If you think of marriage as a car, the metaphor of maintenance is one of the more obvious parallels that comes to mind. We don’t change our oil, rotate our tires, and buy expensive insurance plans because we need those things today. We do it because we know future cost will be worse if we let those things go.
I am from snowy regions and icy roads. Tires and tire tread are paramount here but different car experts have different opinions on what is best. Winter tires or All Season tires? Do you switch out all four tires each fall or just replace the worst two and rotate appropriately? It doesn’t really matter, as long as you are doing something to avoid ending up in the ditch.
I am just one “mechanic,” so keep in mind that my following upkeep strategies may not be other experts’ consensus. These are not biblical mandates; they are practical, comically specific habits that I have adopted over time. They’re not fool-proof and I’d be a hypocrite if I claimed to follow them every single day. But they have led to great improvements in my marriage and are things I wish I would have begun on Day 1.
- Never Be Hungry – Moms of young children carry Cheerios in diaper bags because we as a society recognize that a) kids are growing, therefore they need food and b) food is the only way to stop your kid from turning into the Tasmanian Devil. Adults aren’t much different. I carry snacks with me everywhere. In my lunch kit at work, in the car on road trips…everywhere. I’ll also eat while preparing meals. The old adage of “you’ll spoil your supper” is far less important than “if your husband adds the wrong spice to this sauce while trying to help, you will probably bite his head off.” I try to eat healthy snacks, but nutrition isn’t my goal; killing the beast in my stomach is. So if there’s no yogurt or nuts within reach, I will gladly do potato chips or a slice of cake!
- Wash Dishes – No one is the perfect homemaker. Looking at all that has to be done—the cleaning and cooking and yard work—can get so overwhelming that you avoid it all. To take off that pressure, I have only one rule: always do the dishes. Everything else I will let go, but someone—my husband, myself, or both of us—takes the time to wash dishes. And I’m saying this as a woman with no dishwasher, so trust me when I say the sacrifice is worth it! When my kitchen is clean, all my angst and claustrophobia vanishes. The whole house seems cleaner. And here’s the bonus: The house usually is cleaner. Until the dishes are done, I don’t realize how much of the clutter in other rooms is often stray plates, silverware or glasses — a product, I realize, from point #1.
- Cool Temperatures — Whether it’s the A/C up or the thermostat down, I regulate temperature to be on the cool side. I am naturally a cold-blooded gal, but my husband and I function better with me under a blanket than him hot and sweaty. Heat causes tempers to flair and attitudes to be off. It also prevents us from touching. If the house is too warm, suddenly we’re the couple sitting on opposite ends of the couch instead of cuddled next to each other. This applies to the car, too, where I keep a blanket within reach in the back seat.
- Look Good – Take time for yourself. Spend money on yourself. Pamper yourself. My husband confessed that when I rush out the door for work with my hair tossed in a bun and little makeup, he knows to prepare for a bad evening. When I don’t like what I see in the mirror, I become nitpicky and irritable. That street runs both ways. My husband’s version of personal grooming is lifting weights and working out. When he doesn’t get to do that (usually because I’ve asked him to do something else) I know his sacrifice will be thrown in my face in a day or two. Make sure you feel good; make sure you look good. Give your spouse that time and don’t feel guilty about taking it for yourself, too.
- Regular Sex – When our premarital counselors recommended having predetermined times for sex, my then-fiancé and I left the session laughing, full of pity for this poor couple who had so little romance left! The older and wiser usually have the last laugh; it didn’t take us long to follow suite. There’s no special number for how often, but once we made a commitment to some sort of frequency, we noticeably fought less and had less miscommunication. Consequently, we actually have sex more often. Of course, sex drive diminishes as people age but that doesn’t mean this tip isn’t still valuable. In fact, it is all the more reason to make this commitment. Sex is the #1 unifier in marriage. The more often we are intimate, the more I instinctively take my husband’s side in all things. If we haven’t had sex in awhile, we start to emotionally separate and view each other more objectively. Objectivity is important in many facets of life, but not in marriage. We call love “blind” for very good reasons.
I’ve always been wary of “one size fits all” solutions but have come to realize that sharing details can often serve as a springboard for other ideas. Maybe my five tips won’t cut it for your family—feel free to share your own maintenance secrets in the comments section below!