Apologize for stuff. Forgive immediately.
No, faster than that. Forgive before you get the apology. But always apologize. Beyond try-not-to-do-things-that-result-in-a-need-to-apologize, these are the two most important rules you can live by in a relationship.
Say thank you for everything, all the time.
In our house, this includes "Thank you for making dinner" and "Thank you for bringing me socks" and "Thank you for playing Scrabble with me" and "Thank you for stopping by the store for toilet paper on your way home" and "Thank you for washing the pans in the sink" and "Thank you for marrying me" and "Thank you for suggesting a walk" and on and on and on. No action is too small to thank the other person for, and this way, no one feels taken for granted, even after ten years of establishing a routine.
Continuously. Face to face, over text, instant message. Tell him how handsome he looks when he comes home from work. Tell him what you're wearing. Tease her over dinner. Play footsy under the table. It's attention we all crave, proactive affection, proof that we're worth the time and energy it takes. Proof that we still make the other person's heart flutter.
Be honest, but be kind.
The best answer is a straight answer, the truth, always. Anything less leaves a wound. A scratch, maybe, but something vulnerable to blisters, festering. There are only two lies allowed: You're more beautiful than the day I met you , and Yes, I want to hear more about your work . (I'm not being sexist. These two lies go both ways, especially in a marriage of equals.) Incredibly, if you are selfless enough, and if the person you choose to spend your life with reciprocates often enough, these two things will become mercifully true.
Embrace every day. And really hold on.
Longer. Put your nose to the part of her hair and inhale. Memorize the warmth of his hands on your back. Listen to his heartbeat. This is what's important. Even when you don't have time for it, hang on tight.
Before you fall asleep, tell her three things you love about her.
Then do the same thing for him. Do this often. Even if you have to repeat a few things over the years, the list will soothe her soul and build up his self-esteem. It will also act as a mantra and reminder for you. Why do you love this person? That's easy...
Clean up the messes without her asking.
Cats, kids, dogs, friends over and drinking their way toward clumsy... messes happen. You see vomit, excrement, hairballs, blood, spilled garbage first--the unglamorous inconveniences of life--and you shield her from it. Grab the paper towels and the cleaning spray and make it gone. Like magic.
Read aloud to him.
On road trips, kick your feet up on the dash and bring to life a story that will pique his imagination, answer his questions about the universe, make him laugh. Fill the miles with your voice and new ideas, and enjoy the conversations that rise in your wake.
Maintain the element of surprise.
If you're up early, make breakfast. Bring home flowers. Give gifts. Make love at random in a new room of the house. Tell him something he doesn't know about the way you think, the things you believe. And to that end, never stop learning or growing as an individual. If you don't change it up, she'll have you all figured out within the first decade. Stability is desirable, and knowing someone intimately enough to be able to finish their sentences is sweet, but without the promise of something new to learn, it's easy to lose interest. The element of surprise is absolutely key.
Laugh often and much.
Now, I can't say that this is one you can teach yourself to do if it doesn't come naturally. It's best if you join with someone who cracks you up in the first place. But this may be the most essential thing. If you laugh together--if you can make each other laugh, if you can laugh at yourselves in front of one another--the years will feel so easy. Tough situations will be diffused. Pressure won't be allowed to build. Joy will be at the surface of every day, and that's what makes you want to keep waking up beside the same guy. Every morning. For the rest of your laughter-filled life.
Happy Anniversary, Mr. Jonathan Peter Camp! I'm looking forward to the next decade very much indeed.
Past anniversary posts: