I recently celebrated my 17th anniversary together with my husband. Of course, that got me thinking about what are the key ingredients that has made our relationship work all this time. I've also been asked how we make it work. I kind of wanted to go down to some basics that get us through the day to day issues which over time start to build up. I think half of the break ups are due to the big stuff: incompatibility, cheating, money and non-supportive families. The other half is the small stuff: socks on the floor, flatulence, poor toilet aim, not knowing left from right when giving directions. So I guess I really want to cover a lot of the small stuff, because that what makes the big stuff seem so much worse.
My first piece of advice is to fall in love with the least annoying person you can imagine yourself being with. If he annoys you in the beginning, that's not going to change. Hence I suggest dating for at least one year before you move in together. That way you'll know if he's a farter, nose picker, snorer, funny laugher, has some kind of a tic, or wears his underwear in the shower. These qualities may seem endearing, but over time you'll grow to hate them. I have been fortunate in my choice of mate, since he does most of these things when I'm not around.
So our first challenge moving in together was our different cleaning styles. I agree that housekeeping is the first big challenge for most relationships. I tend to be a "night cleaner" letting the detritus of the day (or week) accumulate until right before bed then I sweep through house and put things in some semblance of order. My hubby has a "gatherer-hunter" mentality. He gathers up my mess all day and hunts me down to tell me what a pig I am. Clearly we want the same thing: a clean house, but getting there was never easy. So after six months together I convinced him we needed a cleaning lady, fortunately I knew one with severe OCD and the first stone of the foundation of our relationship was put down. Maria (not her real name) is worth her weight in gold and has saved us thousands of dollars in couples therapy. Really, $15 an hour for a housekeeper is a lot cheaper than $150 an hour for a therapist. A fresh, clean toilet is worth at least 10 Xanax. Sometimes I think I stay in my relationship because I'm not sure if she would pick me if I left my hubby. She has been cleaning up after me, off and on for the last 25 years.
I guess my other big piece of advice is to create a life together outside of the house. A shared hobby that you can do together and alone makes life interesting. If it's a hobby that requires both of you, it's limited. It's something you share, but it could be done without the other present. Sports, church, fitness, gardening, politics, volunteer work are all things that are as much fun alone as together. So if either one of you is away or not in the mood, they can still connect with you on that shared activity. It also makes them miss you more because they weren't there to share it with you.
The third piece of advice is try have sex at least twice a month, even if you're not that into it. I've found, that once you get started, it's like hey, now I remember why I enjoy this so much with you. It may seem routine, but I've found that if you talk about "spicing it up" while you're having sex, it's easier to do when you're not. So if you're having your normal session on Saturdays between 11:06 and 11:26 at 11: 17 you might say, "hey this is hot, but what would really turn you on?" Then at 11:28 you can go back to sleep.
Of course with respect and communication, hopefully rest of the stuff just works itself out.