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Marriage has a bad rep, but it’s actually really rewarding. Here’s what I’ve learned after 4 ½ years (and counting) of matrimony. (Bear in mind that we don’t have kids and we choose to never have any.)

  • Marriage is not “just a piece of paper.” Marriage is like both of you saying that you’ll be someone to talk to through all the hard times, that you’ll go through the work of arguing instead of storming out, that you’ll try to say “we” instead of “you” when arguing and try to make constructive points, and that you’ll be cheering your partner on through thick and thin. If you’re married, you’re saying that you’re completely committed, no holds barred. If you feel blue a lot, it’s a tremendous help to have the stability and support of married life.
  • You argue less. Communication improves and you don’t argue much about things that don’t matter. After an argument, one or both of you usually buys or makes a gift as a peace treaty. You even kind of know what you’re going to give. If your partner is romantic, you know their favorite flowers, candy, and perfume/cologne. If your partner likes sports, you know their favorite team, pizza topping, and coffee blend. You get the idea.
  • Home becomes a person, not a place. Most of your belongings lose their meaning. You care more about living life instead.
  • You become more sociable. You practice your people skills with each other on a daily basis, and you learn to be more forgiving and less selfish.
  • When you’re sick, you have someone to take care of you. If it’s that time of month, you have someone to make you brownies.
  • When your friends cancel on you, you can always go somewhere with your partner. Maybe not the same place, but you could always date 1950s style by going to Steak n’ Shake at 3 A.M. to share a milkshake.
  • If there’s an event you really want to go to or an activity/hobby that you really want to do, you always have someone to go with you. No matter how much your partner hates the event/activity, they will go with you as long as you also go to things that they like to do. You two might have to work out a compromise, or they might be happy to go just to see you happy (which you should reciprocate out of courtesy). The more engaged you try to be at their events, the more they’ll try to be engaged at your events.
  • You always have a karaoke partner, and no song is too cheesy. No matter how lame the song, the spectators won’t hold that against you because you’re a couple (hold hands or kiss on the cheek to convey that to the audience).
  • Sometimes your partner will do something special for you, like make reservations at the first restaurant you went to as a married couple or send you candygrams at work. It seems to be rather common for one spouse to make the other coffee each morning and give it to them in bed. The more you reciprocate doing special things, the more they’ll be reminded to keep doing special things.
  • You can get/give massages without the expectation of sex.
  • You get to learn new things together. You can learn things from listening to NPR together, doing spiritual practices together, texting each other science factoids, and so on. Learning is more fun when you have someone to practice with.
  • You might learn about another culture, or learn more about your own culture. You can learn more about each other by learning about each other’s cultures. For instance, my husband grew up on a Native American reservation, so there are a lot of things he taught me to be respectful of (like trees when you’re pruning them) and a lot of customs he taught me to do to honor nature. I’ve grown up learning about myself through the perspectives and practices of my culture, and now I get to explore myself anew through the vantage point and customs of his culture.
  • Body heat saves on the electric bill.
  • You start your own traditions. You can pick which holidays you celebrate and how you celebrate them. I highly recommend the fictional Seinfeld holiday Festivus.
  • You can get a pet and only have to do about half the work. Maybe you don’t mind taking care of your dog, but maybe when you come home you don’t want to go out and play with him. You want him when he’s worn out and cuddly. Your partner can take him to a dog park while you watch T.V. in peace and quiet.
  • Sex counts as a birthday/holiday present.
  • Chivalry/Politesse. Since you’re in it for the long haul, you know polite gestures won’t go wasted on your partner. When your partner is chivalrous, thank them (otherwise they’ll lose their motivation) and do something nice in return on another occasion. If you tell them these gestures are very important to you, they will do them.
  • You can obsess over your favorite shows every single day. If your partner doesn’t like your fav. shows, they will still listen to you rant. But that means you have to listen to them rant about shows you don’t like. If you tune them out, they’ll tune you out. For shows you both like, you can cosplay, write fanfiction together, and the whole nine yards.
  • You know what each other is thinking by reading their facial expressions and body language. This can be really fun at boring events or when you’re people watching. It’s kind of a secret language.
  • You make up conversations that other people are having. After so much communication with your partner on a day to day basis, you’ll be so in sync that this game is easy. It’s like playing pretend, for adults.
  • Personal thesaurus. Whenever you can’t think of the word you want to use, your partner finishes your sentence.
  • Wordplay. You can try to make your conversations rhyme, use the same sound for alliteration, come up with Halloween-themed puns, etc. This is another way couples finish each other’s sentences, bond, and pass the time. By hearing your partner talk so much, you have a pretty good guess about which word choices they’ll make.
  • They help you make up excuses. Don’t want to make cookies for that bake sale but can’t come up with a good reason? Your partner knows you well enough to make up an excuse that sounds believable.
  • Inside jokes. Inside jokes remind you of fond memories and make you feel like you’ve been together forever. Also, inside jokes allow you to say inappropriate things without other people knowing.
  • Jokes have no expiration date. Your partner will laugh at your 500th Borat impression and join in.
  • You shout out the same random things. These are references to inside jokes, shows you watch together, songs that you’ve dedicated to each other, etc. For example, if anyone says, “…so prepare yourself,” my husband and I will shout, “for trouble!” We even have an arsenal of poses that go along with it. It’s fun to jinx each other too.
  • You’ll have less negative body image issues. You won’t obsess over your abs, treating your hair with coconut oil, or making a weekly face mask. You’ll be less self-conscious about your body. In no time, you’ll be making out when you’re sweaty and reek of French Onion SunChips. My husband notices when I doll myself up; but at the same time, I could gain 100 lbs. in one day and he wouldn’t notice. That’s because you mostly just see what’s on the inside. You should still exercise, eat healthy, etc., but you won’t need to see the actual results. Plus, you’ll be more motivated to eat right and exercise if your partner does it with you.
  • You determine what romance is and prioritize the things that are important to you. I pretty much haven’t changed at all since I was nine, so I think reading fairy tales as bedtime stories, singing my husband to sleep, pretending to be Team Rocket, and referring to my husband as my arch-nemesis are romantic. You can live and explore your definition of romance, instead of vicariously living the brand of romance that you see on T.V. This way, you can pinpoint the things that are important to you, instead of going after the things that society wants you to think are important.
  • You get to spend all your free time broing out with your best friend.
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