03/07/2014 03:46 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How I Make My Marriage Work (And So Can You)

If there was one piece of marital advice I'd want to give you, I still wouldn't. Not because I want to keep you from the "Top 20 Ways to Improve Your Marriage!" or the "3 Tricks Guaranteed to Keep Him Happy in the Bedroom!" I wouldn't share it with you because, like your preferred brand of no-cal sweetener, we all have our own preferences and some of them cause tumors in rats.

I don't know -- the yellers, the cuddlers, the daters who never talk about the kids when they go out for dinner and the couples with separate bank accounts -- they all freak their own freak and seem to have just as much success (or failure) as anyone else. So spoon in your sleep, if you must, if that keeps you and your partner bonded. I'd knee Tim in the groin if he tried to fling a leg over me while we slept, but maybe you're into that sort of thing.

I base a lot of my approach to commenting on other people's marriages on something my mother once told me when I was about to meddle with a friend's dating life in high school. She said, "Don't." She was right. After months of knowing a girlfriend was seeing someone else on the side, I spilled the secret to her boyfriend, assuming I'd saved him a lot of heartache. Turns out he'd been cheating on her as well and both of them -- their delicate balance disrupted -- hated me for getting involved.

"I wouldn't even meddle in my sisters' marriages," my mother explained. What we outsiders think we understand about what's going on in someone else's relationship is often a far cry from reality.

So, be the couple that eats off of each other's forks, if that works for you. Be the couple that fights over money or politics or favorite brand of laundry detergent. Be swingers, for all I care; I will sit back and judge you in silence, like God intended.

Except that if there's one rule you absolutely, positively must follow, it's this: Don't let your spouse be your everything. No one person can be your everything. No, no one person should have to be your everything. That's a hell of a lot to ask.

That's all I have to say about that. I mean, I won't tell you what you should do because this is 'Merica --

But, you should also avoid saying the first thing that comes to mind in the event that you find yourself in an argument with your spouse. If you're arguing over who needs to scoop the dog poop in the backyard, it is not the time to say, "I've always hated your mother!"

But that's it. Two pieces of advice. Not really advice, common sense.

You should have a will. I know that seems morbid, but have you talked with your spouse about what will happen when you die? Or when he dies after you smother him in his sleep for saying your homemade fruit leather was "just OK"?

That's not me telling you what's what, that's just sound planning, that. You need nothing else, really, for a successful marriage. Don't make your spouse your everything; try not to fight dirty; make sure you have a will. Just a suggestions, is all.

Friendly suggestions.

Ideas for a fruitful marriage.

But you can take them or leave them.

If there's just one more thing you really, absolutely ought to do? It's share your story and listen to other stories. Marriage is a marathon and telling your marriage tales and hearing about others is like bringing along a fanny pack full of Power Bars for the slog.


That's why Jen of People I Want to Punch in the Throat, the writer behind the best-selling parenting-humor anthology I Just Want to Pee Alone, has compiled another book of hilarious essays for her follow-up, I Just Want to Be Alone. It's a book about relationships, namely, how husbands are ruining them.*

How do I know it's a great book? Because I'm in it with over 30 other Super Cool Lady Bloggers. And for my very last bit of non-advice, I think you should pre-order I Just Want to Be Alone right now on

*Well, it's not like it's my fault he doesn't know I'm always right.

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