In August of 2019 I celebrated my 11 year wedding anniversary, which alone is nothing special as there are plenty of marriages out there that have double the years yet half of the laughs, joy, and genuine happiness between them as my wife and I have.
The difference between what I’m putting out there is that after 11 years of marriage, my wife and I are still laughing together daily, we’re still developing ourselves as individuals, and we’re still intentionally developing our relationship with one another.
We’re still, after over a decade (almost two if you include dating) together adventurous inside and out of the bedroom, smiling more than not, and there’s no sign of us slowing down.
Just yesterday I said to Jackie, “I think we’re getting better at this life thing.”
1) Remain together out of choice, not obligation.
I was originally going to say, “Divorce is always an option.” but that has such a negative energy to it. The point about divorce is accurate, but it doesn’t have to be viewed in that light.
One of the reasons Jackie and I are still together is because we want to be together, not that we feel we have to remain together.
We’ve been dating since we were 16 years old, married at 21 so of course there’s the “They’re high school sweethearts” aspect to our story, but that’s not something we’re afraid of losing.
We’re together because we genuinely enjoy one another and we’re both very complementary to each-other’s lives.
Do not chain yourself to someone for the sake of keeping the family together or preserving your assets; walking on eggshells around your spouse for years is no way to live.
2) Don’t make your marriage a business.
In my corner of the internet, marriage certificates and government involvement is a “thing”.
Everyone screeches about how there is a divorce industry (there is) and it tears families apart (it does) and that marriages are nothing more than business contracts made in order to make babies that can be taxed and continue to keep society stable.
What most forget is that because there is a certificate, it does not mean that husband and wife are nothing more than “two separate parties coming together for a business endeavor“.
Absolutely not, so long as you don’t allow it.
I understand men and women have their individual goals and jobs, but you need to cut all the formalities out and both clearly share your desire to be a part of one another’s lives and not just getting penciled in for dinner, sex, and vacations.
Marriage is more than making babies, it’s an opportunity for a man and women to live out lives together.
If you find an individual whom you want to spend the rest of your days with, do not allow them to become distorted from the thing you love to a business partner you share a home with. The entire purpose of a spouse is to make your life better, not worse.
Make time to grab each-other, kiss each-other, laugh together, and do more than sit across a table sipping coffee thinking about yourself and how your hours in the day are all already scheduled for someone besides the person you’ve chosen to link your “life carriage” to…
3) Develop yourselves and your relationship.
You can’t lose who you were before marriage after tying the knot.
Your spouse married that person, not so they could become the neutered version of that person.
Both husbands and wives need to maintain their individuality throughout the marriage.
This means maintaining your hobbies, going on your own adventures, and doing something which gives you something to bring to the table.
Think about it, what can you two talk about together if neither of you are doing anything?
How quickly does the dinner discussion turn stale?
How can you find one another attractive if you’re always together, never missing one another and never improving your standard of personality, performance, and attraction?
You’ll find yourself in a very dull marriage if neither of you are doing anything to bring spice into your life.
There are certainly times where you do things as a couple, those experiences are most certainly needed to tighten the bond to one another; what most miss is the other side of the coin where you continue to develop yourself as well and thus you’re maintaining a gravity to who you are, pulling the other one in through genuine desire.
4) Audit your lives.
You can keep yourself from walking 5 miles off course if you catch your misstep after only 10 steps.
Don’t wait for there to be major issues in your relationship for you to take corrective actions. Be preventative in your approach to handling things which pop up over the months.
Whether it is financial health, physical health, sexual health, or mental health you can review where you and your spouse are sitting if you take the time to go over where you’re at, where you’re headed, and where you want to be headed on a weekly or monthly basis.
Example: Recognize you haven’t had sex in a week and fix it, don’t wait until it has been 6 months for you to think it’s time to course correct.
Preventative > Corrective
You must be asking the hard questions, objectively assessing the situation, and looking at what the black and white information is telling you, not what you want it to say.
5) Go on adventures to break routine.
I work with a lot of married men inside the Fraternity of Excellence as well as through my coaching services.
One of the most common issues I help these men resolve is the boredom they’re experiencing within their marriage.
It’s stale, routine, dull, and no longer something which brings joy or value to their lives.
It isn’t just lack of exciting sex, it’s all encompassing; the marriage itself has lost the flame it once had.
One of the reasons Jackie and I are still enjoying our time together is because we’re always sharing new experiences together. Whether that means going on vacations to new lands, trying new activities, or randomly taking day trips to here/there we’re never sure what the weekly schedule will look like.
Sometimes we will fast until late and eat exotic meals while watching a movie or sometimes we’ll take the house apart and rearrange the furniture.
Whatever it is you can do to keeps things fresh and new, do them.
Do things that get your heart pumping, spend your date nights learning new skills together instead of just getting steak and wine at the local fancy restaurant.
6) Struggle together.
Hardship forges bonds, there’s no two ways about it. It’s the reason men are so close after bootcamp or a deployment, you struggled together and could only relate to the person whom you struggled with.
Take this same concept and apply it to your marriage.
Do workouts together from time to time.
Sign yourselves up for a 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, whatever – do something that will give the two of you reason to eat right together, to take care of your bodies together, to push yourselves to your limits together.
There are so many examples of ways that you can do this it’s almost easier to speak about ways you can’t, but running a race, joining a group, or getting yourselves into some sort of competitive event together is the easiest way to ensure that you and your lady are grinding together and forging that bond month after month and year after year.
7) Disregard your peers.
Don’t give a second thought to trying to “Keep up with the Joneses“.
Your peers are terrible metric for success.
To be frank, your “friends” will actively employ the “Crab in the bucket” mentality and want you to do well but never better than themselves.
You set your standards in your marriage and completely disregard those around you, your experience and relationship is unique to you so don’t for one moment think you should be more like them because I promise you, what you see is not what’s really there, you see what they want you to see.
Focus on your marriage and making it the best, you need no man or woman’s approval to live this life the way the two of you want to.
8) Keep each-other “new” in your mind (Get a third date)
One trick I use to ensure I don’t become routine or less attractive is I ask myself, “if I were on a second date with this girl, would this action get me a third date?“
This little thought experiment keeps me from too many fart jokes, Peter Griffin moments, or any other unattractive behaviors. My wife isn’t just “wife” she’s a woman and as such, I need to treat her like I would any new woman I was looking to court.
I want my third date, so I’m going to be a high value man who has appropriate fun and not always crude childish humor.
Something else I do, when I’m looking at my wife, I try to picture her as a new woman. Her lips, booty, body, everything I try to treat it like foreign lands and not conquered territory I know every square inch of.
When I hold her, kiss her, pull her in I get that same intoxicating feeling you get with a new lover. I make my wife something more than a woman I’ve had for almost two decades, and when I kiss her, it feels new and great, nothing routine or boring.
This simple shift in perspective prevents you from taking the thing you’ve had for years for granted. The same can be applied to women, when they view their man as someone they still need to “lock down” they’re going to bring their best selves to every aspect of the relationship, from effort in the bedroom to quality meals made at home.
Everyone wins when the marriage is not the “same ole thing”.
9) Use the word “No”.
People forget that you need to enforce boundaries in a relationship.
Men and women have their “hard stops” when it comes to this/that which is good, do not be afraid to continue to maintain that standard.
Use the word No without feeling bad that you didn’t let a person do the thing they wanted to do.
It could be as simple as saying “No” when asked if you could stop what you were doing to grab something or help, you don’t always have to put each-other first, there are times where you need to finish what you’re doing before you can assist, that’s ok.
People have a hard time with this because someone challenging a boundary is the same as them striking a nerve.
The boundaries you set are there for a reason and like the nerves in your body which transmits impulses of sensation to the brain, so to do the boundaries in your life. When they are crossed or challenged, you know something is going on because there’s an immediate signal sent to your brain for you to deal with.
If your spouse spends $1,000 after you reviewed your budget and you said not to spend more than $350 you’re going to feel more anger/betrayal than if you’d never drawn a boundary and they did as such.
Acknowledge the signal sent from the crossed boundary immediately.
Too often men allow their boundaries to be crossed without any enforcement which leads to a building pressure of anger, betrayal, & resentment. Avoid the blow-up by addressing it from the onset.
Conflict in a relationship okay & needed.
Your limits are for you and if reasonable, must be respected. The two of you must maintain boundaries with one another, lest you lose all control and structure of the relationship to the point where, “everything goes” which is no way to live and certainly no way to maintain a healthy relationship with another adult.
Don’t be a dick about it, don’t become a doormat either.
10) Don’t take anything too seriously.
Life is so short and insane for you to take it all so seriously.
The world’s problems are not your problems and what is causing outrage on social media today will be forgotten before the end of the week.
If you’re caught in the cycle of perpetual outrage, you need to realize that you can’t control the world, but you can control what’s going on inside your marriage.
This is why, after the interwebs blow up on me time and again, I’m still laughing my ass off with my wife.
I share a few of my hater’s comments with Jackie, especially when they say something along the lines of, “You’ve never spoken to a real woman Zac, you just live in your parent’s basement and tweet.” she loves those.
Don’t take yourself, your marriage, or life at large too seriously, it’s not a good look for anyone. Instead, choose to laugh and enjoy your slice of heaven on earth. It may not be all sunshine and rainbows, still there’s no reason to be a miserable fuck.
11) Don’t forget to put yourself first sometimes.
There are quite a few men who think they can self-sacrifice their way to happiness.
Look, if you don’t ever place yourself first you’re going to lose whatever value it is that you were bringing to a relationship and at that point, what’s the reasoning to keep you around?
Keep yourself needed by keeping yourself always moving forward.
That means, from time to time you need to spend money on yourself as well as stepping back and recognizes that you must invest in yourself and place yourself first because, how can you lead from the rear?
Look, Jackie never wants me to go away to 21 Conventions or FoE events without her because she loves being with me.
Still, I go and do what I need to do and she gets it because if I said, “Alright honey, you’re right I don’t need to spend the time and money on these adventures” I’d become a pathetic waste case who was unsatisfied and ultimately resentful towards her.
She loves me for being the way I am and the fact that I tell her no and invest the time, money, and energy into myself it’s quite apparent that if I didn’t, I’d lose her respect and attraction.
This plays back into developing yourself as an individual as well as developing as a couple.
I’m not saying bankrupt the family because you want a boat, I’m saying there is a time and place where you will need to put your needs and desires ahead of the families and do so without feeling guilty.
There’s nothing wrong with keeping yourself a man of value and treating yourself like someone you like.
Alright, I’ve shared my list to help you live out an awesome marriage/LTR with your lover. Take the knowledge, cater it to your situation, and apply it.
Reading this list does nothing for you except make you more intelligent, it’s the application of my words and theory which will create an improvement in your marital satisfaction.
If you’d like to support the work I’m doing or donate for any benefit it may have brought to your life, the best way to do so would be via one of the means below.