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45 tips for a happy marriage

My daughter Kelly is getting married today. She didn't want a traditional wedding (thank God), so there'll be a short sunset ceremony on Redington Beach followed by a big party at the nearby home of her new in-laws. No tossing of garters. No shoving cake in each other's faces. No chicken dance.

There may be some toasts proffered, though perhaps not by me. I'm not much for speeches, and there's very little I would want to say other than, "I love you more than life itself. I wish you and Jean-Paul all the happiness in the world. Now go make some grandchildren for me."

But really, what is the best thing to say to two young newlyweds starting a life together? Well, given that marriage is just about the biggest, scariest and most amazing commitment one can ever make (second to having children, of course), perhaps it would be good to share some words of wisdom from people who have been married for years.

One thing I've learned is not to be too proud to ask for help, so some of the nuggets below were inspired by suggestions from assorted friends and family. Some are aimed more at the husband and some at the wife. Most of them can apply to all couples, newlywed or not.

So, without further ado …

• If you think she's beautiful, tell her.

• Make dinner together. Eat dinner together. Go to bed together.

• Your fantasy life should revolve around your wife, not your football team.

• Life is short. Say "I love you" at least once every day.

• The more time you spend trying to change your spouse, the less time you have for improving yourself.

• One of the sexiest things you can do in bed is to serve your spouse a nice breakfast.

• Talk to each other, not at each other. And really listen.

• It doesn't matter what you think you're fighting about. It always comes down to a choice between fear and love. Choose wisely.

• Write this into your wedding vows: "I promise to faithfully replace the toilet paper whenever I use the last of it."

• Do things together. Do things apart.

• Career, personal goals and family are important, but nothing is more important than your relationship.

• The cruelest question you can ask a husband: "Notice anything different?"

• Be your spouse's biggest cheerleader.

• If you've truly forgiven your spouse for something, you'll never bring it up again.

• Your wife doesn't need to know that you think that chick across the street has a great ass. (Not that there's anything wrong with noticing.)

• Be spontaneously ridiculous and unabashedly silly. Make your spouse laugh. It nourishes your souls.

• No one person can give you everything you need.

• If he forgets your anniversary, don't freak out about it. If he forgets your name, do.

• "What can I do for you, honey?"

• He's not a mind reader. If you want him to know what you're thinking or feeling, you have to tell him.

• If you make your kids the center of your universe, there's going to be one massive black hole when they finally grow up and leave.

• Recognize your spouse's weaknesses, but focus on their strengths.

• If you always have to win the argument, you'll eventually lose the relationship.

• Only if she asks: "No, honey, that dress isn't very flattering." (Not, "It makes you look fat.")

• Find someone to talk to about your marriage, but never talk your spouse down to anyone.

• When you finally realize your spouse is as flawed and messed up as you are, you can leave the rose-colored fantasy behind and start building a real adult relationship.

• If your wife suddenly starts tanning and exercising a lot, might as well call the lawyer now. (This one came from a recently divorced friend.)

• Every little disagreement doesn't have to snowball into a discussion about "the relationship."

• It's actually okay to go to bed angry sometimes, as long as you agree to discuss it in the morning.

• She's your wife, not your mommy. Go clean up after your own self.

• It's not your job to make your spouse happy. (It's not possible either.)

• Appreciate the love your spouse has for you. It's not something you're entitled to. It's something you earn.

• When he says "You might have a point there, honey," what he's leaving out is "if you weren't so full of crap."

• Create your own traditions for the holidays.

• Sharing your secrets (and hopes and fears) is the secret to true intimacy.

• Want to get lucky tonight? Do a load of laundry, start to finish.

• Listen to other people's advice, but make your own choices.

• Argue naked. It's guaranteed to keep a minor disagreement from turning into a big fight.

• Random expressions of love and affection are the best ones. (Foot rubs count double. Feet are gross!)

• Being selfish and being in love are incompatible.

• Just because you know where someone's buttons are doesn't mean you have to push them.

• If your dog gets more snuggle time in bed with your wife than you do, you're in trouble.

• Money is something to talk about, not fight about.

• When all is said and done, you can hang onto your pride or you can hang onto your relationship.

• And, finally, here's a great one from Ogden Nash. "To keep your marriage brimming / with love in the wedding cup / whenever you're wrong, admit it / whenever you're right, shut up."

Tim Rozgonyi is the Times' research editor. He can be reached at

45 tips for a happy marriage 06/24/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 7:12pm]
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