Allison and I celebrate 10 years of marriage today. Ask us both independently and we'd say that we're better off being together than being apart. We've produced some wonderful little minions. We're relatively happy with who we are as individuals. We're best friends and we compliment each other well. We often remark that we make such a great team. That being said, like the term "home ownership", the noun "marriage" should be recategorized as a verb because, at times, it's a lot of hard work. While we're not yet at anniversary milestones like my parents or my in-laws, I still get to claim some wisdom and the right to spew it on the Internet.
If this person is not your friend, don't get married. My dad's sage advice to me as I was leaving high school and developing an opinionated, smart ass mouth was that, under no circumstances should you ever discuss religion, politics, or how much money you make with someone you like. These words ring true even more so today with social media and the Internet. While I may have slipped a bit here or there, I still try to respect this rule. That being said, these three things should be discussed at length with your partner. Yes, someone's perspective on these topics is likely to evolve over time, but maybe not. If you can't come to some agreement on these three topics, don't get married.
Shut your damn mouth. You're going to fight. That's a good thing. But more times than not, you're going to say things that aren't worth it. Was that last word incredibly sarcastic and accurate? Probably. Was it worth it? Probably not. My friend and mentor dropped this on a group of us awhile back, "do you want to be right or do you want to be effective?" Choose the effective route and choose your words wisely.
For the love of God, combine your bank accounts. Don't maintain separate accounts. Don't create an elaborate patchwork of shared and individual accounts. Put all the money you don't have into a single pile and share the keys. After sex, one of the more intimate things you can experience with your partner is your personal finances.
Work on you first and don't work on yourpartner. I don't want this post to regurgitate the plethora of marital help books and therapists out there, but this one is true. If you don't like who you are, chances are you're not going to like your partner. And if there's something about your partner you don't like, and it really really really bothers you, even just a little bit - don't get married.
Get a hobby (or be one of those jerks who loves your job). Get a hobby or spend some of your time that you want to maintain and enjoy independently of your partner. Obviously if this is going to strip clubs or going out and getting wasted all the time, you're doing it wrong. Of course, do things with your significant other but do something on your own! And don't get mad or jealous of your partner's activities, assuming it doesn't involve you ultimately cheating on him or her or spending all your money. That being said, recognize whether or not your independent hobby or time waster is taking up too much time in your life, neglecting your spouse or family. If these things aren't true and you're still getting upset, it just means what you're doing on your own sucks or is unfulfilling to you - change it.
Tell your significant other how you feel. Again, not to journey too far down well worn paths here, but please do this. Do this often whether it's being happy, content, sad, angry, or hurt (and everything in between). This is especially important if you're someone like me who isn't that fond of the practice.
If you watch TV and need tips, watch 75 episodes of the Simpsons. Here's a fact, Marge and Homer have the most solid, wholesome relationship on television. Enjoy the pastiche and comic delivery of the first 20 minutes of the episode. But pay attention to the last 2 minutes. In keeping with the serialized, sitcom model, the characters must be reset to their original character definitions and relationships with one another. For the most part, the writers of the Simpsons effectively address any relationship issues and conflict present in the episode with resolutions that maintain this functional marital unit.
Wow, that seems somewhat disjointed. Oh well, it's all true. I'm sure I'm missing a few things here and there, but I'm not here to write a marriage guide. I've got a handful of other milestone anniversaries to fill in the gaps. Allison, here's to dying together, when we're old, holding hands in bed.