.
“No, no, no. If you don’t face a hot issue head-on, you’ll stockpile negative feelings. And before you know it, 20 years go by and you’re still fighting over the same thing because you never resolved it in the first place.” — Rebecca S. Ward, M.S.W., psychotherapist, Little Rock, AR
Never go to bed angry.
“Forget it. Often a couple needs time to calm down before they can rationally wrap up an argument. And that may take a few days, so in the meantime, get some sleep!”