Marriage. You go into it with hearts aflame. When you're walking down the aisle, eyes damp with joy, you just know that nothing will ever go wrong, that you'll still be soulmates 50 years from now.
In many cases, that's the reality — 20, 30 or even 50 years later, some couples are still going strong. But that's not to say that their decades together were blissful or stress-free. Marriage isn't always smooth sailing.
Life happens. Problems interfere. There are differences of opinion.
So how do spouses in long-term marriages get through all that and stay together, stronger than ever? We asked our readers to share the best marriage advice they ever received. Here's some of their wisdom.
The Marriage Unit Is Not Two Halves
Debigus said: "The best advice was that I should love my husband but not wrap myself up in him, that I should always remember that I was a person before he came along and I should do my damndest to stay a person while I was married to him. The second best advice was to never completely tie your finances to your husband's — always have something of your own."
About Those In-Laws
GirlyGirl220 had this advice: "Live in a different town from your families when you get married if possible. My hubby is in the Air Force and, lucky for both of us, we moved across the country! We both grew up in negative environments and the space is a blessing!
Now we appreciate talking to our families, but they're far enough away that they can't interfere and smother us with negativity. On another note, I believe the standard 'don't go to bed angry' is right as rain as well!"
Is It a Date or Is It Forever?
Shopper113's shared this advice from Dad: "From the time we were little kids, my dad told us, 'Never date anyone you wouldn't marry.' When we were kids, this made zero sense, but as I got older, it became clear that a lot of people marry people they don't much like much or that they don't fit with very well.
The selection process of who to marry is complex, but it makes a huge difference."
The Lord's Prayer
Michele takes a more theological approach: "Get on your knees together every night and say the Lord's Prayer, even if you don't go to sleep afterward because you may have something else to do. This assures that most nights you'll spend at least some time together. If you're apart, do it over the phone."
It's in the Details
Antoinette 24 thinks there are many components to a happy marriage: "Communication, respect for self and for each other, trust, faith and laughing together — but not at each other. Don’t go to bed angry or hurt, remember your vows, and don’t ask about things you're not ready or willing to accept. Remember that we don’t always know we’re making a mistake unless we're told so speak up without being rude and hurtful."
It's About Perspective
Manuel D. advocates going to the source ... sort of: "When you're in trouble with your husband or spouse, never, ever talk about these problems with your friends, your mother or your parents.
If you want real help, go directly to your spouse or to his mother, father or best friend. Tell them about your situation. This can give you some very fast, sometimes unexpected and good solutions. You might get to understand your spouse's vision of the trouble, and this might change your perspective and perception of the problem."
Go Back to the Beginning
Deb V. speaks from her own experience: "After a disillusioned first couple of years of marriage, my husband and I went to a therapist who told us that marriage should not be so much about looking at each other but looking in the same direction together. I believe the message from this is to remember the positive things that brought you together, then to concentrate on positive goals that you want to achieve as a couple. All the cute, unique things that made your spouse wonderful in the beginning are going to be the same things that grate on your nerves later, so try to focus on the positive. If you look for negative qualities in someone, you're sure to find them!"
Fair, But Not Always Equal
Meme passed on a tip that a beloved relative once imparted: "The best marriage advice I received was from my grandmother. Marriage is not always 50/50. Some days you'll wake up and may have to give 90 percent and your spouse will give 10 percent. Other days you may wake up and give 25 percent and your husband will have to put in the 75 percent. I never thought of this before but it is so true."
Maybe there's a nugget of wisdom in here that you can take to heart. If not, maybe listen to Dad, Grandma or your spouse's best friend. Marriage problems aren't insurmountable. Marriage is a work in progress.