I feel so grateful to be blessed with such a harmonious marriage. If it were not as harmonious, my life would quickly become unbearable, since my husband and I are together almost 24/7. We have the same job (maintaining this website), and even work in the same office at the same desk. Some might call it unhealthy, but it works very well for us, and in our community of about 200 people, quite a few couples work together.
This must partly be God’s grace, but I thought I would share a few of the things that I believe help keep us living and working together so constructively.
1. Acting like your spouse “walks on water” — to an extent
This is probably the most important one for us, even if it sounds silly. My husband and I frequently tell each other that the other is always right, looks very good today; we offer to do each others chores and just generally express our awe and appreciation for the other. We also often ask each other, “What can I do for you?”
It doesn’t mean letting your spouse walk all over you; both have to participate for it to work. But keeping that newlywed sense of amazement that you ended up with someone so wonderful is crucial. Otherwise you forget the enjoyment of spending time together and it’s easy to let the other person’s faults overwhelm your mind until that’s all you see.
It might not sound realistic to completely ignore the fact that your spouse has faults, because everyone has faults, but the more you ignore them and affirm perfection, the smaller they will get.
2. Not even pretending to argue
In the U.S. at least, it’s pretty common for relationships, romantic and otherwise, to feature frequent pretend arguments and insults. Even with both sides clearly joking, it’s easy to go too far, and just generally doesn’t foster loving, trusting relationships. When we’re so used to joking all the time with someone, it can be extremely uncomfortable to talk to them about anything serious, but trust me, it’s a huge relief to be able to break out of that habit.
3. Having your own space
Even if you live in a small space, it’s important to have a place where not even your spouse can interrupt you, at least not without knocking. The sense of privacy, even if you can hear things outside of your space, is surprisingly relaxing. It’s nice to know, even if you normally share everything with your spouse, that you can have a place to write, work, shop online for birthday presents, etc. where you don’t have to think about another person looking over your shoulder and asking what you’re doing.
4. Never saying, writing, or ideally even thinking, anything you wouldn’t want to say to your spouse face-to-face
If you say or write something about your spouse to another, make sure it’s something you don’t mind your spouse finding out about, because chances are that they will. If you think something about your spouse that’s negative but don’t tell them, they will likely figure it out anyway through your accidental and subconscious body language and tone of voice.
That doesn’t mean you have to tell your spouse everything negative you’ve ever thought about them; all you have to do is change your thoughts. Don’t listen to yourself when you think something negative. Instead, ignore the thought and affirm a positive quality that your spouse has.
5. Being very clear and specific when communicating
Make sure you both know what each person’s responsibilities are, and make sure you do them. It’s okay to cover for each other once in a while, but in my experience feeling like you have to do everything because your spouse is too lazy or doesn’t care or something makes for a very bad day.
Another important thing to communicate about is time alone. Some people need more alone time than others, and if your spouse is like that, try to find something else to do during that time so you don’t get lonely. Or better yet, get a pet!
A general rule of thumb is: say exactly what you mean, but in the kindest way possible with the most positive attitude.
I know there is a lot of relationship advice out there, and there are many more things I could write about how we’ve made our relationship work, but the essential point is just to keep an attitude of loving service toward each other and the details will work themselves out. As Swami Kriyananda told my husband years before we met, “The details don’t matter, just the love, that is what matters.”