When I read other blog posts about the lessons people have learned after being married for some period of time, I’m always struck by two things: The advice being given is more often than not disappointingly similar and it’s coming from someone with fewer than two years of matrimony under their belt.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if I think newly married couples don’t experience their fair share of ups and downs. Of course they do. But, are all these marrieds going through the exact same things at the exact same time? Of course they aren’t.

As the hubby and I prepare to celebrate 21 years of marriage in November, I started to think about all the advice I’d either heard or been given in my first few years of marriage and how glad I am that I didn’t follow a single piece of it.

I believe that all marriages are unique and there’s no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” solution to the problems that so many people highlight as being common for married couples.  I try very hard never to discount the opinions of people who say marriage is hard, though.  As one of my favorite books, The Secret says, “thoughts are things.”  And, if you believe in something long and hard enough – whether it’s good or bad – eventually, that “something” will manifest itself in your life. Essentially, if you think married life is difficult, the odds are greater that you’ll eventually fall victim to that idea.

There are many very valuable lessons about marriage that I’ve learned over time. But, first I had to stumble and fall over a few commonly-held notions – like the ones below – about how to maintain a successful relationship.

  • Compromise is the key: This isn’t always the case. Especially if it means compromising your principles to make your partner comfortable. If they truly love you, they wouldn’t want you to do that either. There’s a reason why your partner was attracted to you in the first place. Maybe it was your drive, your zest for life, your compassion? Remember the “why”. Then hold onto it as if your marriage depends on it. Because, truthfully, it does. If I could, I would amend this piece of advice to say that “cooperation” or “negotiation” is the key. In all of our relationships, we are responsible for “teaching” people how to deal with us. If you stand for nothing, but lie down for anything, just know that you’re in affect helping your partner learn how to treat you. If that’s not the lesson you want to teach, then some course correction is in order. If you remember nothing else, take this to heart: the way you start your relationship will be the way it ultimately finishes.
  • Never go to bed angry: Hogwash. The phrase, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all,” wasn’t expressed for nothing. Sometimes, talking doesn’t solve it. In fact, when I’m angry, it may even aggravate the situation. Walking away and giving yourself time to calm down isn’t a bad thing. With a new day comes a new perspective. So, if it means going to neutral corners – or in this case – separate rooms for the night, so be it.
  • Marriage is a partnership: There are varying degrees of partnership. There are silent partners, limited partners, and sole partners. I know, I know, this makes marriage sound like a business, right? But think about it. For any business to be successful, the roles of the workers have to be clearly defined. How else will you know that the work being performed is actually yielding results? The same can be said of a marriage. My hubby and I consult about EVERYTHING concerning our household. In that way, we do have a true partnership. But, make no mistake he is the absolute head – or in this scenario, the CEO – of the BrewCrew. He is responsible for making decisions for our family’s overall emotional, financial and spiritual stability. My role is to provide him with the input he needs to make good decisions. Let’s face it, individuals have their own opinions. If you’re performing the exact same role as your mate, I can guarantee that there will be confusion.  I believe this is the reason that the bible refers to the wife as a “helpmate,” which is a role I take very seriously.

Again, everything ain’t for everybody. If certain advice standards don’t work for your relationship, then stop trying to make fetch happen! At the end of the day, it’s about what’s going to make your home a happy one. And, even though it’s good to hear advice from others, you don’t have to follow it. Your path to success is exactly that … YOURS!