Laugh a lot--and other tips for a happy marriage

The wedding was lovely, but it’s all the days after the wedding—it’s the marriage—that really count.   

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The author's groom smashing the glass under the chuppah at their wedding. Photo credit: Chad Husar Photography.

My husband and I got our wedding album back recently, just weeks before our first anniversary, which we will celebrate later in July. Every time I flip through the album, I'm taken back to that beautiful day under the chuppah with my beshert  , all our loved ones as witnesses.

As much as I loved my wedding, I'm glad it's over because I actually really like this next part: the being-married-to-my-husband part. After all, the wedding was lovely, but it's all the days after the wedding--it's the marriage--that really count.

Maybe it's because it took me a while to get to this place. While the average age of marriage in this country has risen over the last few decades, and the average age for non-Orthodox Jews to marry is higher yet, I still beat those averages by getting married at the ripe age of 40.

But I think tying the knot a bit later in life has made me appreciate what my husband and I share that much more. The Talmud tells us that, for God, "matching couples is as difficult as the splitting of the sea." In our case it was God with a little help from our friends (and some persistence from me in asking my friends to set me up) who dreamed up our match.

At the wedding, we asked our guests to each jot down on notecards a piece of marital advice to us-but we have yet to read what they wrote. Rather, we've had their wisdom sealed in a box these last 12 months and plan to open it later this month on our anniversary-after all, they say you're supposed to exchange the gift of paper for your first anniversary.

But even with that box still unopened, I can imagine the kind of advice we will get. Over my lifetime, I've gleaned a lot about the subject by watching my marriage mentors: my grandparents, married almost 70 years before their passing; my parents, who  will be married 50 years in 2020; and my sister and brother-in-law,  going on 18 years this summer.

Here are three pieces of wisdom I've learned along the way:

Be generous.

That means be generous to others and be generous to each other, too-not just with your wallet, but with your time, love, and spirit. Sometimes for me, that means watching UFO shows and Bears games with my husband. And it means, if you're having a squabble, don't be afraid to be the first one to cave in to end the fight. A psychologist once said to give to your partner a bigger percentage than you expect to receive in return, and you'll be in good shape.

Laugh together--a lot.

I once asked my late grandparents the secret to their longevity of marriage. My grandpa said, "Don't go to bed angry." Sound advice. Then my grandma chimed in: "And don't go to bed with someone else." Even better. Through all the ups and downs that happen in the lifespan of a long marriage, Grandma and Grandpa were able to laugh their way through it all.

For my husband and me, this is a biggie in our relationship, too. Don't take yourselves too seriously. We spend a lot of hours laughing with (and often at) each other. And, we have a lot of material to work with.

Show up for each other--and you'll make it through the tsuris .

I'm wise enough to know that marriage, even a great marriage, is hard. After all, life is hard. But if you just show up for each other consistently and treat each other with care, you'll find your way through the hard stuff.

It's like the glass smashed under my groom's foot under the chuppah. That glass signifies a lot of things, but one of my favorites is that even at the most joyful of occasions--a wedding--we are reminded that human beings are fragile and we need to treat each other with compassion, care, respect, and love. If we make it a rule to treat our partners that way, marriage-and life-will be just a little bit easier.

"A psychologist once said to give to your partner a bigger percentage than you expect to receive in return, and you'll be in good shape. "

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