35 Lessons I’ve Learned in 35 Years of Marriage

Lesson 15: Being right will eventually lose its appeal.

Clinking MugsMatthew Cohen for Reader's DigestLike most newlyweds, my husband and I stepped into marriage bright-eyed, optimistic, and flat-out unprepared. But—let’s hear it for young love—we assumed that our marriage would be a rousing success. Marriage turned out to be far more challenging than we had imagined; yet, we just celebrated our 35th anniversary.

Despite flaring tempers, pouting, and a mutual tendency to blame, our saving grace may well have been that come hell or high water, we both kept two feet in. We learned a lot and grew a lot, and as a result of our efforts, we have much to celebrate. Find out the 28 little things you can do right now to make your marriage happier.

Here are some of the lessons we learned the hard way:

  1. Don’t complain about the cooking when your spouse is the cook.
  2. Never start the day off nagging or complaining.
  3. An unwillingness to quarrel about something doesn’t mean you agree with it.
  4. There’s no end to how much you can love someone if you let yourself.
  5. Never decide to get a divorce when you have PMS (or the flu or jet lag).
  6. Establish early on whether the question “Do these pants make me look fat?” is a true yes-or-no question.
  7. Express gratitude often.
  8. Generosity may be the key to all happiness.
  9. Admit your shortcomings. They’re obvious anyway.
  10. Most of your fights are living proof of your immaturity. The sooner you grow up, the happier you’ll be.
  11. “In love” pales in comparison with love.
  12. When you think you’ve tried everything, know that you haven’t.
  13. Clean is a relative term.
  14. Give up all hope of being perfectly understood.
  15. Being right will eventually lose its appeal.
  16. Many of the things you fight hard for will turn out not to have been worth the fight.
  17. Your definition of sexy will change over time. New definition: husband going out in the pouring rain to latch the slamming gate.
  18. Be the first to apologize. Really. It’s not as painful as it sounds.
  19. Pay more attention to what you’re doing to make things go badly, and pay less attention to what your spouse is doing.
  20. When your spouse’s behavior is open to interpretation, ascribe the higher motive.
  21. It’s idiotic to stay up late arguing about being too tired to have sex.
  22. Forget the nonsense about not going to bed angry. Get some sleep. Chances are things will look different in the morning.
  23. When people say marriage is hard, believe them.
  24. If you’re going to complain about something, come to the table with a suggested alternative.
  25. Hatred is perfectly normal under the circumstances. Don’t freak out about it or take it too seriously.
  26. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you have all the time in the world.
  27. Do not underestimate how irritating your spouse’s slightly irritating behaviors will become over time.
  28. If you want something, recognize that it’s your job to ask for it.
  29. The louder your spouse yells, the quieter and calmer you need to be.
  30. Disappointment is inevitable. Life gets a lot easier once you accept this.
  31. There are no guaranteed divorce-proofing moves. All any of us can do is be a husband or a wife our spouse would be foolish to leave.
  32. Sometimes you’re going to do your unfair share. It’s not worth whining about.
  33. Accept apologies graciously.
  34. Being happily married is not the same as living happily ever after.
  35. Marriage will teach you more about yourself than you bargained for. Consider that a gift.

Next, don’t miss these 50 pieces of marriage advice from people married 50+ years.

Winifred M. ReillyJoe McKendry for Reader's Digest

Winifred M. Reilly is a Berkeley, California, psychotherapist specializing in relationship issues.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest