How to live happily ever after

Once upon a time I walked past a pile of washing and wondered when my wife was going to hurry up and deal with it. Then I was struck by a traumatic thought.  “Hang on. Why should that be her job?”

Why indeed? I folded the washing and put it away. That’s all it took to change my married life forever.

Every time my inner slob asks, “When is she going to sort that out?” my reluctantly responsible grown up asks, “Hang on, why is it her job?”

Why should she have to tidy the bench? Why should she have to clean the toilet? We’ve got three boys; it’s hardly fair that the only girl in the house has to clean up after all the scattershot males.

Don’t think for a moment think that I’m some kind of incredible domestic robot. I have plenty of jobs on ignore. My wife and I both do. We’re busy with work, children, interests, life. Who’s got time to be immaculate?

As a team we’re pretty relaxed about doing the healthy minimum. Our house is what you can affectionately describe as “lived in”. But we’re a cheerful house.

Marriage is so much more fun when everyone involved is happy. That’s more likely to happen if one person doesn’t have to keep doing all the dumb jobs.

My nephew is getting married next week. I can’t believe he has grown up so fast. This is the same kid I once saw lying on the nappy table performing puppetry experiments on himself.

Now he’s a very tall young man who has fallen in love. Ah, the starry eyed idealism of youth, I remember it well.

The fairy tale fades. You have to work at your relationship to keep it sparkling.

Asking yourself, “Why should that be her job?” is a simple little thing that can make a big difference in the sparkles department. This is a piece of uncle-ish wisdom I will give my nephew as he tumbles into a lifetime of matrimony.

There are a couple of other things I’ve picked up along the way. One is another simple question: “How much fun am I to live with?”

I heard someone say this once and it stuck with me. “How much fun are you to live with?” It warns against the danger of relaxing so much into your own space that you forget to be nice to the person who is supposed to be your most favourite person in the whole world.

Unless you’re a celebrity, marriage is a lifetime commitment. That’s what you are signing up for. The rest of your life is a long, long time. You might as well enjoy it together.

So, while you are busy taking it for granted that your partner loves you, don’t be behaving in a way that makes it difficult for her to like you.

My other piece of wisdom is: practice the powerful and mysterious art of conversation. Conversation is more difficult than it sounds, especially when children arrive on the scene and you’re perpetually exhausted. It might require (shock!) turning off the television when you’re eating or (horror!) putting down your cell phone for a while.

I’m no expert on any relationship except my own, but it strikes me that, as time ticks on, couples can forget how to really talk and listen to each other. In the hurly-burly of life, a cup of coffee and some conversation will go a long way towards reminding you why you married this person in the first place.

There you have it, an uncle’s pep talk on how to live happily ever after. Be likeable. Talk. Listen. If you’re smart you’ll share the dumb jobs too.

Marriage can be the worst thing in the world or the greatest. Aim for the greatest, it’s much more fun.

First published on our wedding anniversary in Bay of Plenty Times 5 July. Reproduced with permission.